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Living in a world where magic is outlawed, Sadima's special gift to speak to the animals binds her to two young men who are determined to restore magic to their poor village in order to save the people they love.

357 pages, Hardcover

First published July 24, 2007

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About the author

Kathleen Duey

143 books340 followers
Kathleen Duey grew up in Colorado. She loved riding her horses, hiking, being in the mountains. Reading was always important to her. Writing became a fascination early in her life. In the fourth grade, Kathleen began writing stories and told everyone who would listen that she was going to be an author. Then she did nothing about it until she was 35 years old. Writing was her passion and her dream-come-true.

from: fantasticfiction.co.uk

Kathleen died of cardiac arrest at her home in Fallbrook, California. She was 69. She had struggled with dementia in her latter years which prevented her from completing her Skin Hunger trilogy.


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Displaying 1 - 30 of 561 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,992 reviews298k followers
February 20, 2015
This is one of those books I read a while ago and kept promising myself I'd write the kind of review a book like this deserves. Well, here I am, trying my best.

What can I say to make you take a chance on this under-read, under-appreciated book? Well, Skin Hunger gets a lot of comparisons with Harry Potter - both feature a school for young wizards, magic-abusing villains, etc. - but this series is set in a much darker world and tells a disturbing tale about the pains undergone for the sake of magic.

Split between two very different stories that become ever more linked as the series moves along, a picture is built of this strange world. One story features Sadima, in a time centuries before we are introduced to the horrors of Somiss' magic academy. In Sadima's time, magic is outlawed and it is only through the aid of Franklin that Sadima comes to realise the strength of her gift for mentally communicating with animals. But Franklin is just one half of a team hoping to resurrect magic, the other being the malicious and obsessive Somiss.

Then there's the half that earned the Harry Potter comparisons: Hahp's story. Hahp is a boy sent to Somiss' magic academy by his cruel father and there he discovers that he must learn to master the skills being taught to him or die. Young boys are starved, intimidated and abused in this twisted version of Hogwarts that was created to separate the potential magicians from those destined to die because they are unable to magically produce their own food.

As boys around him slowly waste away, Hahp struggles with guilt when he alone manages to create food, and fear for what the wizards plan to throw at him next. In the dark dingy corridors of the academy, Hahp even starts to wonder if he's going insane.

This is not the kind of novel that you can read by itself and gain any sense of resolution; it is clearly intended to be read as part of a series and the lack of answers means that you will probably be unable to do anything else. But that was fine by me. Especially because the sequel - Sacred Scars - is even better.

Dark, edge-of-your-seat fantasy. With fear, magic, evil and hope battling it out on every page. It's probably one of the best books you've never heard of.

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Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,404 reviews11.7k followers
September 6, 2011
Skin Hunger landed on my only-i-will-like shelf due to a number of reasons.

First, there is an issue of two separate story lines that never come together in any significant way. They mingle and have common themes and characters, but they never merge. That, I assume, will happen at some future point in the trilogy.

In an unidentified middle age-inspired fantasy land where magic is lost and those who call themselves magicians are fakers and charlatans, 17-year old farm girl Sadima joins a couple of young men who are on a quest to resurrect magic, bring it back to the world to help people. She falls in love with one of them (Franklin), she is disgusted by and afraid of another (Somiss).

Years (or centuries) later, in the same country, 12-year old Hahp is sent by his father to Somiss' school of magic. Magic has been resurrected, but the children's path to managing it is rough. This school of magic is no Hogwarts. There are no wands, feasts and butter beer. Students are starved and abused. Not everyone is expected to survive this education.

Here is the second reason why I think the book will not work for everyone. It is very, very dark. People and children are kept hungry, put in danger, imprisoned.

And third, there is literally no climax or satisfying ending. Skin Hunger is the kind of series installment that doesn't stand on its own.

But I liked the novel anyway. It is original, it is different, it is unique, it is surprising, twisty and challenging. Finding something fresh and new in YA lit is hard. It is good to know some authors still refuse to settle for what is more comfortable and easy to sell.
Profile Image for Maya.
260 reviews85 followers
July 5, 2012
Skin Hunger is like Harry Potter gone bad. Imagine Hogwarts instead of a gorgeous castle with moving stairs as an endless labyrinth of caves and tunnels in complete darkness. Add Voldemort as the headmaster and food being available only as a reward once the student has mastered the requested magic exercises. And if he fails, no one will help ...

Kathleen Duey has created a very innovative work, with a fresh (and grim) take on the "magic academy" setting. I was quite impressed by how she deals with the issue of abuse and the relationships between the abuser and abused. A child abused by his father still wants that same father to be proud of him, to acknowledge him at least once. An unequal friendship can be very hard to overcome when the weaker one does have affection for his abusive friend, who can have some instants of gentleness. Skin Hunger also deals with fanaticism and egoism and I'm looking forward to find out how these problems will be resolved.

I was also happy with the rather realistic love story. Sadima doesn't fall in love because Franklin is so handsome and cool and mysterious, but because he understands her. But once she realizes that she can't get through to him, sad as that may be, she is also prepared to go on with her life on her own.

Skin Hunger is dark and depressing and not romantic at all. And I enjoyed every page. Well, I wanted to kick Somiss in the face so much and I'm despairing of the possibility that apparently whatever Sadima will try to do, she will fail, since he is still around in the present torturing children, but I loved the oppressing atmosphere and the suspense made me finish the book rapidly.

I can't say a lot about the story yet. This is the first book in a trilogy and it cannot be read as a stand-alone, because there is absolutely no closure at the end. Skin Hunger asks the questions that will be answered only in the later volumes, mostly in the third one, I suppose. So if you're one of the more impatient readers, it's maybe better to wait for the series to be completed.

