The Sin Eater’s Daughter – Melinda Salisbury

As I was writing my dissertation discussion, I came across this novel on Goodreads and other such lists of successful YA fantasy novels. It was a nominee for the Bookseller YA prize in 2015. After reading the blurb and becoming instantly intrigued, The Sin Eater’s Daughter went on my to-read list. And soon I was able to order it. After two days of waiting and my boyfriend losing the parcel, I was finally able to get my teeth into it.

I have so much to say about this novel. But let’s start with the story line. It’s a simple one, with a vast backstory edged in and the twist and turns sometimes left me audibly gasping. The premise of having a non-royal, goddess embodied protagonist living in a castle, betrothed to the prince, was a brilliant start, especially discussing how she got there and why. It was intriguing, and that alone made me want to read on. In the end, when everything is revealed, it seems obvious from the start, but you don’t even consider it. I definitely had a ‘mind-blown’ moment as the plot twist came about. I couldn’t help thinking what it actually represents, whether it’s real-world religion (since it has some major similarities) or something more. Lief represents someone from the new age, coming to set Twylla free, and the comparison for some real world problems are obvious.

The characters all have their own goals and motives. My favourite, other than the protagonist, Twylla, was the prince, Merek. He was closed and dismissive to start, slowing warming and becoming an intricate part of Twylla’s life. When she rejects him for her guard, Lief, I felt sorry for the poor prince, having fallen in love with someone who doesn’t love him back. Not only that, but the reason he needs to marry Twylla was pertinent (something I still can’t quite get over). The queen on the other hand, is possibly the most hated character in my entire reading-life. Salisbury finds a way to show the manipulation and evilness in her character. Every time the queen had dialogue, I could feel goosebumps on my arms. The feeling in my chest as the queen did as she wished, putting others like Twylla, Lief and Merek, in compromising positions, made me hope one day I could make my readers feel the same. She is by far, one of the best villains I have read and is the main culprit for the twists and turns in this novel.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I find myself getting frustrated with the characters, whether the author intended it or not, I don’t know. The end of this book gave me a calming peace, especially the epilogue, knowing Twylla did exactly as I would have done. I felt her heartbreak and confusion, I felt her torn in two as she had to decide. I know, through extensively reading YA fantasy, what was likely to happen, who and what she would choose. Whether I’ve changed my mind as I’ve grown older, whether it’s because I know what’s best for her from the outside, I willed her to make the right choice. And in the end, she surprised me, by not choosing at all and doing exactly as I would have. Then the last two sentences happened and I was left in audible frustration. Both wanting to read more and needing, like a drug, the second book, and wanting to meet Twylla for real so I could smack her.

The detail of the writing is another thing I loved. The description of the castle and the grounds and how the characters felt and acted pushed this novel along with alarming ease, creating beautiful landscapes and easily imaginable characters. Personally, I can’t stand poorly written novels, no matter how brilliant the plot or characters are. If this novel had been written in a juvenile and poor way, I would not have been able to continue. I believe, if a book is well-written, you don’t even think about the writing as you’re reading it, but are fully immersed in the story. That’s how I felt about The Sin Eater’s Daughter. I barely considered the writing, only doing so to be envious of the perfect descriptions and details, and wishing I could write in such a way.

One of the main points I want to talk about is the present tense. It threw me off to start with, thinking it was wrong as I’ve been so used to reading and writing in the past tense. As I became used to it, I grew to love it. Up to this point I have never read a book that was set in the present, and I’m glad I did. This is because as a writer myself I struggle with tenses, flip-flopping between past and present. My first drafts are normally in present tense, and then change to past as I re-draft and edit. I never considered actually publishing a novel in the present tense, and I’m grateful to Melinda Salisbury for opening my eyes.

While I loved reading this novel, I do have a very small criticism, and I believe it’s because of me as the reader, rather than Salisbury’s writing. As the story went on, and Twylla and Lief started falling in love, I thought it was cute and bound to happen. But then it changed, when they both realised the others feelings. It was graphic and full of detail and pages on pages of them kissing and talking and kissing and talking. It’s a personal thing for me, not being comfortable with reading intimate scenes and feeling second hand embarrassment from my fingers to my cheeks as I read it (especially when the queen strode in, I had to put the book down and flap my hands a bit to calm down!). Again, not a criticism on Melinda Salisbury’s part or the novel in itself, it’s a criticism of myself as the reader. But realising this, and realising what that might mean for my own writing has me worried. If I can’t even read intimate scenes of characters coming together, how am I going to write them?

I can’t wait to get hold of the next novel in the series, having read the blurb on Melinda Salisbury’s website. Have a look to find out more about the author of this amazing book. You can purchase The Sin Eater’s Daughter here, I hugely recommend it.



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