The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury is a fantasy YA book with a beautiful cover and an intriguing premise. The back proudly states: “I am the perfect weapon. I kill with a single touch.”
The story is told in first person, present tense putting you right into the action and into the main character, Twylla’s, head. We follow her journey as the royal executioner, where she kills traitors with her touch.
She is Daunen Embodied, and though she is lauded on the cover as being a Goddess reincarnated, it is explicitly stated in text that she is not. She is the daughter of two gods: Naeht and Daeg and holds both the power of bringing righteousness as in Daeg’s realm of power, and death, which is in Naeht’s.
Twylla is also the Sin Eater’s daughter. In a practice described as being older than the gods, after one’s passing, their sins are placed on their coffin in the form of symbolic food. Twylla’s mother (the Sin Eater is always a woman) proceeds to gorge on the sins thus absolving them and allowing them to arise to the ever after.
The Sin Eater’s Daughter follows the path of Twylla as she escapes from the fate of one destiny, that of being the next Sin Eater, into another as she is claimed by the royal family as Daunen Embodied in a time of uprisings. The royal family are the only ones who are immune to her deadly touch. The people are afraid of the cruel Queen who has an overwhelming desire to keep the royal line pure. It has been kept so by brothers marrying sisters for decades, but the Prince Merek’s sister died shortly after birth. In her place, the Queen has promised Twylla to the Prince. Twylla entered into the service of the Queen in the hopes that she could provide a better life for her younger sister back home, but is disowned by her mother after abandoning her destiny as the next Sin Eater.
Things that I liked about this book were: the cover art, the Sin Eater tradition, and the writing. I mean, have you seen this beautiful cover? Everything about it screams cool intrigue and interest. Great job, Jacey and Jamie Gregory who did the art and Christopher Stengel who designed it.
The idea of the Sin Eater intrigued me because it had so much to do with a lot of religious beliefs of needing to absolve sins to ascend to the afterlife. It is done is such a way that reveals all transgressions to others and choosing sins to make for the Sin Eater means presumably telling someone else of all your sins. Wrath, rage, envy, swearing were all represented by different foods and eaten in a certain order. The tradition and rote of it was yielded to even by the all powerful and cruel Queen. It reminded me very much of a Speaking in the Ender’s series because all was revealed about a person in a neutral way, with the intent of relieving the person of all their mortal bindings and having the truth ‘set them free’.
The writing is engaging and present and pulled me along for the journey. The descriptions were plain, but I tend to favor that kind of writing style — more action-oriented. The writing was accessible and wasn’t hard to read and I followed the foreign words easily. Their context described them without forcing me to pause and reread.
Things I didn’t like were: the religion, the love triangle, the main character, and the end. And please beware, there are SPOILERS ahead.
The biggest problem I had with this book was this idea of Daunen Embodied, which we learn two thirds of the way through, is completely made up. Somehow the evil Queen created this idea of Daeg and Naeht’s daughter as a traitor-killer with a poisonous touch in the span of less than a decade. Less than a decade and her entire country took it as truth. An almost completely made-up creature in the religious annals. Also, Twylla. She who is supposed to be Daunen Embodied was able to touch people throughout her youth, but still believed unequivocally (based on the Queen’s word) that she killed people with her touch. This was so beyond fathoming that I cannot believe it made it into the book. The entire premise of the book, as it is sold to readers, is that she is the executioner of the country and that loses credibility halfway through the book.
The love triangle is between Twylla, the prince to whom she is betrothed, and one of her guards. The love between Twylla and her guard is sudden and intense — one of those insta-love deals. Within the first few days of declaring their undying love for each other, they’re sleeping in the same bed and making out in her room. The prince, whom in my opinion Twylla should hate for being party to the lie that made her think she was an executioner, as well as trying to blackmail her into marrying him several times, is Twylla’s betrothed. They both treat her as though she is an item and prop rather than a human being and their interactions with her are always odd and stilted.
The main character, Twylla, is a huge problem for me for several reasons, but I will focus on one main one: she agonizes constantly about not having choices, then after realizing she had a choice, she sinks into agonizing about missing them. It is a never ending cycle of inaction and angst with this main character. She literally has no purpose other than being acted upon and takes no initiative to ‘change her destiny’ which is something she hopes to do. She literally angsts about not having choices, then having a choice but missing it at least three or four times through the course of the book.
The end of the book came entirely in the last thirty pages. From the beginning, we think the story is about Twylla’s death-touch, but as the story progresses, the reader is taken on this long, drawn out journey of love and angst and infatuation. So by the end, I thought the love triangle was going to be the focus of the story. Boy, was I wrong. Under all that angst and love drama, there was a hidden story that was brought to light and ended within the last thirty pages. It definitely, in my opinion, should’ve been switched. Why would you hide an actual story behind the same old boring love triangle and then try to convince me that the hidden story was the main point all along? It was just a throw away — a waste of so many pages — to try to force the focus on the book in so many different places that did not cohere in any way.
Overall, the story did keep me reading until the very end. I was interested in the world set up (though as stated earlier I did disagree with some main parts) and the cover was really pretty. I would’ve probably read this book greedily in my youth, but ended on a similarly angry and unfulfilled place. I give this book one out of five potatoes because I did end up finishing it, but it fell short in so many different, but important ways. Also, there was no diversity — no racial, sexual, or any sort of diversity at all other than incest. (Cheri liked the incest.)
What did you guys think of the book? Any reviews you want to see next? Let us know in the comments and hope you had a great weekend!