Title: Sin Eater
Author: Megan Campisi
Expected Publication: April 7, 2020 by Atria Books
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery
Goodreads Rating: 4.01 out of 5
My Rating: ★★★
“The Handmaid’s Tale meets Alice in Wonderland in this gripping and imaginative historical novel about a shunned orphan girl in 16th-century England who is ensnared in a deadly royal plot and must turn her subjugation into her power.
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.”
May, is a Sin Eater. It’s worse than being a beggar or a vagabond. She can’t speak and folks won’t look at her. She’s a curse bound to take the sins of those dying so that they can rest with the Maker. She wasn’t always this way. She use to have her da and live in their own home with a decent livelihood.
The premise of this book is fantastic. Alice in Wonderland is my all time favorite and any book that aims to have some sort of Wonderland environment, I immediately am sold on. I really wanted to like this book but I just didn’t get there for me. The writing is beautiful and the story itself is unique. However, I couldn’t get over how this is basically a retelling of Mary Queen of Scot’s and Queen Elizabeth’s feud.
The main features of the story are based on a the old religion and the new religion. Mari, the previous Queen wanted everyone to stick to the old religion, while the current ruler Bethany has mandated that everyone should follow the new religion. There is quite a bit of references to the war of the religions, which even though the author using different words, the reader can certainly tell it’s the same story.
Outside of the setting, the story follows May as a Sin Eater. May, when doing a ‘Eating’ at the castle, realizes that there is a murderer a foot and vows to determine who it is. Since she is a Sin Eater, people pay her no mind, and don’t question her wants and destinations. Spoiler, she of course solves the murder, but really to me (even though it was the main plot line) that bit of the story just didn’t feel as flushed out as I would have liked.
Overall, the idea is great. I just couldn’t get invested enough to enough the story though. Maybe if the book was not advertised as Alice in Wonderland meets The Handmaid’s Tale, I would have gone in with different expectations and enjoyed the book more. Even if it was just advertised as a retelling of the British throne during the 1500’s, I would have probably enjoy the story more. Instead, I kept expecting something crazy to occur, and was ultimately let down.
This book is out now! If you think you’d like to read this book, get your copy HERE!
I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on Sin Eater. If you liked this review please let me know either by commenting below or by visiting my instagram @speakingof_books. Huge thank you to Atria Books and Netgallery for my advanced copy!
About the Author
Megan Campisi is a playwright, novelist and teacher. Her plays have performed in China, France and the United States. She has been a forest ranger, sous chef in Paris and a physical theater specialist around the world. Originally from California, she attended Yale University and the L’École International de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her family.
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