Skin Hunger features very poignant and haunting prose. The style and efficiency of the writing paints clear pictures of the setting and characters. The fact that there are two main characters, one told from a third person point of view, the other in first person, does not detract from or confuse the story. Instead, an intricate web of plot is created that works its way under your skin and leaves you pining for the next book in the series. At first, I wasn't sure the title really fit a fantasy book with a medieval-type setting, but as I made my way to the end of the story, I finally understood why the title, Skin Hunger, is absolutely perfect in a most mind-opening way. Food, it's absence, presence, memory of, and more, plays a significant role in the story, but only touches on part of the "hunger" theme. The hunger of relationships and bonds and desire and the starving of loneliness and longing and depravity all mix together in this intricate and raw mystery of differing times and spaces. And just FYI, there is no sex in this book though what I've written above might make it seem like there would be. It's not that kind of stuff–that's what makes it so powerful. There are mentions of boy parts and instances of bad language, but they fit the situations. As a YA book though, I would recommend it to older teens.
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.
Sadima's and Hahp's worlds are separated by generations, but their lives are connected in surprising and powerful ways in this brilliant first book of Kathleen Duey's dark, complex, and completely compelling trilogy.