This book has been receiving a ton advanced praise. It’s been talked about as one of the next big Indie Picks and many are characterizing it as a cross between The Handmaid’s Tale meets Alice in Wonderland.
When I heard all the praise and hype about this book, I was a little hesitant to read it because I worried that my expectations wouldn’t live up to the hype. However the summary sounded so promising that I didn’t feel like I could pass on it, nor did I want to.
The summary promised a dark and innovative novel with lots of imagination mixed with some historical fiction. I was so glad that I decided not to pass on this one because the story itself was absolutely incredible.
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. (summary from Goodreads)
As you can see from the summary, there is a lot to unpack here. Ritual food, confessions, torture…..so much stuff. When I started reading I instantly had so many questions about the plot that I had to remind myself to be patient and wait for everything to be explained.
While this is a fictional fantasy-ish world, it has its roots firmly in historical fiction and court life. It is set in Tudor England but there are a ton of reworked elements that make this novel exciting and fresh for readers of historical fiction. Historical fiction fans like myself will recognize the landscape but the added reworked fantasy-ish elements make this novel truly unique, memorable, and a delight to read.
The author’s prose style did take a little bit for me to get used to and at times the pacing of the book was a little slower than I expected but only in places. Overall once I became accustom to the story telling style, I found it beautiful and as unique as the story itself.
This novel is darker than traditional historical fiction/fantasy but I had no problem with that. I thought it was so compelling and interesting that I loved every minute of it. The characters and the concept were memorable and will definitely continue to stand out for me long after I finished reading. I can see why there has been such a buzz about this book. Some might shy away from this one because it’s a little darker, but I think it’s a worthy buzz book that historical fiction lovers should definitely include on their list of hot books for spring!