This fantasy book is the first in the "A Resurrection of Magic" series by Kathleen Duey and is published by Simon Pulse, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division.
Skin Hunger is written for kids ages 13 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Two plots alternate in this novel. In the first, Sadima hides how she can silently talk to animals because magic is banned in her world. Because Franklin understands her, Sadima is drawn to him. But this attraction yields an unwanted acquaintance with Somiss, a nobleman who is focused on restoring all magic and who is Franklin's master. To remain by Franklin's side, Sadima serves Somiss, until she finds that he has caged and hidden boys in a cave. Franklin believes that he is the only thing that stands between Somiss and those boys' deaths. Sadima realizes that she will kill Somiss before she lets him hurt one of those children. She also realizes that she is in love with Franklin, a man who can never fully love her in return.
In the second plot, the unwanted second son of a merchant, Hahp, lives in a land where magic is permitted but only taught at one academy. His uncaring father and obedient mother dropped him off at this academy. Hahp is given a peasant boy, Gerrard, as a roommate, and the two, along with eight other rich young men, compete to be the one who will graduate and survive. In this academy, Somiss and Franklin are their teachers, which implies that this story takes place at a later time than the first plot line, when magic has been restored. The boys must use magic to eat and recite magic chants perfectly or die of starvation. They also must use it to save themselves from predicaments that test their abilities, such as poisonous snakes. Because of those who die, Hahp grows in his hatred of Somiss and the others who run the academy. Both storylines reach a resting point but not a stopping point. It is assumed they will continue in the next book.
Franklin's family sold him as a youth to Somiss' father. From that sale, Franklin's family was able to eat well for five winters. Somiss' father hates his son (Somiss). Somiss' family consisted of businessmen, and Somiss was a scholar, which is the reason his father hated him.
Hahp's father has no need for him because Hahp's oldest brother excels at everything. Therefore, his father is willing to send him to an academy run by wizards. He knows that the class in which Hahp starts with 10 other boys will have only one graduate. The intimation is that everyone else will die. Hahp's mother cares for him, but she tries to keep the peace and does anything she can to keep from angering his father. Celia, his family's cook, always treated Hahp well and made him feel safe, but he suspects that there is more between her and his father's relationship than they acknowledge. Hahp hates his father. When his parents leave him at the academy, they do not turn to wish him goodbye. The wizards mistreat the boys. Their actions cause Hahp and Gerrard, and probably the other boys, to violently hate their teachers. Hahp reaches the point where he doesn't care if he runs away or dies.
The Eridians, a race of people, believe that the mind and what people work for belong to everyone.
There is a stone circle in the area where Sadima grows up that supposedly had people living there who could fly and do other magical things at one time. Magic is outlawed, so Sadima hides the fact that she can hear the thoughts of animals. She is able to return strength to a doe that has been injured and believes that if people were to understand the hearts of animals, they would be kinder as a race because animals are honest. Franklin is able to tell people's fortunes. Sadima sings the song of a long life over Franklin.
Hahp's father has purchased magic for everything about his business and home — good weather for his ships, good plumbing for his house, etc. In Hahp's day, magic is allowed for the upper class, and society allows magic to be taught in an academy of wizards. Wizards teach the boys to use their magic to move inside their minds and to conjure food. Those who can't create their own food eventually die. The boys becoming wizards watch their classmates slowly die of starvation and are forbidden to help them. They do not question the rules but let each other die. The boys are asked to meditate so that they can move their thoughts around their body. Anger is thought to be a good emotion to use to do this. Hahp finds peace after realizing that he wants to go home and kill his father. Hahp searches for a snake's thoughts throughout its body. When Hahp is able to tell the snake that he means the creature no harm, the snake responds and leaves him alone.
Forms of crap, p--- and s--- are used often. Other words such as stupid, a--, manure, b--tard, and f---ing also appear, but not as often. Levin's roommate curses, but no words are mentioned. When Franklin asks the boys to move their thoughts throughout their bodies, Hahp finds it amusing that Franklin doesn't ask them to move thoughts to their private areas.
A paragraph describes the blood that is all around Sadima's mother's room after a magician is unable to save her mother's life at Sadima's birth. Sadima's brother kills a rat to save her, but she is angry with him because she was communicating with the animal. If Sadima says the wrong thing in her home, her father slaps her and then goes into a depressive state. Beggar children are hungry enough to kill Sadima if they notice she has food. Gypsies kidnap children to raise as slaves. A child's mouth is bleeding as he flees from Somiss. Sadima sees marks on Franklin's back as if he had been dragged across cobblestones. When Sadima strikes Franklin, he does not respond, and she realizes that he is used to this kind of treatment. Franklin realizes that he should have killed Somiss when they were kids, but he couldn't do it. If Somiss touches the boys in the cages, Sadima says she will kill Somiss. Somiss' apartment is set on fire. The carriage that Sadima and others are in tips as they try to escape an angry mob.
The shopkeepers' dogs, which were never fed enough, would be allowed to converge on the boardwalk and attack the beggars. Hahp's mother did not stick up for Hahp because she could tell that his father was about to go into one of his rages. After running on stones in bare feet, Hahp's feet are bloodied. Ants attack Hahp during one of his tests. Only Jux, a wizard, saves him. Food is withheld from the boys until they can perfectly recite magical songs.
Franklin and Sadima kiss quite a few times, but most are quick. While learning to quiet himself, Hahp learns that his mother's anger stems from his father's affairs with the cook and other pretty servants. Hahp says that sometimes he would touch himself, which implies masturbation. The boys who might become wizards must take a vow of celibacy.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
Note: Sadima helps a doe birth four kids. The book tells about the placenta and how Sadima ties off an umbilical cord. Hahp mentions how his private parts rubs against the rough cloth he is wearing, and the author describes the boys urinating and squatting over a bedpan.
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