Skin Hunger is worth reading if you're looking for something different and enjoy stories with a dark and oppressing atmosphere that do not focus on the love story. And you should be able to deal with children being abused. Even if this abuse is never approved of in the story, quite on the contrary the characters struggle to overcome it, as the reader you still witness children dying. If you need a comparison, Skin Hunger in that aspect isn't as bad as Hunger Games or Battle Royale, but there is more to stomach than in your average YA work.

I will definitely pick up the second book soon, but does anybody know what happened to the third one?
Profile Image for Kogiopsis.
772 reviews1,497 followers
October 4, 2018
This book... this book is everything I was told it would be, when it was first recommended to me by a friend in the library teen advisory group years ago. It's creative and engaging and ominous and rich, with a plot that grabbed hold of me and pulled me ever onward and worldbuilding that felt material and real. It'd be a great autumn read, if you're inclined to choose books thematically, though I finished it in the middle of summer.

It is also the beginning of a work that will probably never be finished. In searching for information about the planned third volume, I instead found a fundraiser. My heart goes out to the Duey family and her friends. We the readers have lost a piece of art, but that is nothing next to the grief they may be experiencing. Let us be grateful for what Kathleen Duey did have time to give us.
Profile Image for Jennifer Wardrip.
Author 5 books488 followers
November 9, 2012
Reviewed by Natalie Tsang for TeensReadToo.com

Despite what the cover may say, Kathleen Duey's SKIN HUNGER, first installment of her fantasy trilogy A RESURRECTION OF MAGIC, is not a novel. It's a third of a novel. Or maybe it's two novels. Maybe it's a sixth. But anyway you slice the cake, it's not enough.

The book alternates chapters narrated by Sadima, a farm girl, and Hahp, a second born son of a cruel merchant. The catch is that they live several generations apart. One in a world that desperately needs magic and the other in one saturated and corrupted by it.

The story opens on the night Sadima is born. Her family is cheated by a fake magician, who instead of assisting in the birth, steals their valuables and lets her mother die. Unsurprisingly, Sadima grows up in a family that hates magic and she is forced to hide her gift of understanding animals. Franklin, a servant of a young nobleman named Somiss, finds her and tells her about his belief that magic will solve all the problems of the world. Together, the three try to rediscover magic. Hahp is sent to an academy of magic. There are nine other boys. Eight of them come from wealthy families and the ninth, Hahp's roommate, is a mysterious peasant named Gerrard. Unlike Franklin's lofty ideals of teaching everyone magic, here everyone must earn the right to learn. And those who do not or cannot will die.

I think this book will appeal to both boys and girls. Initially, each protagonist seems to represent the traditional story of their gender. For Sadima, the girl, it is a love story and for Hahp, the boy, it is an adventure story. At first, I thought the sweetness of Sadima's part was a nice balance to Hahp's grittier and darker part. Over time, the two stories blur together. What Sadima does is now inextricably connected to Hahp's outcome and the future explains the past.

The book is extremely vivid and well thought out. Kathleen Duey creates many unique, strong, and complex major characters. It is undeniably a very dark book, but the main characters are too optimistic and hopeful to make it depressing. Even though it is 357 pages, the font is larger than normal and I finished it in one sitting. And as hinted in the beginning, (and I hope I'm not giving too much away), the story ends with a teeth-gnashing cliffhanger.

I really like how the story is aimed at ages twelve and up, but does not dumb down or gloss over the grittier aspects of life, such as the death of a loved one and the difficulties and consequences of making your own decisions. At the same time, I hesitate to recommend this book to grade school and possibly junior high students. If it were a movie, the violence would probably give it an "R" rating. However, the blood and gore is never gratuitous and always serves to improve the story. I have seen more graphic writing in historical fiction aimed at this age group, such Donna Jo Napoli's STONES IN WATER. It also has the same amount of emotional turmoil in any of the later HARRY POTTER and HIS DARK MATERIALS books. Not for the faint of heart, but still a great first book in what seems to be an addictive trilogy.
Profile Image for Heidi.
771 reviews178 followers
October 24, 2012
There’s a line between horror novels and those that are dark, but it’s certainly a chalk line that can be blurred fairly easily, a line that Kathleen Duey dances upon in her A Resurrection of Magic series. I may never have picked this one up on my own, but thankfully my friend Catie had just finished reading it herself and offered it to me in the pile of books she’d brought for me to borrow. She handed it to me saying that it was kind of like Harry Potter…if at Hogwarts they tortured all of the kids to get the magic out of them. Well that certainly got my attention.

Harry Potter may have some very dark story elements, but it also has an overabundance of charm and whimsy that makes us brush off comments about “the old punishments” for students as all in good fun. Skin Hunger brings those dark elements to the forefront and makes us fully realize what horror we were brushing off. It was sort of like reading or hearing threats of “tarring and feathering” or “keelhauling” without actually ever thinking about how absolutely messed up those punishments were until you see them occur.

So, as you may have surmised, Skin Hunger will not be a book for everyone. It’s a book with little hope, and much darkness; the kind of book that rubs all sorts of unpleasantness in your face. The kind where the bad guys have won, are winning, will likely continue to win, and you cling to the pages half in hope half in dread until you come to its close. However, if you’re a reader that truly means it when you say you like the dark and slightly disturbing, Kathleen Duey’s A Resurrection of Magic could be your perfect choice.

I love the magic and grit reflected in the cover art of this book, it fills me with the same cold wonder I had throughout reading. In addition, I have to note that Skin Hunger is one of the most incredibly adept titles a book has ever been given. It describes a feeling so few of us can truly understand, one more horrible and sad than I could wish on any person.

We are thrown into two distinct stories in Skin Hunger, one told in third person from Sadima’s perspective, the other in first person from Hahp’s. The characters live hundreds of years apart, and at first seem to have little or nothing to do with one another. I was surprised to find myself equally invested in each of their fates, and eagerly jumping back and forth between the two perspectives. Kathleen Duey embraces the power of duel perspectives and various narrative styles so effortlessly that it is easy to forget that these elements quickly unravel under less expert control.

