I’m very, very excited to review this book because I have actually met the author a couple of times and would know her to say hello to if I saw her at a party. She’s a friend of a friend and I had no idea that she’d written a book (let alone a series of books) so it was with great curiosity that I downloaded her debut novel, The Sin Eater’s Daughter. I’m amazed that someone I know has written something that’s been picked up by a proper publishing house (no offense to Mel – she’s obviously very talented) and she’s apparently sold the rights for a TV adaptation so I’m really pleased that she’s doing so well. I’ve tried to remain completely impartial in my review so that you get my honest response.
The book is the story of Twylla, the daughter of a “sin eater” (you’ll be amazed to know). Sin Eaters are employed as part of a funeral ritual to eat food which represents the sins of the deceased in order for their soul to be free. Twylla is a sin-eater-in-training and as such comes into contact with the royal family when the King passes away. The royal family believe in keeping a pure bloodline (basically, incest) but the Queen is concerned for her only son as he is the last of the line. (This is where it gets complicated). So, because the Queen can’t have more children, she effectively reintroduces the role of “Daunen Embodied”. This role is given to a child who is chosen by the gods, who is their literal embodiment and can kill with a touch. The Queen claims that Twylla is Daunen Embodied and makes her undergo various rituals to prove this to the general populace. As a child of the gods Twylla is betrothed to the young Prince and the novel is the story of her discovery of the lies and deceit which fuel the power of the monarchy. (That’s my best attempt at a simplified summary – as I said, it’s complicated. Sorry.)
Before I begin my review of the text can I just take a moment to talk about how ridiculously pretty this book is. I don’t normally comment on cover art but I have to say that the design for the dust jacket is absolutely beautiful. I would have bought it based on the cover alone.
The book is clearly aimed at a YA audience so despite obvious comparisons to Game of Thrones etc. there is much less complexity in terms of number of characters and their relationships to/with each other. However, the complicated premise (have you read my summary?) and fast paced action kept me interested to the end.
I really liked Twylla as a character because she stood up for herself and made her own decisions. Unlike a lot of YA fiction there wasn’t a two dimensional love interest and her plans were often scuppered as she uncovered various character flaws regarding the suitors vying for her attention. It was also nice to read a book where the plot twists were so abrupt that everything was regularly thrown up in the air, keeping me on my toes.
There were a couple of clumsily written passages and a few parts of the plot where I thought “that wouldn’t happen” or “why doesn’t she just do this” which ruined the action slightly. For example, in the last chapter we find Twylla reading a book, despite the fact that only a few months previous she was completely illiterate. I hope this will be explained in book two but I think that any attempt to show why she can suddenly read will feel like a bit of a cover up for a mistake.
I also found the title of the book a bit of an odd choice – there is very little of Twylla before she becomes Daunen Embodied and her relationship with her mother is only mentioned a few times. Maybe this will become more apparent as the saga continues. Or perhaps it was chosen just because it grabs your attention.
Minor criticisms aside, I did enjoy this book and will continue to read the series (and talk about it on here). I have high hopes for books two and three!
Overall rating: 7/10
I read this book as part of the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2017 #2 Read a Debut Novel.