My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I’m almost unsure where to start in reviewing ‘Sin Eater.’ In a thinly disguised Elizabethan era, 16-year-old May is sentenced to become a sin eater as punishment for stealing some bread. This mean that no one may speak to her unless they are making a deathbed confession; then, she must eat certain foods to consume the sins.
As we learn more about May’s difficult life, we discover that she’s both observant and talkative. Learning to tamp down the chatty side of her personality is difficult, but she quickly discovers that she’s still able to make observations, even without anyone to tell them to.
This is how she becomes embroiled in a mystery in the palace. The queen’s governess is dying, and makes her confession to May. However, when May comes to eat the required foods, there’s something unexpected on the platter: a deer’s heart. The lady didn’t confess to a sin that required consuming this food; in fact, it’s not even on the list of foods May knows. So, she starts paying attention, because the deaths around the palace start coming even faster. And soon, May is in danger herself because she just might know too much.
This book is not only a good look at women’s roles in the Tudor era, and how circumscribed they were, but also at the dark side of religion. The faith in this fictional “Angland” is so strict that it borders on Puritanism … and no one may step an inch outside their expected role and escape punishment for it.
I was gripped by this book from the first page. Not only is it a good mystery (and a fair play puzzle at that), but it’s also a near-allegory for what could be happening today with the increasing strictures on women’s roles due to the religious right. Highly recommended.