Twylla is deadly. As the embodied daughter of the gods, her skin is poisonous to anyone she touches, save the royal family, who are protected by the gods. Though Twylla hates her role and fate, she accepts it, until a new guard treats her like a person instead of divinity, and she begins to learn more about her real role in the kingdom’s politics.
That’s a terrible summary for an absolutely brilliant book. I am so happy that I heard about this book from Sync YA this summer! I enjoyed everything from the world-building and theology to the story line and audio narration. Actually, this is one of those books I loved so much that I’m having a hard time reviewing it. It most definitely makes my top books of the year. I’ll see if I can list out some of the reasons why:
– Rarely do YA fantasy novels do a lot of world-building, including history of the country, mythology, religion, geography, etc, not to mention those things for the surrounding countries as well. I really appreciated the detail and depth this book went into. It felt far more adult than YA, on that cusp of older teen.
– Some of the concepts, like sin-eating, were so unique and fascinating! There’s also a fascinating balance between real and pretend magic in this world, making the waters very murky.
– Twylla is a different narrator than usual. She’s quiet, obedient, and naive. All her life, she’s lived in a world steeped in mythology. While others in the kingdom can see gods and magic with clearer eyes, Twylla spends the first half of her life with her sin-eating mother, learning symbolic characteristics of food at death-feasts. When she leaves home and becomes instead Daunen Embodied (not a spoiler – happens before the book starts), she believes it with everything in her. Even as she grows to hate her role and the life she lives, she believes it. Her faith is very strong, if misplaced.
– I love how complicated love and affection are here. At first I thought there was a love-triangle setup, but it was nothing like that. There’s Twylla’s betrothed, and then there’s her only friend. She knows nothing of love, and is starved for touch, unable to touch without killing. People treat her with fear and disgust, and her betrothed rarely speaks to her. So everything gets mixed up, and love means something far different than it might for someone who has undergone less abuse and/or has more experience.
– While this book is a trilogy, this story seems to be mostly closed up. In fact, the next book is narrated by a different character altogether, one who is mentioned but not seen in The Sin Eater’s Daughter. I don’t know if Twylla will return to the story, or what will happen in Book 3. I don’t know if Twylla’s somewhat ambiguous (in a good way!) end will ever give us more detail. And I really appreciate just how different this series will be as the narration shifts elsewhere!
– The audio performance is just spectacular! Amy Shiels narrates, and her voice is perfect for this book, just slightly different from what I’m used to, carrying a broad range of not-our-world accents. Actually, just to tell you how much I loved the audio, my Sync YA files came slightly corrupted, so I ordered the print book from my library instead. After it arrived, I decided I really, really wanted the audio version, so I used one of my Audible credits to get it. Now I can listen over and over if I wish!
And I will listen over and over, I can already tell. I can’t wait to read The Sleeping Prince, and I hope that the third book will release next year. The Sin Eater’s Daughter is Salisbury’s first novel, and I’m definitely already a fan.
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I loved Twyla! I guessed a few things correctly and was pleased when I was right. I just divided into it and checked out the second book. The world is so rich and fascinating! I actually found this on Wikipedia and thought it was interesting how much was taken from the real saying and blended into the story.
A local legend in Shropshire, England, concerns the grave of Richard Munslow, who died in 1906, said to be the last sin-eater of area:
By eating bread and drinking ale, and by making a short speech at the graveside, the sin-eater took upon themselves the sins of the deceased”. The speech was written as: “I give easement and rest now to thee, dear man. Come not down the lanes or in our meadows. And for thy peace, I pawn my own soul. Amen.
Sin-eating used to be a thing across many cultures, though the first time I’d heard of it was in this series. (Jason had long known about it, as you might guess.) I thought it was a fascinating thing to make a book out of, and now others have come out doing the same, in different ways of course. I loved Twylla too – people whine that she’s too meek, but she’s grown up first isolated/shunned/abused then forced to be someone whose very touch is deadly – of course she’s naive and meek!! I like that she’s a very unusual protagonist.
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There was a movie called “The Last Sin Eater” from 2007 and at first I thought this book was somehow linked to it. Twylla starts out meek and naive, but she doesn’t end that way. I loved her character growth.