Sadima lives in a world where magic has been banned, leaving poor villagers prey to fakes and charlatans. A “magician” stole her family’s few valuables and left Sadima’s mother to die on the day Sadima was born. But vestiges of magic are hidden in old rhymes and hearth tales and in people like Sadima, who conceals her silent communication with animals for fear of rejection and ridicule. When rumors of her gift reach Somiss, a young nobleman obsessed with restoring magic, he sends Franklin, his lifelong servant, to find her. Sadima’s joy at sharing her secret becomes love for the man she shares it with. But Franklin’s irrevocable bond to the brilliant and dangerous Somiss traps her, too, and she faces a heartbreaking decision.Centuries later magic has been restored, but it is available only to the wealthy and is strictly controlled by wizards within a sequestered academy of magic. Hahp, the expendable second son of a rich merchant, is forced into the academy and finds himself paired with Gerrard, a peasant boy inexplicably admitted with nine sons of privilege and wealth. Only one of the ten students will graduate — and the first academic requirement is survival.
Skin Hunger, the first book in Kathleen Duey’s Resurrection of Magic series, follows two separate timelines in the same world. In the first, young lady Sadima has the magical ability to read the feelings of animals but no one around her believes her. In her time, magicians are feared as charlatans and crooks and all magic has been banned. Needing to escape her farm life, Sadima flees to the city and meets up with wizard friend Franklin, who has promised to help her with her talent and that he and his colleague Somiss are trying to bring magic back safely to the world. Many, many years later, young boy Hahp is sold to the wizard academy by his hateful father. Hahp’s teachers are none other than Franklin and Somiss, who “train” young boys to become wizards by starving them and forcing them to discover their inner magic or die.
Initially, I was hesitant to read Skin Hunger because I didn’t understand how the two separate time periods were going to work together. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the two different timelines–almost two entirely different worlds–connected in an interesting way that made logical sense and made the story exciting. I’d never read anything like that before, and thought it was original and well executed.
This book very much read like a first-book-in-the-series type of novel. I realize this is to a certain extent a normal feature of books that are the first in a series: lots of world building, back-story of many characters, leads up to some major action that doesn’t actually take place. I thought this book had a little too much of all that at times. It was slow in sections (how many times did we really need to read about Hahp trying to make food, and the guilt he felt when then he could and others could not?) and I was bored; however, the fact that there were two stories at once helped with this immensely. Where one character’s story was slow, the other was faster, with more interesting details. Overall, the balance was well done. Ultimately, we received just enough about each character’s story–Sadima and Hahp–that I’m going to the library right away to pick up the next book.
3 stars out of 5. I recommend this book for fans of YA fantasy literature involving magic. Happy reading!