Sin Eater is an enthralling debut set in an alternate 16th century England. The old faith has been replaced by a new religion, but the tradition of confessing one’s sins to a Sin Eater remains.
Fourteen-year-old May has lost her mother and her beloved father and though she continues her work as a washerwoman finds the poverty and resulting hunger unbearable. She commits the crime of stealing a loaf of bread and is unfortunately caught.
To her surprise, she isn’t sentenced to death, but perhaps to a fate worse than. Her punishment is to face the remainder of her days as a Sin Eater, or an untouchable who isn’t allowed to speak except when saying the holy words to a person confessing their sins. There is a food to correspond with each sin. The Sin Eater’s job is to eat this food once the person has passed on, thereby taking their sins from them. A Sin Eater is always a woman, of course.
May finds herself as an apprentice to an older Sin Eater who is sentenced to death after refusing to eat a deer heart, as the terrible crime it represents was not among the sins the deceased confessed to. May vows to avenge her mentor’s death and discover who placed the deer heart on the coffin and for what purpose.
This was a compelling story with a protagonist who is clever, resourceful, and so very human in the most heartbreakingly beautiful way. The language was vivid without being overly descriptive and luscious. I was utterly entranced by this book.
Thank you to NetGalley and Atria Books for the ARC to review.