Sadima has always felt alone in an overly protected childhood where no others share her abilities to communicate wordlessly with animals. She feels that when she finds Franklin, she finally has someone who understands, but it takes Sadima too long to see that Franklin can never be fully hers. Sadima proceeds to fall into a largely frustrating and timid existence, too scared to be happy on her own, and too intimidated to be happy with Franklin. We watch her become increasingly entangled in the lives of the man she loves, and the man he serves, slowly understanding how they are building a past that can create Hahp’s present. Hahp enters a school for wizards feeling initially that it is an escape from the father he despises. Told that only one of their class will graduate, the boys at the school are given no comforts and provided with no food until the time when they will either learn to wield magic, or perish. Hahp’s plight seems more desperate and imminent than Sadima’s. Hers is a situation she chooses not to escape, his is one he cannot, one where each gain in one direction sends forces against him from another.

I am filled with hope for Hahp, and utter dread for Sadima. Hahp’s future is a mystery. Sadima’s future has already occurred. We know something happens to her, but not what, and somehow the unknown past is more calculating and disturbing than the unknown future–it has no chance of changing. If you like happy wrapped up ends, Skin Hunger may frustrate you. For me, it was one of those rare cases where I loved feeling still in the dark at the book’s close. I like that I can’t quite fit the puzzle together yet, that I can’t even guess at what the final picture will be.

Skin Hunger is a disturbingly fascinating read. It examines humanity’s capacity for cruelty and harm in the name of the greater good. It is a story of misguided ambitions and unfathomable bleakness, one that will leave the reader sucked dry of emotion and hungering to feel. It is a story that is long ago and all too near.

I knew he couldn’t possibly keep a promise like that, but I put out my hand, and he gripped it. The touch of flesh on my flesh, his skin on my skin, jolted me into feeling a kind of hunger I hand’t even recognized. How long had it been since I had touched anyone?

Original review posted at Bunbury in the Stacks.
Profile Image for Jess.
2,477 reviews69 followers
December 22, 2007
While the parallel stories are compelling, the world is fascinating, and the characters complex, I just didn't click with either of the main characters, and that took the story down a notch for me. Still, it's a strong book with a cliff-hanger of an ending and lots of unresolved bits and pieces that will definitely have me picking up the next installment. Although fantasy, the fantastic elements are almost beside the point, with the learning of magic centered more around almost-forgotten rhymes and songs and the ability to think clearly and creatively. The world of the academy is particularly vivid and gritty. I think this would appeal to young adults who enjoy fantasy that's more about the mind than action sequences; once you get into the story, the pace is fairly quick. Some language and violence.
Profile Image for Elizabeth P.
306 reviews19 followers
April 3, 2010
I can't deny that this book has excellent, beautiful writing. Or suspense and cliffhangers at the end of each chapter that made me frantically think "must keep reading until the book is finished." However, I was distressed by all of the abuse.
Abuse was a disturbing trend in this book. Within the first 5 pages there are three instances of abusive behavior. The rest of the novel doesn't get better. There are many instances of abusive behavior, most notably between Hahp's father and Hahp, between Sadima's father and Sadima, between Somiss and Franklin, between Somiss and Sadima, and even (at one point) between Micah and Sadima.
Perhaps even more troubling is the implication that it's the women's fault (Micah's father was fine before his wife died, and he in part blames Sadima because if it hadn't been such a hard labor his wife would have lived; Micah was fine before Sadima said she was going to join the magicians; Somiss tells Sadima that he will punish Franklin if she leaves). And when a woman is abusive (the magician from the first chapter toward Micah), she's portrayed as pure evil (letting Micah's mother die, stealing their belongings, leaving Sadima to die, even her appearance suggests "pure evil"). But when men are abusive it's okay- the abused just have to take it, bear it, and get on with their lives.
The circumstances at the magician's academy are just as horrible- the students are pitted against each other to see who will survive and become a wizard. All of the "tests" that the students have to take are pointless and cruel. In almost every fantasy book, the tests are there for a reason- to help the hero become a better person. But these tests did not have a purpose. I found the idea that starvation is supposed to clear the boys' minds especially disturbing. The fact that the teachers at the academy let boys die made me sick.
I guess that these types of "edgy" books are meant to show teens that life isn't fair, that death and pain are random (and sometimes cruel), and that the best people (as in, people who should succeed) don't always succeed. But really, teens having to kill each other is extreme. Perhaps I'm too sensitive, but it does worry me that these books are so popular. Abuse is NEVER okay. And do we want to teach teens "do whatever you have to in order to succeed at life; it doesn't matter who you hurt because you only need to think about yourself"?
All in all, although the book is well written, I would not recommend it at all. In fact, I would discourage people from reading it because this book condones abuse, which I find unacceptable.
Profile Image for Beyond Birthday.
146 reviews230 followers
December 4, 2021
Third read. I was going to delete my previous comments because my expectations about a third book and keeping track of the possible release dates while threatening the publisher with their impending doom seem meaningless now, but they should stand as they are: I'll keep them as a journal of sorts. But there won't be a third book. At least not by her.
Farewell, Kathleen. Thank you for the wonderful stories.


Second read. I still haven't read the sequel even though I've owned it since 2009.
But I'm not going to be fooled any longer: the third installment's been threatening to be out since...what? 2012? How could I have read the sequel when the third one is still in diapers, and has been for almost 4 years?
They changed the release date about 10 times already; now it promises to be out by May this year.

