This book is a 2007 Science Fiction & Fantasy Cybils Award Nominee.
Sadima's family values what is real -- real is all they'll deal with. Magic? That's fake, of the worst thieving kind. A magician robbed her family and left her mother to die the day Sadima was born. So, Sadima keeps it to herself that she can communicate with animals -- although everyone knows something is different about her. A motherless girl, she cares for her brother and grim, brooding father, keeping her head down, and doing what is right.
A visit from a wizard's servant -- a professional one from the city, who has heard of her gifts -- is just one more bright-edged Sadima keeps to herself. Why was she made the way she is -- so lighthearted and optimistic -- if her father and brother are so leaden-souled? When her father dies, Sadima flies free of sad memories and her brother's disapproval -- to the city -- to the wizard's servant who once thought so much of her.
But life isn't what she thought there, either. The wizard is a dark, dour, closed man, and his hold over Franklin, his servant, of whom Sadima has dreamed for so long... is nothing less than evil.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the city...
Hahp is not his father's favorite. He is dour and strict and makes Hahp feel that all he does is fail. He manages to rid himself of his son's hated presence by enrolling him in a prestigious academy of magic, where failure represents disappearance. Haph must succeed -- or he'll never see his family again. Surviving the first days of school -- and the peasant boy who is his roommate -- is not guaranteed.
Two stories of lives lived in strict confinement and want mingle in an incredibly taut, complex and dark tale of Skin Hunger. Readers will be outright incensed when this first volume of this well-plotted trilogy concludes.