The Sin Eater's Daughter
by Melinda Salisbury
4.5 Stars for the World-building. It was vivid and interesting, unique and frightening. I enjoyed seeing the world from Twylla's pov. She grew up in the backwards, believing, superstitious world and sees outside ideas as strange. She's willing to embrace new medical science, for example, but what she knows well is closer to a medicine man who changes things by shaking a stick. Her mother left life and death in the gods' hands and she struggles to consider that another option exists.
I read some reviews that complained about info-dumping, so I just want to be clear. Maybe it's the social studies guru buried in me, but the cultural stuff was fascinating. I'm going to guess the author didn't make it all up, but rather researched well. It's too vivid and complete and oooold school to be a product of new imagination. My guess, I didn't research. Either way, double-kudos to the author for presenting such a different world so beautifully.
Not that I liked all of it, mind you. The queen's power and those vicious dogs are downright creepy. Well, Ok, I liked the creepiness, too.
2.5 Stars for the good guys.
Twylla drives me nuts. She complains a lot. She doesn't ever stop and say "Hey! I'll be queen some day and I bet that's a position of power! Maybe I could change some of this stuff myself!" I tried to be open-minded about it. Freedom is all she ever wants, even if she's just a sparrow. But honestly, I don't look up to sparrows, in that sense. I want to value the hero of the story, "my" story, since it's from her pov.
It also bothered me that she literally had a connection with the prince in her hand... he pushed to see if there was some substance to her and found her wanting. She tossed that connection aside like it had no substance. It took a remarkable lack of vision to not see that connection.
By her own admittance, she fell in love with a "liar" instead. "How smoothly he lies to the prince," she thought, but not, "I wonder who else he might be lying to?" This is the primary tension of the storyline, so maybe it was one of those things the reader can see but the character cannot. Still, phooey.
The Prince has potential. I can tell he has depth and questions things, while still fighting his own childhood beliefs. I really liked him, although he is never completely filled out. He remains rather two-dimensional for someone who has so much set up for greatness. He pursues an interesting moment and then gets sidetracked for an entire week or three.
Leif was good. I don't want to spoil things more than I am already, but he's a decent character who rather demands polarized emotions of love and hate all at once.
Twylla's mother is quite gross. I suppose she's a "good guy", but she may be just bad, and therefor better for it. Ugh. I do enjoy not liking her. She is key to the culture, however, and is the entire past and backdrop for Twylla. And, as I said, I loved the culture. Assigning meaning to food, so that each kind of food represents a sin to release someone from at death is brilliant. Not sure how Twylla found anything not related to a sin to eat, but this mother is key to the foundation of the story, so I'll assign her villain status. She was good in a horrible way.
4 Stars for the Villains.
The bad guys are vivid and frightening and all-powerful. The Queen, for example, has compassion for Twylla and yet is devious and cruel with no boundaries. The opposing sides of her give her substance. I credit this woman with keeping her country buried in the dark ages. And keeping the book exciting.
The deceiver is well hidden and insanely complicated. He's a very good bad guy to join a list of fictional people worth despising.
The King is such a whipped wuss with such great reasons to be so washed out. He's so pathetic, you can't really feel sorry for him, but you actually want to.
2 Stars for...
The Sleeping Prince is just a legend, right? Yikes, he's the boogeyman who is apparently real. He's a point of confusion for me, quite honestly. Primarily because the gods are proven to not be real, but the person who sleeps a century is? What?! Is this a dark ages story or is it a magic story? This guy adds a level of confusion for me that is not resolved in this book. If this dude is proved to be a story, only, it'll match how the book felt.
If, however, he's real and coming... then the book has not pathetically ended, but has only set the stage for another book.
So I'm quite torn. I want more for Twylla, so I want the boogeyman to be real. But after knowing Twylla for an entire book, I'm not sure that she's care to get involved even if the boogeyman was real and she was the only person who could help, So... I'm not sure I want to read any more about her. I wish I liked her more. I'll check reviews of the next book before jumping in. If it's well-received, I'll read it. I am committed to that amazing prince who has taken on more than he can handle. If the reviews are as divided as they are for this volume, I'll probably pass. After closing the final cover, I'm still looking for resolution and not convinced the author has the same idea in mind.
I'll give 3.5 Stars for the entire experience. It definitely held my attention and left me with a vivid world-building experience. I really love the world and the potential for hope, so I definitely want more of that!!