Gather around; hold hands, and hope they're not bullshitting us. Or there will be hell to pay.
Hell. To. Pay.
Profile Image for Brandi.
329 reviews800 followers
May 2, 2013

More like 3.5 stars

I'm really conflicted about how to rate this book, and sat in front of the review space for at least 30 minutes thinking about how I wanted to write this. I can see what my friends were saying when they point out this wouldn't be a crowd pleaser, or an easy read, but it wasn't nearly as dark and depraved as I was expecting and hoping (and I don't care to think about what that means about my psyche, lol). It's actually two stories that barely connect, and I was equally intrigued by both, though I think the school should have shocked me more between the two.

Sadima's story is back when magic was gone from the world; where the kings reigned and wars were waged. She was raised by her brother Micah after her mother, and her, were left to die by a "magician" who stole everything of value from them, and resulted in a crippling depression for her father. With their hatred of magicians running as deep as it was, they refused to believe that Sadima was able to understand animals and she ended up hiding her ability until a chance meeting with Franklin, who was seemingly a real magician, and not the usual charlatan. Years go by and Sadima ends up finding him again in another city leaving her only family behind after a heartbreaking fight. Slowly she helps Somiss and Franklin gather old songs so that Somiss can resurrect magic, but she is really a maid and slave to Somiss. I don't understand why Somiss was so obsessed about his father not finding him either, if he would end up walking in the King's Day procession like they were one big happy family.

I really, really hate Somiss.

The other story is about Hahp, and a few other boys, who are sent to a wizard school, but like you might expect from the synopsis, this was more like a death camp than school. Centuries have gone between Sadima and Hahp's stories, but they're connected by Franklin and the abhorrent Somiss. In this school the boys are starved, isolated in the extreme, wear robes that chafe them bloody, and not allowed shoes in the stone prison they live in. They're forbidden to help each other and boys die of starvation.

Now, this is where I get frustrated, because I came to understand why Somiss would want to see them fast (that man is crazy and evil), but I really want to know why he wouldn't just let them go instead of killing them?! I can't say I know much of anything about Somiss beyond him being a spoiled rich kid who apparently can't control himself and must always be kept calm. Franklin is devoted to him so completely that I was as angry at him as Hahp was, but don't expect there to be any sort of resolution in this book, because you'll not find it. In fact, there's no climax at all, and it ended awkwardly in my opinion.

I enjoyed this book, and even though I've complained about it, I really did like it, though I wouldn't easily recommend it. It's great for people like me who like the twisted stories, but it's not quite as twisted as I thought it was going to be.

Profile Image for Sam.
81 reviews3 followers
February 20, 2009
Skin Hunger is the first installment of a new magic-based trilogy called A Resurrection of Magic. The book alternates chapters between the stories of two separate protagonists- Sadima and Hahp.

Sadima is a farm girl whose family is betrayed by a false magician during her birth. She grows up with a father who is completely broken inside and is unable to enjoy much even in her rural life. She has an unnatural connection with animals, and feels as though she can communicate with them through her thoughts- something confirmed by a young wizard named Franklin who seeks her out. After her father's death, Sadima ventures into the city to find that wizard and ends up being pulled into a quest to resurrect the old ways of magic.

Hahp is the son of a well-to-do family. His father is sick of his constant failings and decides to send him to wizard's academy even though those who enter may never return to their families who are told that all students "become a part of the academy." Hahp soon learns how true this is as food is not even provided to the students- they must learn to make their own or die trying! Hahp despises his father and the wizards but finds in himself an unlikely talent for magic and does what he can to try and help his classmates without being detected by the cruel wizard Somiss.

Overall, I really liked this book. It starts out unfortunately slow, muddling through Sadima's back story with a lackluster narrative. However, once it gets going it is totally enthralling. The characters are well defined and the world is quite vibrantly described. As the two stories tie together toward the end, the book leaves you totally unsatisfied waiting for the next installment! The content is a bit dark and the vocabulary is a bit more advanced, so I would primarily recommend this for an older teen audience. I haven't had much of a chance to get into Duey's J writing so I can't speak of a comparison there.
Profile Image for Donna.
1,604 reviews25 followers
May 6, 2019
When I read the synopsis of this book, I thought it might be a pretty good read. A nobleman restoring magic to all is a good thing, right? Unfortunately, what I was expecting and what I got were two different things.

One of the few characters that I liked even a little bit. Despite Franklin's insistence that Somiss is doing all of this for the right reasons, she realizes that what he says and does are two different things.

I felt sorry for him most of the book but he is as bad as Somiss if he just lets these things happen.

I think this is the one character that I liked the most and that is saying a lot because I don't like any of them a whole lot. He at least tried to help some of the other boys at times, despite his fear.

The Ending
The ending was a bit odd. I expected more things to be settled. Instead, the book just ended.

I thought the story was very slow to develop. Even so, the characters never developed fully. I honestly barely liked anything about any of them. I liked that Sadima could actually see the truth of what was going on but did she do anything about it? No. A lot of things in the book were just cruel. It was a very dark story with no real ending. Nothing was resolved. I won't be reading more of this series.
Profile Image for Arminzerella.
3,745 reviews87 followers
September 30, 2009
Two tales are woven here. In the first, Sadima is raised in a time when magic is feared and distrusted, so she learns to hide her ability to speak with animals – but not before stories of her are heard in the city, and a young man (Franklin) travels the long distance to meet her. Several years later, after the death of her father, Sadima journeys to the city to find Franklin and is allowed to stay with him and his master, Somiss (a cruel, selfish, almost inhuman individual). They are just beginning to find and record the gypsy songs that will reawaken magic and fulfill Somiss’ dream of starting a school for magic users.

In the second story, it is many years later, and the wizards’ school is up and running. A new crop of aspiring young wizards – all boys – has been brought to the academy for training. Their wizard masters (Somiss and Franklin among them) are cruel – starving the boys until they can use magic to feed themselves, and teaching them to fear and distrust one another.

