Thank you NetGalley and Atria Books for this ARC. All thoughts and opinions are mine.
Synopsis: 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. (Amazon)
Publication Date: April 7, 2020
Genre: Fantasy / Mystery / Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.5 stars
Fascinated by sin eaters since I came across them in literature years back, this book was not a disappointment. Do not expect a “fantasy” book that boasts of stark and obvious magic, wild creatures and epic worlds. Rather, go into it expecting to get lost in the life of a young girl, forced to become a woman, living a solitary and dark path that shuns her from everyone around her for the crime of—ultimately, we find out—being born.
Set in an alternate version akin to the England of Elizabeth I, the “virgin queen,” we follow our lead, May, after she is sentenced into a sin eater with the responsibilities that follow: hearing the confessions of the dying, eating the sins of the dead, ridding them of these sins so that they may enter the afterlife cleansed, until she herself dies while anyone that she encounters shies away from her in fear and revulsion. And as she learns her new trade and goes from deathbed to deathbed, she happens to arrive at one in the reigning home of the queen. Here, she learns of a mystery that deals in murder and lies ans has been eliminating some near the queen herself.
The story has a slow pace that little by little reveals this mystery as well as how every character is connected. It's compulsive to follow, and May has such a unique and endearing voice despite how dreadful her life is. Regardless of how many times she falls—sometimes, quite literally—she has the spirit to rise above again and seek out the truth behind every lie that is placed before her, even at the risk of her own possible death.
Megan Campisi's writing is lovely. She does such a good job of taking the reader into the old-world setting of this novel and make you feel as if you are there alongside the cast. You feel every hopeless, dark, depressing instant that our characters are living through in a world that is, for the most part, quite dreary, where none are safe regardless of caste. Not only is the atmosphere right on point, but the language is so well used and so original to the type of story that we are reading.
To read Sin Eater is to take a step into the life of one and live out the experience.