SKIN HUNGER: A Resurrection of Magic, Book 1, by Kathleen Duey (Atheneum, 2007)(ages 12 and up). Once, true magic existed, but long ago magicians were hunted down and killed by jealous kings. Now, with magic outlawed, there are only charlatans and frauds wearing black robes and taking advantage of the credulous or desperate. One such fraud, called in to aid Sadima's mother with her birthing, steals the family's few valuables, and leaves Sadima dying and her mother dead.
Sadima survives and discovers she has an ability to communicate with animals. At seventeen, she leaves home to seek out two young men who are determined to resurrect magic so that it can once more be used to help mankind. She's drawn to Franklin, but can't understand what binds him to Somiss, whose obsession with restoring magic does little, in her mind, to excuse barely restrained anger and cruelty.
Years later, magic has been restored and is taught at a mysterious Academy, where fewer than one in ten succeeds to become a magician, and where boys are left by their parents for fates unknown: to either become magicians or disappear forever. Hahp, second son of a wealthy merchant, is sent there because his father decided to get rid of him. Garrard, a peasant boy, is assigned as his roommate. The only thing that binds them is the consequences of failure and their fear of working together, which has been proscribed. And the latter may be their only chance to avoid the former...
Told in chapters that alternate between Sadima's story and Hahp's, SKIN HUNGER is a darkly engrossing read. Duey skillfully uses Sadima's story to illuminate Hahp's, creating characters that are expertly drawn and a fantasy world that is textured and real. Highly recommended.
Click here for an excerpt and here for an interview with Kathleen Duey.