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336 pages, Paperback
First published February 24, 2015
It’s the only part of my life that I love, when I can sing and forget. When I sing I could be anyone, anywhere. When I sing I am free.Everyone recoils in horror
She must have been laughing herself sick watching me mope around, with my long face and my limpid eyes, melting into the shadows like a ghost and hiding behind the skirts of the Gods, longing for something that didn’t exist. She knew me for the coward I was.Everyone can see it. Khanh could see it! People are scared of her, so why should she give a fuck! I mean, why would you care about being liked?!
Actual rating: 3.5
“That's the problem with fairy tales, they change with the telling.”
Dark, gripping, elusive, multilayered, painful, real. This is how one writes a dark fairy tale.
Three days ago when I first opened The Sin Eater's Daughter, had I known it'd become one of those books that will capture my attention and surprise me in a best way possible? No, I did not. When you expect nothing from a book and get in the end everything you dreamed of, it's a kind of revelation. This book feels magical to me, playing in sync with my tune; luring me like a Piper lured rats to their doom.
This is a story of a special girl, whose destiny was clear and unavoidable for the most of her life, right till the moment a stranger came and told her a story of manipulation, fear and struggle. The girl opened her eyes and saw that she wasn't special at all, and her destiny was only hers to make.
This is a story of three Kingdoms; one of them has fallen asleep (literally) centuries ago, and the others two - absolutely different like night and day - fighting with each other for knowledge, souls and power.
This is a story of a lonely prince, whose destiny to serve and protect his kingdom, but what that boy wants for himself? What is his heart's desire?
This is a story of a desperate woman who struggles every day to keep her power, but she's afraid her lies are a facade someone will look through, and the veil will fall, and woman's reign will end.
This is a story of a desperate boy, whose destiny led him into a different world. Brave and honorable he must save the princess from a dragon, or does he?
This is a story where every hero is a villain and every villain is a hero of their own story.
Mythology. Richness of the world Melinda Salisbury created is astounding. Every brick, every crumb have their purpose in the storyline. It's not often I encounter such well-thought through world-building, where every piece plays its role in the plot.
Twylla is Daunen Embodied - a girl who was blessed by the gods and can kill with her touch. Her blood is filled with the Morningsbane poison that kills anyone she touches, but does not affect her or the Royal family. it's a blessing of the gods, or maybe it's a curse? But Twylla is also a daughter of a highly esteemed Sin Eater, who gives absolution of sins after person's death by eating different kind of food which represent different sins. The ritual itself is something captivating:
My mother is a fat woman, made large from gobbling the sins of the dead, the meal prepared and served to her as if she were a queen for the day. For an Eating the mourners cover the surface of the coffin with breads and meats and ale and more, each morsel representing a sin known, or suspected, to have been committed by the deceased. She Eats it all; she has to – it’s the only way to cleanse the soul so it can ascend to the Eternal Kingdom. To not finish the meal is to condemn the soul to walk the world for ever. We’ve all heard the tales of the wraiths that haunt the West Woods because people less dedicated than my mother could not finish the Eating.
Twylla lives in Lormere, a kingdom ruled by the cruel Queen, whose power has no limit, it seems. Lormere is all about tradition; everyone believes that in order to preserve Gods' mercy, the royal line must stay clean and unsullied. So they marry brother to sister from generation to generation, unknowingly spreading madness and disease. Incest, add to it unwillingness to study science and medicine, and we have a Kingdom that fully relies on religion.
Religion is one of my favorite topics in books. It's often terrifying to read about nations blindly following their Gods into wars and consequently death. But this topic fascinates me, because as history proved to us time and again, there's no Gods, only manipulation of men and women fighting to preserve power and control over superstitious people. When Twylla starts questioning her religion, her world crumbles around her.
“How could there be different Gods, Lief?"
"I don't believe there are any at all," he says quietly. "But I believe there are men and women whose lives are made easier by believing someone is watching over them.”
I loved how subtly the author intertwined myth and religion; the story took on a darker and more compelling side.
Villains. Gosh, the Evil Queen in this book is really demonic. Like evil incarnate type. I was afraid of her most of the time and that rarely happens to me. You should read the book if only for the sake of meeting the Queen, and a box of chocolate to anyone who'd be able to stay five minutes in her company without pissing their pants. I failed.
Often villains in stories are villainous for the sake of being bad. The Queen has so many layers, and every time you unravel one, you find a nest of worms and poison, and with every layer there's more something nasty to find. The bitch is terrifying! The thing is, she loves to rule, to hold people in fear, to be the only person to know the truth. She cares about her throne and doesn't want anyone to take it from her. But, also, she cares about her kingdom. Yes, she's not a mindless power hungry monarch. She wants her country to thrive, but her methods are radical and evil. She's not the only one who used religion as leverage in the history of humankind; it's a pretty common weapon, but every damn time it works. Maybe people are partly to fault? It's convenient to have someone to take care of you, make hard decisions for you and kill for you. The Queen is also a victim of her surroundings, to think about it. We have a situation, where every person is both a villain and a hero. It's also how real life is.
