Book of the Week - Skin Hunger

Skin Hunger by Kathleen Duey

Skin Hunger is set in a world where magic is virtually extinct except for remnants left in old songs. A girl from a farm named Sadima whose father and brother have a bitter (but understandable) resentment of magic, leaves everything she knows and loves when a young wizard recognizes her ability to speak with animals and beckons her to the city of Limori. Sadima joins the handsome and abused Franklin and his master Sommis. Secretly, Sommis is attempting to gather the old songs and bring back the old songs. But Sommis is a cruel and obsessed master. His methods are dangerous and as Sadima soon learns, illegal.

However, there is a second, completely separate from Sadima's and yet connected. Centuries have passed since Sadima met Franklin and Sommis. Hahp is the second son from a privileged family. He is sent to a wizard academy where he is assured only one person will graduate or none will. Little does Hahp understand how much that is true. Soon the boys at the academy are starving to death, and Hahp is sure that he will die. Unless he can learn how to concentrate. Memorize the songs. And hopefully one day prove to Franklin and Sommis that he is worthy of being a wizard.

It took me awhile to figure out what was going on. Sadima's story is told in the third-person. Hahp's story was written in the first-person. Because of this, the chapter changes were often jarring. After the first couple of times I began to get used to it though.

Perhaps what I disliked the most was how I couldn't figure out if the story happened at the same time or not. There was nothing for the first couple of chapters that would give me any indication that the stories weren't happening simultaneously. It wasn't until the story mentioned the Founders who built the wizard academy that I had my first inkling. Honestly, the only way I knew that the two stories happened centuries apart was because the back jacket flap told me so. Otherwise, I may have just assumed that they had happened a few decades apart.

The other problem with the story was that it felt very much like a whole lot of world-building and nothing else. nothing really happens in the story. The academy, which we can see will eventually be built, never gets built. Sadima doesn't get the guy. She doesn't learn magic. She doesn't tell anyone about her learning to read on her own. Hahp doesn't become a wizard. He doesn't fight back. They both learn some things, but the things that you are waiting for...the things that the story seems to promise, never come to fruition.

The characters themselves were interesting. I liked Hahp especially as he had the right amount of spunk and rebelliousness. Sadima too was interesting, although a little too "smitten" for her own good. The only reason she doesn't leave the cruel and abusive relationship with Somis is because of her love for Franklin.

There were definitely little signs of the future rebellion that these two characters will create. And the reason why Franklin and Sommis still exist centuries later is both eluded to and yet never fully explained, which makes me want to read the second book in order to learn. And interesting way to tell a story definitely, but I do expect the second one to actually go somewhere.


Debra McArthur said...

Like you, I had mixed feelings about the book. I really liked the parallel stories in the book, and I found myself equally engaged in both parts.

I enjoyed this book most of the way through, but I was really disappointed in the lack of an ending. Even a book in a trilogy needs an ending. A week after I finished it, I went back to re-read the last 40 pages to see if I'd missed something, but resolution of anything.

One thing that seemed significant was Franklin's character. In some ways, it almost seems like he is more important than either Sadima or Somiss. Franklin seems to have more conflict, since he does seem to have a moral sensibility, but is devided between loyalty for Sadima and duty to Somiss. In that way, he seems more complex than either of the other two.

The ending of the book does tie the two story-threads together in one significant way. Sadima's story is about the beginning of the sorcerer's academy; Hahp's story appears to be about the 'beginning of the end' of it, since Hahp and his roommate vow that they will work together to destroy it.