While the overlap between the two stories becomes clear after a time, I was never certain exactly how much time had passed. By the end, I was completely hooked and terribly disappointed that nothing had been resolved. Someone deliver me a sequel – STAT! Hahp and his roommate (boys and aspiring magic-users) have just vowed to do everything in their power to destroy the wizards who run their academy (using cruelty and starvation to thin out the ranks of students), and many years prior to this, Sadima and the founders of the wizard academy have just escaped from an angry mob. Sadima is also noticeably absent from the second, later story. What happens to her??

This is a dark and scintillating new fantasy series that leaves its readers breathless with questions and dying to know more. My only irritation is with Sadima’s inability to extricate herself from what is clearly an unhealthy situation. Although she loves Franklin, he will never leave Somiss, and Somiss is a seriously warped individual. Sadima, however, is strong and capable, intelligent, and she can talk to animals – when, I wonder, if ever, will this power of hers come back into the story and be of some use to her?
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Theresa.
473 reviews11 followers
September 9, 2008
This book got really good reviews which is why I decided to read it. But I am at a loss as to why since it really was not that good. It moves forward very slowly, if at all, and I didn't really develop a connection with any of the characters.

The book starts by telling two separate stories that eventually merge (kind of). There is a common character to both stories but I don't think the two main characters ever meet (but I could be wrong since I zoned out a couple of times when I was listening to the audio). I was really intrigued by the fact that early on it is revealed that Sadima (the female protagonist) can hear the thoughts of animals and can also communicate with them via her thoughts. I thought it would have been really interesting to explore that part of Sadima's character but that was never directly mentioned again.

Hohp, the male protagonist, is sent to a school along with a handful of other young boys to learn to be a wizard. However, only one of the boys will survive the school and therefore only one will actually graduate to wizard status. The boys must learn to create their own food using magic or die from starvation and are forbidden to help each other. The author spent a lot of time on the starvation part of the story. This survival of the fittest mentality was overdone.

I know that this is the first of a trilogy but I honestly don't think I have the patience to read any further. In addition, there was continued use of very strong language for a teen fantasy novel. I am aware that for realistic teen fiction strong language is normal but it is really unusual to find language that strong in a fantasy novel. Overall, this book was incredibly longwinded and to be honest at times just plain boring.
Profile Image for Wealhtheow.
2,447 reviews548 followers
May 1, 2009
Take any of those twee stories about wizarding school and then shove bleak, black despair down its throat. That's this book. It starts out sweet and cliched: a little farm girl can commune with animals, but her father hates magic; a little boy is about to enroll in wizard school. The chapters are short, without much to them. As the characters get older and the story grows more complex, the chapters cease being little cute snippets of their lives and become longer. With time, as more of each situation is revealed, it grows from slightly confusing to highly disturbing. The characters seek after long lost magic for good reasons--to cure the sick, bring long life and happiness--but the means they use are increasingly morally dubious. Its a rare YA fantasy book that makes readers uncomfortable.

The only wizards are charlatens, but Sadima has a strange power over animals that no one understands. She runs from a hard farm life to the big city, where she finds Franklin and Somiss, young men as interested in magic as she is. Together, they piece together bits of magic from old songs and folklore. But even as their knowledge increases, the unequal power dynamics in their trio get more pronounced.

Generations later, Hahp has just been inducted into the only school for wizards. The students are kept silent, starving, and made to do meditation and breathing exercises constantly, but they're sure it's all to a purpose. But is it? Do the "masters" actually know any more magic than their students? And even if they do, do they understand it?
Profile Image for Ali Cross.
Author 26 books682 followers
May 14, 2009
This was an odd book.

Skin Hunger is the story of two people, Sadima a young woman in search of love and acceptance for herself and the magical gift she holds secret, and Hahp, a teenage boy who has been sent to the wizard academy against his will. Interestingly, Sadima's story is told in third person and Hahp's story is told in first person, alternating by chapter. Furthermore, Sadima's story happens several generations before Hahp's.

All of that I can live with. For me, the approach was unique and fresh. I didn't have a problem with it.

What I did have a problem with was ... why should I care?

I found this story to be entirely too much telling and not nearly enough feeling, showing, living and breathing of each character's story.

And what was worse, the story barely got anywhere and then completely left me hanging without any resolution at all. I understand it is a trilogy, nevertheless there was NO resolution. I can't recall a novel where that has happened before. Usually at least some part of the story comes to completion, but in Skin Hunger that's just not so.

I honestly can't say that I could recommend this book to anyone. I will likely read the next book when it comes out, and then, perhaps, I might recommend the two together. But at the moment, I'd say, don't waste your time with this book.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
511 reviews211 followers
May 31, 2013
I'm not going to rate this book because I just don't want to and I don't feel like rating anything. But this was awesome.

I read this slowly. Or rather, erratically. Started this back in Feb, read a few chapters, left. Then picked it up after a few weeks, read it halfway through, abandoned. Read a few pages in the months in between and finally finished it today.

Don't know what was going through my head when I felt it. But let's move on.

The last hundred pages of this book are the most commendable, IMO. Not only because more stuff happens in those pages than in the entire book but also for the fact that I finally started to care for the side characters as well. I hated Somiss throughout the book, but towards the end I appreciated his character a bit as well. Plus, I really, really like Gerrard now, and when the hell are Gerrard and Hahp going to get it on.

On the back of my copy of Sacred Scars, it's written,'...Duey's dark and powerful trilogy.'

Those two words describe this novel perfectly. They are subtle yet vicious, the emotions in this book.

Man, it's refreshing and unique but at the same time leaves me with a gutted feeling. My stomach feels hollow and I'm scared to start Scared Scars and who knows how long I'll take to finish that one.

