Paperback, 320 pages
Expected publication: February 24th 2015 by Scholastic Press
I am always in search for a protagonist who is morally ambiguous. Someone who realizes that she is not walking the straight and narrow path but deals with it either with angst or by not caring about the means to the end. I find such characters fascinating to read about. Which is why I was willing to take a risk with The Sin Eater’s Daughter because she is presented as a weapon and how could a person who kills with her very touch be not utterly fascinating?
Very easily, it turns out. Twylla has either blue or green eyes and red hair. She is the sin eater’s daughter (literally) (more on this later). She is also the Goddess embodied and able to kill anyone with a touch so no one touches her. Ever. Until the arrival of a strange new guard whose name is Lief. Oh yes, she is also engaged to be married to the crown prince. It is undeniable that Salisbury has created a fascinating world with a rich potential for compelling conflicts and story. Unfortunately, for me as others may not have trouble with it, the story is subsumed by bad romance.
The kingdom (queendom?) in which the story is set is always ruled by a king and a queen, never just one of them. The king and queen are always (first) brother and sister and then later husband and wife. Yes I know. But royalty, who knows how they think. However, the current queen’s daughter dies leaving her son without a future wife. So the queen takes herself off to the sin eater’s house whose daughter fits in image at least the Goddess whom the people worship. Twylla accepts the queen’s request to become the Goddess embodied readily because she wants to escape the future that awaits her as the heir to her mother’s sin eating ways. However, once ensconced in the castle and fast realizing the lonely life that awaits her, she begins to have contrary thoughts. The only ones impervious to her poisonous touch are the king, the queen, and her future husband. The arrival of Lief challenges Twylla to question the status quo and her own position in the castle. Oh, and since no bad romance is complete without a love triangle, the prince returns to claim his erstwhile bride to be only she may not be as willing anymore.
So. As I said before, this novel had a lot of potential for awesomeness. Unfortunately, it did not meet them. While the worldbuilding starts off solid, characters lacked depth and were often shallow in the way they reacted to situations and interacted with each other. The queen could have been an interesting antagonist but she is one dimensional and the novel doesn’t explore the facets of her personality in any detail. Lief is not at all a swoon-worthy love interest and in fact, there is a scene where he follows Twylla when she is with the prince that he felt villainous. Twylla and Lief’s relationship felt contrived and I didn’t understand why something that read like infatuation was being dressed up as true love. I couldn’t understand why the prince (or if he did, actually) like Twylla. When the twist was revealed, I was even more repelled and the ending (which I won’t give away) sealed the deal. Bad romance is bad romance.
The only thing I found compelling about this novel was the actual sin eating of which we see very little. Sin eating, in this world, is done by the official sin eater of the city/village etc where they will attend the dead person’s funeral and before or after the burial, they will eat particular foods, each of which represent a specific sin for eg. fenugreek may represent betrayal etc. I wish there had been more of the sin eating and a more thorough exploration of the relationship between Twylla and her mother.
Unfortunately, I did not like this book. But as I always say, reading is subjective and you may like what I did not.