Paperback, 320 pages.
Release date: February 24th 2015.
Rating: 4½ out of 5.
Reviewed by: Arianne.
Seventeen-year-old Twylla lives in the castle. But although she’s engaged to the prince, Twylla isn’t exactly a member of the court.
She’s the executioner.
As the Goddess embodied, Twylla instantly kills anyone she touches. Each month she’s taken to the prison and forced to lay her hands on those accused of treason. No one will ever love a girl with murder in her veins. Even the prince, whose royal blood supposedly makes him immune to Twylla’s fatal touch, avoids her company.
But then a new guard arrives, a boy whose easy smile belies his deadly swordsmanship. And unlike the others, he’s able to look past Twylla’s executioner robes and see the girl, not the Goddess. Yet Twylla’s been promised to the prince, and knows what happens to people who cross the queen.
However, a treasonous secret is the least of Twylla’s problems. The queen has a plan to destroy her enemies, a plan that requires a stomach-churning, unthinkable sacrifice. Will Twylla do what it takes to protect her kingdom? Or will she abandon her duty in favor of a doomed love?
Classy, complex and deliciously dark, The Sin Eater’s Daughter is one of the most original, striking young adult releases I’ve seen so far this year — and I’m not just talking about that gloriously twisted cover design. Fresh, lyrical and totally addictive, it’s a stunning debut that signals the start of a whole new chapter for high fantasy in UKYA.
Plucked from obscurity to live as a goddess embodied, high in the towers of the royal palace, Twylla thought she’d escaped her living nightmare — only to find that the real nightmare was the one waiting for her in her life as an executioner at the beck and call of a sadistic queen. Twylla’s touch is poisonous, and with each murder she is ordered to commit, she finds solace only in her temple and the company of a handful of distant but trusted guards. But the walls of the palace hold many secrets, and as they unravel, Twylla finds herself torn between the life she thought she was destined for — ruling alongside her betrothed, the young and mysterious Prince Merek — and the promise of a life she never even knew she wanted, with kind, gorgeous new guard Lief.
The Sin Eater’s Daughter is a vivid and dramatic tale, perfect for fans of A Game of Thrones and A Darker Shade of Magic. It’s one of those books that makes you think there can’t possibly be any more twists in store — but just when you think you have it all figured out, something sends you into an absolute tailspin. Packed with action and shocking revelations, Melinda Salisbury takes no prisoners in this rollercoaster story of love, lies and the devastating consequences of choice.
Admittedly, the book is slow to start — but the characters make you want to keep reading. Romance is the key to unlocking this novel and for me, it’s so cleverly and beautifully written, it just works. Even if you don’t like love triangles, you’re bound to be swept up in this one. Lief was by far my favourite character, with his cheeky grin and good heart, but I warmed to Merek, too — they’re a study in the mastery of complex characterisation and there’s definitely more to each of them than meets the eye.
Unfortunately in Twylla’s world women get a bit of a raw deal. The evil queen is far more complicated than those you’d see in fairy tales; circumstances and warped reasoning have turned her callous, power-hungry and brutal. She’s a real Cersei Lannister of a villain, hell-bent on shaping Twylla in her image, and there are definitely moments where you think Twylla’s been sucked irrevocably into her vortex of cruelty.
Thankfully Twylla manages to stay true to herself — if only she’d actually taken a more active role in the plot. I always rooted for her, but often it felt as it things were just happening around her, not because of or for her. It’s as if she’s always standing still, as if she never truly breaks free of the chains which bind her. I wanted her to take the initiative, to do the unexpected, something entirely for and by herself, but it just doesn’t happen. Another downside is the relative lack of diversity in the narrative, and it’s only fair to mention that the content of the book may not be for everyone – not necessarily a trigger warning, but it’s certainly darker than any other YA novel I’ve read in 2015.
However, I adored the world-building. Exploring a book’s world is one of the best things about epic fantasy, and The Sin Eater’s Daughter is no different. Every glimpse into countries beyond the claustrophobic palace reads like gold dust and I’d love to see more of Tallith or of Lief’s Tregellian heritage. The book’s mythology feels like a real system that count have governed an ancient race or society, with legends and stories centred around a basic concept of sun and moon worship. The Sin Eater’s Daughter is a deft illustration of a people reliant on superstition and religion, from the practice of Sin Eating to the culture of equal fear and loyalty surrounding the royal family — and this is just the beginning. Melinda Salisbury is an author with oodles of storytelling talent, and I can’t wait to read more from one of the brightest new voices in UKYA.
In short: a magnificent debut, full of thrilling secrets and superb writing. Page-turning, exciting and dramatic, The Sin Eater’s Daughter is a book you’ll need to watch out for in 2015.