From this time forth, it will be known as the Sin Eater’s Fountain. None shall drink from it or wash in it or touch it again. Except me. Because I can’t be cursed. I am a curse.
I ended up buddy reading this one with a friend who works at the bookstore next door to my work, and that was torture because I really wanted to know more about this book at every point! I was endlessly curious, and I think this would have been a one or two sitting book without the buddy read, just because I wanted to know everything.
Rating: 4.5 stars!
Thanks to Pan Macmillan and Mantle for the review copy of this book, it has not affected my honest review.
Trigger warnings: sexual assault, fatphobia, death (including child death), very brief reference to various confessions of different severity including child rape, child murder, murder, attempted murder. There is a list of ‘confessions’ available in the free kindle preview, and it might be worth checking that as there are many that are mentioned in passing.
The Sin Eater walks among us, unseen, unheard
Sins of our flesh become sins of Hers
Following Her to the grave, unseen, unheard
The Sin Eater Walks Among Us.
For the crime of stealing bread, fourteen-year-old May receives a life sentence: she must become a Sin Eater—a shunned woman, brutally marked, whose fate is to hear the final confessions of the dying, eat ritual foods symbolizing their sins as a funeral rite, and thereby shoulder their transgressions to grant their souls access to heaven.
Orphaned and friendless, apprenticed to an older Sin Eater who cannot speak to her, May must make her way in a dangerous and cruel world she barely understands. When a deer heart appears on the coffin of a royal governess who did not confess to the dreadful sin it represents, the older Sin Eater refuses to eat it. She is taken to prison, tortured, and killed. To avenge her death, May must find out who placed the deer heart on the coffin and why.
What did I think?
I didn’t expect to be as into this book as I was. I started it as part of a buddy read, then kept having to stop myself skipping ahead because it was just so interesting. I will admit that I highly recommend a physical copy of this book if that’s accessible to you, rather than an ebook as it was a bit frustrating having to skip back and forwards in the book to find the list of foods and what sin they correlated with when one was referenced in the text. I ended up downloading the kindle sample onto my phone just so I could screenshot the list for easy reference.
The setting is absolutely fascinating and while I’m not expert enough to see any faux pas, it certainly felt meticulously researched. I could feel the love put into the setting of this book, and now I’d definitely be keen to read any more of Megan Campisi’s work. Historical fiction is the kind of genre that I forget I love, so I’m so glad I requested this one on a whim. The main character, May, is a delight and utterly, utterly relatable. She’s thrown into an awful situation, and her reactions felt heartbreakingly authentic. Reading about her struggling with her guilt, around her compliance with something she personally believed to be wrong versus what she has been taught to be wrong all her life, was incredibly emotional and I felt for her so hard. I felt genuinely excited as May started to grow in confidence and come into her own power, and I think that’s my favourite thing in a book like this – when I can feel so connected to a character that she feels like a friend. The supporting characters in this book were equally lovable (well, mostly) and the rag-tag crew that May supports in her sanctuary made the whole oppressive society feel a little more hopeful – they certainly weren’t all bad.
The plot itself was something I didn’t actually expect. It started a little slow, but I didn’t care. I was so absorbed in the world and in learning about the life of the Sin Eaters that I was in no rush to get to the mystery. And when I did, I was absorbed in that too. I liked the way it played out, and the way that May had to balance on a razor edge between pushing the boundaries to discover what was going on, and keeping quiet to avoid retribution. I actually didn’t see the ending coming at all, and it was a satisfying finish, I think. The ending itself was really beautiful too, and the messages this book sends about choice and free will were heartwarming.
Add it on Goodreads here!