Monday, December 07, 2015

Book Review: The Sin-Eater's Daughter, by Melinda Salisbury

I found this copy of The Sin-Eater's Daughter in one of the Little Free Libraries
of Walthamstow. I left it there, as I already had a copy, but I wanted to use this
photo as it's a lovely cover and my proof doesn't have the big central image.
Twylla used to be the Sin-Eater's daughter, trained by her mother to take over the role when she died, until she was chosen by the gods for a different path, and left that life behind. Now she is Daunen Embodied, the daughter of the gods, betrothed to the prince, living amongst the splendour of the royal court - and executing their enemies. For Twylla's skin is poisonous, and none who are not anointed by the gods may touch her without suffering a horrible death.

The Sin-Eater's Daughter was one of my most anticipated books of the year, and I really enjoyed it, but it wasn't quite what I was expecting. The problem with trying your best to ignore the hype and avoid spoilers is that sometimes this leaves you without a clear idea of what a book is meant to be about! I was expecting an exciting new fantasy world to explore, but The Sin-Eater's Daughter is actually quite light on the fantasy. Other readers (now I'm free to read reviews without the threat of spoilers), have said that it's more of a fictional-setting medieval romance, and I agree. I haven't read the blurb, as I read a proof copy, but if I were writing one I would definitely place emphasis on the romantic elements.

I would also mention rituals. The Sin-Eater's Daughter is all about rituals. Twylla, in her struggle to understand her position, learns how rituals can give us strength, but also how they can keep us locked in to dangerous patterns. I loved all the details about the religious roles and ceremonies - they seem both strange and familar, despite belonging to a fictional society. This is what really hooked me when I was reading the book - I found it almost impossible to put down when I had to go to work or sleep, because I was absolutely fascinated by the setting and by Twylla's descriptions of the society she lives in and her duties as Daunen Embodied.

I also really enjoyed the politics and I'm looking forward to seeing more of that in the second in the series. In fact, I liked the political intrigue so much that it made me impatient for the romantic scenes to be over so that the drama could continue! Maybe I'm getting old?! There's a bit of a love triangle, and it's all tangled up with the politics, which made the romantic interests a bit less likeable than they might otherwise have been, but people are complicated. Twylla's whole life is complicated. And there's the epilogue. I can only say that I really liked the epilogue, because spoilers!

I would recommend The Sin-Eater's Daughter to people who like dramatic, life-and-death romances, and perhaps as a gateway drug for those who would like to dip their toes into the fantasy genre. If you feel intimidated by complex magical systems, weird and wonderful creatures, and imaginary cultures, The Sin-Eater's Daughter could help ease you in.

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