Review: Sacred Scars by Kathleen Duey


July 17, 2013 by Heidi

Sacred Scars by Kathleen DueyTitle: Sacred Scars [Amazon|Goodreads]
Author: Kathleen Duey
Standing: A Resurrection of Magic Book 2
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Published: August 4th, 2009 by Atheneum BFYR
Format: Hardcover; 554 pages
Source: Borrowed from my local library.
Spoilers!: This review contains unavoidable spoilers for Book 1, Skin Hungerconsider yourself warned!

Sadima, Franklin, and Somiss, driven out of Limòri by a suspicious fire, are living in a cave hidden within the cliffs that overlook the city. Somiss is convinced the dark passages of the caves were the home of ancient magicians, and his obsession with restoring magic deepens. Sadima dreams of escape — for her, for Franklin, and for the orphaned street boys Somiss has imprisoned in a crowded cage. Somiss claims he will teach these boys magic, that they will become his first students, but Sadima knows he is lying.

Generations later, Hahp is struggling to survive the wizards’ increasingly dangerous classes at the Limòri Academy of Magic. He knows the fragile pact he has forged with his secretive roommate, Gerrard, will not be enough to put an end to the evil. It will take all the students acting together to have any chance of destroying the academy. Building trust, with few chances to speak or plan, will be almost impossible, but there is no choice.

I turned to the final page of Kathleen Duey’s Skin Hunger with the most feeble kernel of hope burrowing its way into my belly.  I dared not believe that Sadima and Hahp could emerge from those dark corridors with any happiness or spark of life, and yet, I could not let go entirely.  Sacred Scars and I stared at one another for several months–me afraid to pick it up.  I would look at it questioningly, knowing that it would kick me in the gut, and it would nod just barely.  I’d wonder if it would be worth it, and Sacred Scars would just barely nod once again.  So finally I steeled myself and opened book two of A Resurrection of Magic, and what I found has made that small kernel of hope flare up into a hope that can not be easily hidden.

The world of Kathleen Duey’s A Ressurection of Magic is so quiet, yet it is anything but than unassuming.  It assumes everything.  That you love, that you hate, that the very basic human instincts you were born with can be driven from you.  Her stories therein are almost completely mental; despite the physical pains endured by the characters, the reality is that the bulk of the story takes place within the mind.  Very little action occurs, and yet, this subtlety amplifies those moments when something does happen–the slightest smile, a stolen moment–to a bright light worthy of heartfelt reactions.  Rarely has any author managed to make me feel so much with so little.

Oh Sadima and Hahp, how anxiously we await that moment when their stories will connect.  Haph’s plight remains immediate and present, told in the first person and oh so real.  His pact with Gerrard to learn everything in order to destroy the wizards is tenuous, even dangerous, for through them we learn that hate is complicated.  As we learn the same of love from Sadima, Franklin, and Somiss.  Slowly Sadima emerges as a player who understands the world around her–no longer wide eyed and innocent to the ways of men.  She learns that though you love someone, and they love you in return, it doesn’t mean your problems are solved, or that life is simple.  It is perhaps that moment of tacit acknowledgement–that acceptance that the one you love cannot imagine being free of their burdens long enough to set them down–that is the greatest turning point in this series.

Sadima and Hahp cling to their humanity in their refusal to bow to the hunger and whims of magic.  We begin to understand how magic fools and blinds, how it can tempt you into believing everything is right and good when it isn’t, and corrupts the hearts it touches.  Hahp is given brief glimmers of beauty, allowed to fall in love with magic just enough that he doesn’t even desire death anymore for fear of losing it.  He dreams of a better world, but to make that world he must learn, and in learning may loose himself.  Sadima is no longer the taciturn female only wanting to be loved, she has grown into a survivor, and her stalwart heart will keep her path on course.

Sacred Scars is terrifying and beautiful, much like the magic it reveals.  It holds a crushing sense of cruel reality and the cyclical nature of history that leaves me uncertain of both where it will go and where I desire it to go.  I want justice for Hahp and Sadima and all those others whose lives Somiss has touched, but how easily does power corrupt?  Is magic truly terrible, or can it in some way be used to better the world around them?  I don’t know.  I do know that I read this book six months ago now, but I cannot get it out of my head.  These characters and their plight will not leave me, and for that it has become a dear favorite.  I need only to think on them for their heartaches and desires to become fervently real, and I know nothing but closure will satisfy.

Likelihood that I’ll be back for more:  Yeah…I pretty much stalk Kathleen Duey’s updates on book 3.

Recommended for: Fans of Margo Lanagan.

Get a second opinion:
The Readventurer – “the one thing that I am genuinely not conflicted about is that I really really want book three in this series ASAP.  Please?”
The Book Geek – “These books are impossible to read alone, too many questions are left unanswered, but they are also unputdownable, exciting, horrifying and refreshing.”

I’ve also reviewed:
Skin Hunger by Kathleen Duey (A Resurrection of Magic 1)


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  1. Wow. Now I’m nervous about reading SKIN HUNGER. I think maybe I’ll wait for you to review the third book before I pick up the first!

    • Heidi says:

      Yes! This is a series I want to push on so many people because I adore it, but at the same time, it’s rough when the third book isn’t out yet because we readers really need that third part to have any kind of ending!

  2. Okay, it’s time for me to admit this: I picked up Skin Hunger when it released, flipped through it, and returned it to the library without reading it.

    I KNOW.

    And I’ve been too scared to pick it back since then because everyone keeps talking about how heart-breaking it is. AND THEN THIS REVIEW?

    Gah. I need to read this series. I will. I promise. (Just like I’m going to read October Daye…eventually…) Wonderful review, though, Heidi. As always! :)

  3. […] Buy or Borrow | Words Without End entry other reviews : The Readventurer ; Fantasy Magazine ; Bunbury in the Stacks […]

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While the source for each book I review is posted within its review, please assume unless otherwise stated that books reviewed on Bunbury in the Stacks were received free from the author or publisher in exchange for an honest review.