1 star · book review

review: The Speaker by Traci Chee

The Speaker (Sea of Ink and Gold #2) by Traci Chee

★☆☆☆☆ // 1 out of 5 stars

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Previous review of the Sea of Ink and Gold series: The Reader

Well this is a day and half I won’t ever get back. I tried really hard to like this series, but I can’tttttt.

I’ll make this short. Remember when I got the chance to be part of a blog tour for promoting the Storyteller by Traci Chee? Well I was contacted by the publisher to be part of it in exchange for an ARC of The Storyteller, plus they threw in a copy of The Speaker too. So, I won’t really mince words about it. I didn’t enjoy the Speaker. It’s not the worst book ever, but it ain’t all that good. At all. I would like to make a small disclaimer that my receiving this book does not influence my opinion of it, and that I am genuinely thankful to Penguin for allowing me the opportunity to be part of their blogtour for the series. It’s not you, it’s me.

Kelanna? I don’t know her and apparently neither does Traci Chee.

I read The Speaker via audiobook. The narrator isn’t as bad as lots of people have said. I think the writing pretends to be more dramatic than it actually is because it has no substance to carry it through. I don’t fault the narrator at all for that. She’s trying her best with subpar (imo) material. I did play this at 1.75-2x speed, so she might speak slower than some would like. Kim Mai Guest is pretty talented, and I wouldn’t mind listening to more audiobooks narrated by her.

My overall experience with the series so far is that it’s extremely prolonged, repetitive and sloppy. Also wish they wouldn’t treat romantic relationships like an imperative thing here. Again I’ll say that this series was stretched for material because it shouldn’t take 3 books to get to a point if the worldbuilding and characters are so lacking. In theory I *should* LOVE this series, but the only love I have for it is this theoretical love. There’s pirates, LGBTQIA+ characters (MAIN/POV CHARACTERS) and couples (MAIN COUPLE), our goregous POC protagonist (hello, Sefia and family) and accompanying cast, a fucking magical book with a fate our MCs must defy. I love all of that, but how did this go so wrong with me?

Sefia is the most wishy-washy character for the longest time. She’s boring and just watches as Archer falls into his murderous despair all while comforting and kissing him like it’s all dandy and ok. Sefia comes around in the end in order to save the people she cares about, but it just reads as self-sacrificial for the most part. And it’s not like an Asian female character comforting and devoting her whole arc to a muderous blonde man is anything new in fiction (and no I’m not saying this because I sympathize with asian incels. I don’t, they can gtfo), but I appreciate that Sefia *does* see what’s going on and takes action in the end. My gripe is that I wish there were more to Sefia as a person besides her devotion to Archer and her guilt over her parents’ actions. Even though she’s the main character, a lot of the story does not focus on her. She is a satellite to her own story.  I was SOOO ready to see Sefia take actions and try to right her parents’ wrongs, but she made it such a chore to read through.

Not gonna lie, I felt bad for Archer. That doesn’t mean I can give the lackluster writing for him a pass. We get more Archer POV chapters in this installment, which I wholly welcome. I specifically asked for more Archer content. I got it. I still didn’t like it. I don’t dislike the idea of where Traci Chee went with Archer’s… arc. It’s just that the way the relationships with the new characters Archer develops are written are so bland. Even when I got what I wanted, the writing isn’t strong enough to pull the weight of a good idea. I did like that we got to see Archer’s family later on, but the way how everyone had moved on from his supposed death/capture was by finding a spouse. *shrugs*

I have no recollection of the pirate storyline in this book. There was one, but it was a blur. I’m not even going to try to make sense of the Library and Tanin stuff tbh.

The storyline with Arc (not Archer) and his king was probably the most compelling out of all the storylines, even though it came from left field with it’s cold-call introduction in the beginning of the Speaker. THIS IS SOME GOOD MLM CONTENT IN A SEA OF I DONT CARE. Yeah sure, Arc makes bad decisions and wants to poison the love of his life, but the king can’t help but think it’s still adorable that he tries hard. Like wow, get yourself a man like that who can accept all your faults and poor deicison making skills. I was there for the drama and tension even though I have no idea how it ties into the main Sefia/Archer/Book plot.

The plus side to this series, is that it does have its diverse representation going on for it (hello Sefia on the cover I love you just not your story). Considering most of the characters are flat, I don’t know how far the diversity itself can take these books if the writing falls so flat it can’t get off the floor. There are several mlm and wlw relationships spread throughout the book, and one of them is a main POV storyline (Arc and his king whose name I cannot be bothered to remember).

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