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April 19, 2020

Sin Eater by Megan Campisi ~ a Review

by MK French

Sin Eater

The Sin Eater is a friendless, silent woman condemned to eat the sins of the dead in the form of stylized foods. She takes on their sins so that they can go to heaven, but can never herself do so unless she follows the directions of the Maker completely. May is fourteen when she's condemned for the crime of stealing bread by becoming a Sin Eater, ultimately thrown out of her own home and cast adrift. She is essentially apprenticed to the Sin Eater of the town, a woman that can't speak to her to train her, and she lacks affection of others or even a sense of belonging. That is even further threatened when the senior Sin Eater refuses to eat a sin that wasn't confessed, leaving her alone in the town to fend for herself.

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April 2020; Atria Books; 978-1982124106
audio, ebook, print (304 pages); historical fiction
Sin Eater is a warped version of past history. Angland is a darker version of England, with Queen Bethany on the throne after her older sister died without heirs, and her father's six wives cast a pall over the religious wars of the country. Sin eating was a real tradition, but here it's codified as part of the Maker's plan, and the dark underworld of pain and misery is ruled by Eve. Women are at fault of everything, and the Sin Eaters here are always women. May is supposed to be silent and suffer for everyone else so that the people can die blameless and enter heaven's grace. She would be the one that observes and stands back, which is the way the men of the world in that period wanted women to be. That means that Queen Bethany on the throne is diametrically opposed to that traditional view, and there are people in her retinue that are willing to do anything to keep her there, even if innocents are trampled along the way.

May does feel connections in spite of the enforced silence and distance, and her ignorance of letters and rules of her vocation means she's able to push past what's expected of her. She wants to seek justice for her mentor, who is killed when she refuses to eat a sin that wasn't confessed, and that she is nearly killed for trying to voice that. When her voice is punished, May finds a way around that stricture to figure out why it happened, and she also discovers the truth about why the Sin Eaters in the town had even been selected. She finds strength even though she's outside the norm, and doesn't let the system defeat her, even when it's actively trying to. As much as May is limited in speech, this means she's driven by actions and finding the truth that is hidden from sight. She's not content being a victim, and I really like that about her. The universe seemed set on making her fail, but she wouldn't that happen. I'm a little disappointed that the truth isn't blasted out for all of society, but this makes sense as is. May knows the truth, and that gives her the confidence to move on.

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Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever.

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