I can laready predict there won't be a happy ending. Heck, there is no need for prediction, it is glaringly obvious once you start the book that shit is gonna go down and for the first time, i want shit to go down but at the same time don't want it to hit the characters.
Profile Image for Stephanie Tang.
164 reviews77 followers
April 18, 2010
This book was dark and gritty, and parts of it were thoroughly frightening. This the type of book that appeals to both boys and girls because of the balance between romance (Sadima's story) and harsh survival (Hahp's story). I enjoyed Sadima's side of the story a little more, maybe because I don't have the stomach to visualize Hahp's experience in the wizard academy. I thought both Sadima and Hahp were compelling narrators, although their stories confused me a bit at first. Halfway through the book, things cleared up, though later on their stories began to confuse me again. I thought maybe the story would have been clearer if the book had been written in third person.
The world Duey has created was, in a word, scary. The desperation the poor feel and the measures they go to in order to survive are shocking but clearly described. It seems real, though, and if you think about it has frightening similarities to our own world and our own society.
I enjoyed this book but I thought that some parts could have been clearer and a little more compelling -- though most of the scenes are extremely exciting, there were a few sections where I got kind of bored and lost.
Profile Image for Lara.
4,154 reviews340 followers
December 5, 2009
Um...people (besides me) seem to really love this one, but I must say I don't really understand why. It felt really, really slow to me, and the way Duey alternates story lines made it hard for me to get engrossed in either one. I found myself marginally more interested in Sadima's parts than in Hahp's, but I never quite connected with either of them. People also talk about how horrific these kids' circumstances are, but...somehow I never really FELT the horror of it. The emotional response was just not there for me, probably because I didn't care all that much for the kids themselves. And I never quite got a good sense of where the story as a whole is going. I think I would have much preferred for Duey to devote a whole book to each kid and really develop the plot and characters...as it is, I feel like there was too much and too little going on at the same time. I doubt I'll be reading the rest of this series.
Profile Image for Justine.
250 reviews137 followers
February 4, 2016
3.5 stars

It's a quality novel in terms of writing and plot (although the fantasy world seemed a little vague despite the middle age inspiration to it, but then again, it's not really a big issue.), but the lack of climax certainly dulled the pacing in the middle up to the last part, which is kinda disappointing after the fascinating beginning. I just feel that not much is achieved in terms of plot progression since the novel was so focused on the two protagonists' every day life. It was good for characterization, but not so good for a reader like me who likes his fantasy novels to be explosive, filled with constant twists and turns. But still, Skin Hunger is just the start and I expect sacred scars to be better.
Profile Image for Lisa.
143 reviews8 followers
July 15, 2014
This is a raw, harsh story and yet there was just enough hope for me to keep reading. I disliked the back-and-forth POV. I wish the author had chosen one or the other, though the shift between third- and first-person may be to underscore past and present. It wasn't too distracting once I got into the book. What I liked about the book: interesting characters, lots of tension and conflict, good writing.
Profile Image for Megan.
363 reviews37 followers
August 26, 2020
It’s been over a decade since I first read Skin Hunger, and it remains one of the best YA books I have ever read.

The fact that this series will never be finished is devastating (although I have hope that there is some sort of manuscript lying around that could possibly be published??? Please), but don’t let that stop you from picking up Skin Hunger and its sequel, Sacred Scars; they’re too good.

This book deserves a much more detailed review than this, and I’ll come back one day and do just that.
Profile Image for Zuzia Wilk.
169 reviews2 followers
October 15, 2022
Książka posiadała dwie perspektywy. Perspektywę Sadimy, która średnio mi się podobała oraz perspektywę Hahpa, która była świetna.
Profile Image for Megan.
198 reviews2 followers
May 9, 2023
This book is ok, the pacing was odd and a little slow but I would be curious to read more. However I read on the author’s profile that she passed away so the trilogy is unfinished so I’ll stop reading here so I don’t get too engrossed just to be left hanging.
Profile Image for Miss Bookiverse.
1,971 reviews72 followers
October 21, 2012
Liebes Skin Hunger,
ich will ehrlich mit dir sein: nach den ersten paar Seiten dachte ich das wird nichts mit uns. Ich hatte nicht so richtig Lust und deine verquere Erzählweise hat mich verwirrt. Du hast mir abwechselnd zwei Handlungsstränge geschildert und ich habe einfach nicht verstanden, in welchem Zusammenhang die zueinander stehen. Ob sie zur gleichen Zeit spielen oder dieselben Protagonisten beinhalten. Außerdem haben die Namen mich verwirrt – Hahp, sollte das ein Junge oder ein Mädchen sein?
Dennoch habe ich weitergeblättert. Nicht lange und du hast mir von einer Magierin erzählt, die eine Familie auf brutalste Weise zerstört. Wow, da war ich ziemlich beeindruckt und plötzlich gefesselt. Ich hatte ja nicht geahnt, dass du zu solchen Gräueltaten fähig wärst.

Ab da lief es blendend zwischen uns. Hahp war ein Junge, ist doch klar, und die beiden Handlungsstränge hatten augenscheinlich erst mal nichts miteinander zu tun. Gewisse Parallelen hast du mir später doch verraten, aber so richtig wolltest du mit der Sprache bisher nicht rausrücken. Die Handlungsstränge blieben von Anfang bis zum Ende getrennt voneinander.
Auf der einen Seite hast du mir von Hahp und seinem Werdegang in der düsteren (und das meine ich im tiefsten Sinne des Wortes) Zaubererakademie berichtet. Dort geht es gnadenlos und mysteriös zu, was den Spannungs- und Gruselfaktor stets aufrechterhalten hat. Auf der anderen Seite hast du mir von dem Mädchen Sadima erzählt, die ihre einzige Familie zurücklässt, um sich selbst und die Liebe zu finden. Dabei geht es genauso mysteriös, aber weniger düster zu. Sadima hat mich mit ihrer Willensstärke und ihrem herzensguten Wesen für sich gewonnen. Selbst als sie Gefühle für jemanden entwickelt, beginnt sie nicht ihr eigenes Wohl zu vernachlässigen und an keiner Stelle verkommt sie zum hilflosen Heimchen.
Hahp ist da ein ganz anderes Kaliber. Er ist in einer reichen Familie aufgewachsen und ihm mangelte es nie an etwas. Das hat ihn gerade am Anfang zu einer ziemlich nervtötenden Figur gemacht. Er jammert und jammert und jammert. Immerhin alles im logischen Rahmen und mit Platz zur Weiterentwicklung (die Gott sei Dank auch stattfindet).

