A Sin Eater’s duty is a necessary evil: she hears the final private confessions of the dying, eats their sins as a funeral rite, and so guarantees their souls access to heaven. It is always women who eat sins – since it was Eve who first ate the Forbidden Fruit – and every town has at least one, not that they are publicly acknowledged. Stained by the sins they are obliged to consume, the Sin Eater is shunned and silenced, doomed to live in exile at the edge of town.
Recently orphaned May Owens is just fourteen, and has never considered what it might be like to be so ostracized; she’s more concerned with where her next meal is coming from. When she’s arrested for stealing a loaf of bread, however, and subsequently sentenced to become a Sin Eater, finding food is suddenly the last of her worries.
It’s a devastating sentence, but May’s new invisibility opens new doors. And when first one then two of the Queen’s courtiers suddenly grow ill, May hears their deathbed confessions – and begins to investigate a terrible rumour that is only whispered of amid palace corridors.
Publishing: July 2020 Mantle Books
This was a really interesting alternative history (Queen Bethany instead of Elizabeth I) and May is a brave and resourceful character.
Forced into the role of sin eater, she turns investigator, determined to solve a series of suspicious deaths at court.
The writing is confident and assured, the narrative flows and carries the reader into the squalor of the 16th Century, alive with stench and mud.
The imagery is vivid and you feel as though you’re at May’s shoulder as she roams through the corridors of power and the narrow slum streets.
I look forward to seeing what Campisi does next after such a strong first novel.
I was kindly gifted a copy of this book with no obligation to review and all opinions remain my own.