No Gods in Tregellan. No Gods in Tallith. Doesn’t that tell you anything? It’s about power and control, to keep you all in line. People like the queen tell us if we don’t do as the Gods want – as she wants – then our souls are damned. Think of the amount of murder she’s committed and tell me whose soul is more likely to be damned, hers or yours?”
Plot. Be ready for twists. Some of them predictable, some of them not so much. For me it was an unexpected book, because I didn't see the twists coming. I loved how mythology also served as an instrument to shock us. We know a story that is so convenient and old, no one believes in it any longer; it's a fairy tale for children, and with every generation it becomes softer and lighter, until it turns into a tale of brave heroes and fair maidens. The head quote underlines that a story changes with every person who tells it. But what if the legend came to life, the real one, the forgotten one? Oh my, be ready to twist and turn, my friends; beware!
Some things will not make sense for you in the beginning, but, trust me, they will later. Details and facts will add and create a wider picture. But this book is a part of a series, and many things we still don't know. The Sleeping Prince - book two - will open our eyes wider still.
Characters. Their actions not always make sense. Twylla is not a reliable narrator, because she lives a life of lies and deceit and religion holds her in its grasp.
I’ve broken the Gods’ faith in me. I’ve kissed a man who isn’t my betrothed and I’ve doubted the powers they’ve given me. I’ll be punished; the poison will finally kill me.
We are in her head -- 1st-person narration -- and we know as much as she does. She doubts, she makes mistakes, but she grows as a person. We see a progress in her development and that what makes a really interesting character: the one you didn't like at first, but learn to respect and understand with time. I didn't particularly admired anyone in this book, but it didn't prevent me from connecting with them. I understood their motives - good or bad - and sympathized with them.
“I’m not free, my lady,” he says slowly. “I can no more wander off and do as I will than you can.You think of having choices like people think of flying. They see a hawk soaring and hovering and they tell themselves how nice it would be to fly. But pigeons can fly, and sparrows too. No one imagines being a sparrow though. No one wants that.”
Romance. We have a love-triangle, kind of. Not really. Okay, okay, the thing with Melinda Salisbury is that she can be sneaky. You think that you have a love-triangle, but turns out it's not really a love triangle. Let's say this story is not really about the romance. It's more about finding a partner who'll help you to create something unique, or meeting for the first time a person who will show you passion, or sisterly bond, or devotion for the Gods and so on. But love is an elusive thing in this story, and it doesn't really save our characters; it brings them more pain. There were predictable YA tropes in the romance: abs, and breath catching, and smelling fetish. Typical. But I liked how ultimately the author toyed with an idea of love and made it more than a cliche.
Verdict: The thing with this book is that it's hard to cover in one explanation. It seems like a very typical and boring YA, but it's not, not really. A few days ago I was in the first row, ready to judge it for its sins, but turned out, in the end of the day, I wanted to praise it. After reading my review you may come to conclusion that The Sin Eater's Daughter has depth and you wouldn't be wrong, but it also masks its depth and you might not want to look deeper to find them. And it's okay. Maybe under different circumstances I wouldn't see it or want to see either, but thanks to my dear friend Kat, I knew where to look and was able to fully enjoy the story and unravel its layers.
When I started this review, I didn't plan to go all introspective on the story. But I guess it's one of those stories that makes me think. I just wanted to share a piece of my perception with you, dear readers. But in the end of the day, you'll be creators of this story and what shape it will take, thus remember: from person to person a story goes, bending and changing in the process.
Please, be careful with what you'll create in the end.
In the stories of old, a hero is the one who sweeps in with drawn sword and noble face, to kill the dragon and free the princess. In the stories of old it never seems to dawn on the princess that she should be careful not to put herself at the mercy of those who would do her ill in the first place. I don’t live in the stories of old.
Ever since I’d arrived at the castle I had taken the Morningsbane once every moon to prove to the kingdom I was Daunen Embodied, truly the Gods’ choice. It was the mixing of my blood, the drinking of the poison and surviving it that showed I was divine, something more than a girl.
Prince Merek takes the seat opposite mine and I wait for him to acknowledge me, my heart thrumming rapidly under my gown. When he doesn’t, my stomach twists and I look down at the table, hurt, but, in truth, not surprised. At a ceremony four harvests ago the prince had placed his hand on top of mine, and a red ribbon had been placed over them, meaning we were betrothed. It was the last time anyone touched me.
Choice. For years I’ve craved it, idealized it as a dream I can never have and, though it pains me to admit it, the queen is right. I have had choices, but because I didn’t like them I didn’t acknowledge them. I’ve been the agent of my own misery, time and again.
"His dear. I cave in on myself, collapse into grief, and his arms snake around me. The wrong arms, the wrong smell, the wrong man."
"This time tomorrow I will be no more. All that I am and ever have been will be gone."