Sprachlich sind mir zwei Kleinigkeiten aufgefallen. Erstens fand ich die Fäkalsprache, die man in Hahps Kapiteln findet unnötig. Wörter wie „fucking“, „piss“ und „shit“ wirkten in dem sonst eher fantasylastigen Setting fehl am Platz.
Verwirrt hat mich außerdem die Namenswahl. Von Eigenschöpfungen wie Sadima oder Somiss bis zu uns wohl bekannten wie Franklin oder Rebecca war alles scheinbar wahllos vertreten.

Richtig gut hat mir deine Knappheit gefallen. Jedes Kapitel dauert nur wenige Seiten und so hatte ich die Möglichkeit immer wieder von einer Storyline zur anderen zu springen. Im letzten Drittel hat sich da leider eine gewisse Routine eingeschlichen. Auf ein großartiges Finale habe ich vergebens gewartet. Es kommt einfach nicht. Stattdessen hast du mich mit unzähligen Fragen und einem Gefühl der Unzufriedenheit zurückgelassen. Eigentlich hätte man dich nur in einem Schuber zusammen mit deinen Geschwistern (Sacred Scars und einem bisher unbekannten Dritten) verkaufen dürfen. Da habe ich mich echt drüber geärgert und dich deshalb fast schlechter bewertet. Du hast ja wirklich nichts aufgelöst!

Bevor ich mich jetzt noch weiter über deine Verschwiegenheit aufrege, mache ich mich lieber auf die Suche nach deiner Schwester.
Alles Gute (du kannst es gebrauchen),
Infinite Playlist
Profile Image for tasha.
3 reviews2 followers
August 18, 2012
Ah... there seems to be a lot of good reviews for this book O_O I guess I may not fit in here then...

To start off, I'll say that I enjoyed the writing style. It seemed to be well written and what not, which was probably the only reason I didn't give up on reading it.

Sooo, I admit it. I sort of forgot the explanation of the book. Or perhaps I just didn't read it like I thought I did. However, I spent practically 10 chapters or so wondering whether or not the two characters lived in the same time period. (Which I dare say -even though its supposed to be hundreds of years apart- didn't seem all that different.) So as one might imagine, that confused the hell out of me. It also bothered me how Sadima's life seemed to jump years at a time, where as Hahp's lasted a year as a total?

The biggest issue I had with it however, was it was boring. Basically everything the two characters did day to day was repetitive, with only small variations every other time. I would have thought that with Sadima's ability, she would have attempted to advance it, strengthen it, or at least add to the story a bit. But I'm sad to say it didn't. Hell, aside from the beginning, she didn't even use it.

Throughout the entire book, I kept waiting for something to happen, for something to advance the plot. It happened a few times, but when it did, the story inched just a weee bit farther. And then, it continued with its repetitive nonsense. Once I finally realized the connection between the stories, Things started to make a little more sense, just not much. The realization wasn't even one of those "No way?!?! O_O" which is followed by the addiction-can't-stop-reading. It was more of an "Errr, alright." type.

There was also something about Hahp's story that bothered me, and I'm only now realizing what it was. Was there even any hope in it? any point? As far as I'm concerned (until the very end,) the boy had either no chance of getting out alive, or if he did, no happy life to hope for. I can't feel pity for him as I'd want to, because it doesn't seem like there would be any use to x_x .

And then there was this: the lack of a clear antagonist. Maybe it was just me, but I didn't see one. Suuuureee there was Somiss, but he had little dialog, a lack of detail, as well as character. Where as in many books the antagonist (thing or person,) is like a mountain among the story, (Even if they are unknown by name.) Somiss is like a hill among other slightly smaller hills.

Once I got to the ending, I simply blinked asking myself if that was really it. A few things happened to make me believe that Duey had a plot in mind after all. Unfortunately, there were so many things left unanswered. Where was Sadima and the others going? what was going to happen to the boys? What exactly was Somiss even up to? How will Sadima's ability play in? non of this was ever answered. Yet they were all -and probably the only - questions going around throughout the entire story.

Personally, I don't think that Duey should have had both of the stories playing out at once. I honestly think she should have just written Hahp's story in one book, (or perhaps in a "part one" section.) and Sadima's in a second. In which case, She probably could have managed a book for each if she added more to each story. However, this also may have made each book a bit more boring than it already is.

Despite what I've said, I wouldn't call it a "bad" book. It was good enough to read for a day, think about a bit, but then to move on. Maybe I'll read the next one, maybe I wont.
Profile Image for Baba Yaga.
5 reviews3 followers
December 8, 2011
Sadima lives in a world where magic has been banned, leaving poor villagers prey to fakes and charlatans. A "magician" stole her family's few valuables and left Sadima's mother to die on the day Sadima was born. But vestiges of magic are hidden in old rhymes and hearth tales and in people like Sadima, who conceals her silent communication with animals for fear of rejection and ridicule. When rumors of her gift reach Somiss, a young nobleman obsessed with restoring magic, he sends Franklin, his lifelong servant, to find her. Sadima's joy at sharing her secret becomes love for the man she shares it with. But Franklin's irrevocable bond to the brilliant and dangerous Somiss traps her, too, and she faces a heartbreaking decision.

