Now Twylla is blessed by the gods and serves at their pleasure as Daunen Embodied–the mortal incarnation of the daughter of the gods and the only one worthy of marrying the crown prince. The gods’ continued approval is confirmed each moon during the Telling when Twylla drinks deadly Morningsbane poison without harm.
But her blessing and survival come at a cost. The poison lingers in Twylla’s blood and on her skin so that her barest touch can kill–something the queen of Lormere exploits by making Twylla a reluctant executioner.
Twylla made peace with her role as executioner long ago. Until the return of the prince, Merek, and the arrival of a new guard named Lief when Twylla finds herself questioning many things about her role as Daunen Embodied and the motivations of the queen. Again Twylla will have a chance to choose her destiny, but first she must decide what to believe and who to trust in The Sin Eater’s Daughter (2015) by Melinda Salisbury.
The Sin Eater’s Daughter is Salisbury’s first novel and the start of a new series.
The Sin Eater’s Daughter presents a complex world comprised of three vastly different kingdoms including Twylla’s home in Lormere where the novel is set. While Lormere is a comparatively vast empire, it is also quite primitive with a seat of power traditionally held by siblings in a misguided effort to keep the royal line pure. On Lormere’s borders are Tregallan–Lormere’s chief supplier of goods that Lormere cannot produce itself and a new democracy that values science over religion–and Tallith–a fallen kingdom that once held vast wealth thanks to the closely guarded secrets of the science of alchemy.
Within Lormere Salisbury also offers a religious system that includes invented gods with numerous Christian undertones in addition to Sin Eating. Unfortunately the Eating is never fully explained as reader’s are left to wonder how certain foods are chosen to represent sins and how, exactly, a person’s sins can be cataloged properly after their death.
Despite being the castle executioner, Twylla is incredibly naive for the majority of the novel. At times this creates interesting moments of tension between science and faith as Twylla tries to learn more about her past. In others it only serves to make it easier for her to swoon over her new guard Lief.
Of the two male leads Merek, the prince, is far more compelling as he struggles to figure out how to bring Lormere out of its archaic traditions and move it beyond the ruthless rule of his mother, the queen. Lief is little more than a pretty face by comparison.
The Sin Eater’s Daughter is at its strongest when Salisbury details the machinations of the queen and the intrigue surrounding Twylla’s role as Daunen. The queen adds a lot of suspense to the story as an especially chilling villain.
Twylla’s development over the course of the story is fascinating as she comes to term with the choices she has made and acknowledges that having agency (choosing to accept her role as Daunen, choosing to not follow the path of the Sin Eater) is not the same as having power–something she craves as she hopes to garner some level of revenge for past wrongs.
Unfortunately, much of this The Sin Eater’s Daughter‘s promise does not come to fruition. Twylla’s character fizzles toward the end thanks to an epilogue that negates most of her previous growth during the novel. This book sets up a lot for the next installment in the series including a twist that upturns almost every conceit previously detailed in the story. Although exciting, this final twist diminishes previous shocks by rendering them largely irrelevant.
Since this book is the start of a series, there is still room for a lot of things to change but taken on its own the conclusion remains disappointing. The Sin Eater’s Daughter is an engaging fantasy but not without flaws. Ideal for readers who do not question worldbuilding and enjoy a balanced love triangle.
Possible Pairings: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, Frostblood by Elly Blake, The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder, The Storyspinner by Becky Wallace