Thank you Netgalley and Simon and Schuster for the opportunity to read Sin Eater. While I ultimately gave Sin Eater a 3 out of 5 stars, I would like you to take that rating with a grain of salt. I read this galley in the midst of a global pandemic. The tone of the book is solemn and is often a heavy subject matter. I will be the first to admit that my mental state isn’t quite up to certain reads at the moment. I really wanted to finish this book as it is being published on April 7th, 2020, so I continued with it. I fully intend to reread Sin Eater when the times are brighter and I am more fit for reads such as this.
There’s been some debate on whether this is fantasty or historical fiction, and as I read both genres quite frequently, for me it firmly falls into historical fiction. I can see why people fit it under fantasy, as it expands on the idea of a traditional sin eater, but it doesn’t quite hit the mark of what I think of when I think of fantasy. A sin eater in tradition is someone that eats bread aside a coffin to absolve the deceased of their sins. Campisi took it a step further by assigning certain foods to certain sins, the worst of which usually involve eating an animal’s heart or head.
I found it interesting that our Sin Eaters are often treated cruelly. You’d think you’d want to treat the person that is absolving your sins kindly. Our main character, May, is a 14 year old girl that is made a Sin Eater after stealing some bread. She learns from an older Sin Eater and ultimately, watches as her mentor punished for not eating a deer heart left on a coffin, as it signified a sin that the deceased had not confessed. Our main character is swept up into a mystery, involving murders and bastard children. The way May is treated throughout the book is heart wrenching, she lives a very hard life especially when orphaned from her parents. Sin Eaters are essentially shunned from society until the moment a member of society needs them to absolve their sins.
Towards the middle of the book, it slowed down a lot. The beginning of the book easily draws you in. The ending of the book is fast paced. That middle really made it hard for me to return to the book. I think it was especially difficult because it was a bit slower all while you’re reading about May living this miserable life. I will say, even through the pain of the book, there was a good message: you can find yourself even when people are telling you who you are supposed to be. There’s always a way back to yourself. Throughout the hardships, May finds things and people to take comfort in. I think I’m always a bit awed by characters that repeatedly take beatings from life and still remain good at heart. I think that the way that this story made me uncomfortable, reading about May’s hard life, is important. Humanity proves again and again that through the worst, we have the ability to stay kind and good. As I’m writing this, I realize what a good lesson that is, especially at this time in the world. Thank you again to Netgalley and Simon and Schuster for the opportunity to read this galley!