Centuries later magic has been restored, but it is available only to the wealthy and is strictly controlled by wizards within a sequestered academy of magic. Hahp, the expendable second son of a rich merchant, is forced into the academy and finds himself paired with Gerrard, a peasant boy inexplicably admitted with nine sons of privilege and wealth. Only one of the ten students will graduate — and the first academic requirement is survival.

This is the official introduction for Skin Hunger, a book I find myself drawn to both literature wise, and, non-surprisingly, by the gritty, entrancing artwork that graces the cover of this particular volume. It is one of the many reasons I finally dragged myself from the house, down the block that separates my part-time lover from me, and ordered the entrancing creature before the cold front settled in like a grotesque bird once more.

When it finally arrived a week later, I was entangled further in its web. No longer was I surrounded by fanciful, talking hats and scarred, pretentious boys, but by the dark tale of Kathleen Duey's magical world. As the cover promised (and oh so much more), this is a dark tale, twisting the way you see magic into something that should be feared and shunned.

Scars glisten, bellies cave, madness sets in. This is the world that I have been searching for for years, and hadn't found until now. Though it lacks a significant climax, I thoroughly enjoed it and its sequel Sacred Scars.

Though at times you can find yourself nodding off, wondering just what are you doing with this, it all but makes up for when the "action"-if you will-jumps into play. The characters are intriguing, to say the least, and you find yourself plodding on after them wondering just what are they going to do with the situation playing out before you. It was nigh impossible to sleep with this book in the room, for I found myself going back to it again and again, particularly when Hahp's chapter came up once again.

But I will let you make your own decision, though I say in all honesty that this book is something that should be read a hundred times over, for Ms. Duey has that certain spark that lends the life so few authors nowadays lack. I couldn't recommend this series any more strongly, and urge you to take the time to sit down with this series.

Do svidaniya, my friends,

Baba Yaga
Profile Image for N.T. Embeast.
218 reviews27 followers
November 13, 2014

I've got to admit, when I first picked up this book, it was because I got interested in the idea that one part of it was about a girl who could understand and communicate with animals. In a way, it was part of my thoughts about researching shapeshifters for my own benefit, but when I began reading, I realized the book wasn't focused on this otherwise tiny aspect; it was only the smallest detail that led to this great, huge concoction of the horrible and yet intriguing stories that melded almost perfectly together in the strangest of ways.

I've read a lot of books, and I've got to tell you-- It is a major accomplishment when an author is able to weave two or more stories together in the same book and make it feel effortless and like they're both a part of one another, no matter how different they seemingly are initially. Kathleen Duey was able to accomplish this in a stunning way.

What's even more astounding to me is that I picked up a book I thought was going to be about magic and have a little bit of the normal threats to it to make the story move forward, and instead I found a book that shocked me with how brutal, cruel, even twisted it was. I mean, it really astounded me. I expected some bad things to happen in a few cases, but when those "bad things" happened-- they exceeded my expectations and became real threats, with actual ability to induce horror in a person. And I mean that literally. Weigh it with your tongue. Mean it. Feel the actual meaning of that word in the pit of your stomach:


It's not a joking matter. It's not even a light matter to be dismissed. I took this book and thought it was going to be a poor attempt at trying to plant something of a plot with a meaningless villain type and whatnot. Instead it was like picking up stone only to not realize there was a scorpion on the other side and getting stung. This book became something I started taking seriously the moment that first "bad thing" happened, and it was only then that I realized just how seriously I should be taking it.

It's a book that doesn't play around, and it's fantastic for it. I'm disappointed I don't have the sequel here with me. It cuts you right off in the middle of everything at the end, and now I'm certain I have to hunt down the next book. Leaving things just as they are won't cut it. This series is too good to just leave alone, and if you pick this mama up, you'll see exactly what I mean. Trust me: It's a lot more than you've bargained for, and in the best of ways.

So if you like a darker, twisted story of magic, look this book up. It won't disappoint.
Profile Image for Aerin.
411 reviews40 followers
March 1, 2009


For those of you who don't know, I have a rule that I neither buy, check out, borrow or otherwise read books whose sequels have not been published. I just get too darn impatient for the continuation of the series.

Well, I did not realize that Skin Hunger is a trilogy. Yes, it says so right on the book. Yes, I really can read. But I didn't. Big mistake.

Skin Hunger tells two stories, alternating chapter to chapter between the two. The first is the 3rd-person narrative of Sadima, a young woman with the ability to talk to animals in a place and time in which such magic is strictly forbidden. The second story is the 1st person account of Hahp, a second son sent to wizarding school, centuries after Sadima.

Skin Hunger is not like The Forest of Hands and Teeth, which has a sequel but is a perfectly complete story in its own right. It's not even like Paolini's Inheritance Cycle, in which each book does a respectable job of tying up a few plot lines before moving on to the next volume.

Instead, Skin Hunger introduces the two storylines, as well as the four main characters: Sadima, Franklin, Sommiss, and Hahp. These are difficult enough to learn, with the back-and-forth points of view. Indeed, it takes at least a third of the book, if not more, to even understand why there are alternating points of view. For a 350 page book, it's too confusing; it may be more appropriate for the 1000 page novel that the trilogy will become.

Then, just as you settle into the flip flopping and characters and their possible motivations, the book ends. The story doesn't end; in fact, I thought I'd maybe purchased a misprinted copy. The reader is left with more questions than answers and with severe annoyance at the abruptness.

Still, Duey's book won Newbery honors, probably because of her original concept and well-paced writing. I am definitely looking forward to the second volume Sacred Scars, but I strongly encourage you to wait until the third book (as yet unwritten) is released before diving into the trilogy.
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