I received an ARC of this book through NetGalley. I am voluntarily providing an honest review.
Sin Eater by Megan Campisi is a fascinating historical fiction book that explores a religious custom that I had never heard of before.
CONTENT WARNING: mention of sexual assault, harm to animals
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.
This book is a stark look at the harsh society of 16th century England, and one young girl’s journey to reclaim power that was denied to so many. For the heinous crime of stealing bread, May is sentenced to a life time of being a sin eater at 14 years old. Her story is heartbreaking and painful to read for much of the book — she’s an orphan with no one to care for her, and then she is shunned by the entire society once she’s marked as a sin eater. She’s alone, confused, not allowed to speak to anyone except in the course of her duties, and even worse, she’s torn between doing what she’s forced to do and the state of her own immortal soul.
Along the way, May finds herself involved in court intrigue, politics, and a dangerous plot. When a food appears representing a sin that wasn’t confessed to, May starts to question what is going on around her. She has no one to rely on, instead using her wits and instincts to get to the bottom of what is occurring — after her mentor refuses to eat the food symbolizing a sin that wasn't confessed to and is tortured to death. It was fascinating to see May come into her own, and realize her own power and ability to be self-sufficient.
The pacing was great, and I wasn't bored at any point — in fact, I finished the book fairly quickly because I couldn't put it down. I loved that it took historical information but changed it into a combination of historical fiction with a touch of fantasy. I'd definitely recommend this book!
People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn't an upper limit.
Gasp Factor: 6
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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