Skin Hunger (A Resurrection of Magic) by Kathleen Duey

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Skin Hunger (A Resurrection of Magic) by Kathleen Duey

Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A gripping look at a dark fantasy world in which the old forgotten magic is resurrected by an intense and ruthless man. Told from two viewpoints several generations apart, the links between the two gradually increase, building great tension. Recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 368 Date: January 2008
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Childrens Books
ISBN: 978-1847381347

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In Sadima's world, magic is forbidden. But the people still believe, and so charlatans abound. Sadima's mother died giving birth to her, the fault of one such charlatan. So, when Sadima discovers that she has a gift and can communicate with animals silently, her father and brother won't countenance even a mention of it. When she meets Franklin, someone with whom she can share her secret, Sadima follows him willingly in the search to rediscover the long lost lores of magic, despite Somiss, his forbidding companion.

Many years later, Hahp, the dispensible second son of a wealthy merchant, is packed off by his father to an academy of magic. Shrouded in mystery, many boys enter the institution, but very few come out. Hahp is pitted against his companions in a dangerous competition to find the single one amongst them worthy to graduate. The Academy is akin to a Victorian workhouse in its privations, and an army boot camp in its intolerance of failure. Although Sadima and Hahp are separated by year, the connections between them are like threads of cobweb; delicate but unbreakable.

Skin Hunger hits the floor running, opening with the death of Sadima's mother. Often, stories told from twin viewpoints can suffer in pace, but this isn't the case here. In fact, the double narrative actually provided a brake. Without it, I think I would have galloped through the book far too quickly and ended up missing some of the many subtle connections between them. Sadima's story is told in the third person, Hahp's in the first person. This can gives books a disjointed feel, and I often feel is a mistake in books for children, where flow is vital. But again, I thought this was a risk well taken here. We know fairly quickly that Franklin's relationship with the focus of each strand, Sadima and Hahp, is the focal one, and this first person/third person divide forces them apart in a deliberately forced way that is almost metaphorical. I really liked it. The book ends on a slight cliffhanger - Sadima's story has reached an identifiable pause, but Hahp's is left mid-flow. Yet again, I don't like cliffhangers in books for children - it's too long for them to wait - but here, I felt there was enough of a pause in Sadima's story to make waiting to find out about Hahp bearable.

So, as I liked all the aspects in Skin Hunger that I usually dislike in other books, you can rest assured that I liked everything else even more. I loved the gruesomely dark, Dickensian atmosphere of the academy. I loved Sadima, a winning and strong female character if ever there was one, and Franklin, torn between duty and love. I enjoyed the way Hahp's strength of character slowly began to bloom under the harshest of conditions. It's gripping and dark and page-turning. I loved it.

Just one word - Skin Hunger is billed as a teen fantasy. It seemed a little younger than that for me. Perhaps this is because it's American - they're obsessed with the "young adult" genre over there, so perhaps teen also means tween? A keen and sophisticated reader of ten could approach the book happily, and I'd say it's best pitched at twelve to fourteen year olds.

My thanks to the nice people at Simon and Schuster for sending the book.

Both Scared to Death by Alan Gibbons and Frances Hardinge's Verdigris Deep have a take on magic in the real world rather than a fantasy one.

Buy Skin Hunger (A Resurrection of Magic) by Kathleen Duey at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Skin Hunger (A Resurrection of Magic) by Kathleen Duey at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Skin Hunger (A Resurrection of Magic) by Kathleen Duey at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Skin Hunger (A Resurrection of Magic) by Kathleen Duey at Amazon.com.


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