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The Sin Eater’s Daughter
by Melinda Salisbury
As a young girl, Twylla is brought to live in the castle because she is the Daunte Embodied, daughter of two gods. As Daunte Embodied, it is Twylla’s duty to bring justice to the kingdom. She is the executioner; anyone that she touches, dies.
Twylla thought life in the castle would be different. But the privileged life she leads is lonely and becomes more a prison than a home to her. The kingdom’s people fear her. The queen demands absolute obedience from her. And Merek, Twylla’s betrothed, confuses her.
Twylla believes her life is set in stone until she is appointed a new guard. This guard doesn’t fear her as so many others do. He sees past her role as Daunte Embodied, and sees her as a person. As they spend more time together, Twylla begins to wonder if there is a different path she could follow. But such a path would go against her loyalty to Merek and the kingdom.
Confused and lonely, Twylla soon learns that the queen has a deadly plan of her own—and Twylla is in the way of the queen getting her desire. Will Twylla be able to survive long enough to choose between two men—one who needs her, and one who claims to love her?
The Sin Eater’s Daughter takes the reader into an interesting world ruled by an evil queen. The queen is the strongest character in the book. She is willing to kill anyone, including her best friend who dared to become pregnant while the queen could not. The king, who appears infrequently, is seen as a kind, but powerless man. Merek, who does not agree with his mother’s cruel ways, seems desperate and unkind, which makes it difficult for the reader to feel sympathy for him. Even Twylla, who is the heroin, is difficult to relate to. Although her situation is difficult, she seems to be content to sit in her tower and feel sorry for herself.
Although the world created in The Sin Eater’s Daughter is interesting, it is often violent and disturbing. Death is seen often and is described in graphic detail. There are many adult topics that appear including the mention of incest, killing a child in the womb, and seduction.
- During a sin-eating ceremony a woman’s father, who is under the influence of poppy tears, confesses that “she said no but he [himself] put a baby in her.” The Sin Eater says that when the man dies she will not “take that sin.”
- Twylla and her guard kiss often towards the end of the book. In one scene she tells him that she loves him and then, “he devours the words right out of my mouth, pressing his own against mine and swallowing my worries. I let him, willing to sacrifice my questions temporarily for the taste of him, for his hands on my waist.”
- Twylla and her guard plan to run away together. They again kiss. “Our mouths move gently, brushing together, our lips opening and closing against the other’s, our eyes locked. It makes me dizzy and I allow mine to flutter shut, concentrating on the feel of him against me, his tongue dancing gently with mine.”
- Twylla and her guard have sex several times. The act is not described, but afterward they, “lie with our legs and arms twined, breathing softly, his breaths becoming my breaths. Our skin is damp and we stick together, as though nothing could separate us.” After one time together, the queen finds them in bed together and has them both thrown in jail.
- The tradition in the kingdom is for the queen to give birth to one boy and one girl, and then the two children are married when they are adults. The goal is to keep the bloodline clean. Because the current queen has only one living child, a male, she plans to kill the king and marry her son.
- At the end of the story, Twylla discovers that her guard was hired to seduce her.
- One of the rituals in the book is when Twylla, as Daunte Embodied, kills condemned people with a touch. “Moments after I’ve touched them, they are slumped against the top of the table, blood streaming from their noses and pooling on the already-stained wood. I watch as thin red rivers flower over the edge, spattering the bolts that pin the chairs to the floor. . .”
- When the guard and Twylla are found together he is clubbed in the back of the head with a sword. When he falls down, “two of them begin to kick him, bringing their boots back and swinging them into his ribs and spine.” The queen orders the beating to stop when the guard “has stopped moaning and grunting, finally unconscious.”
- The queen has people killed throughout the book. Her favorite way to have them killed is to send the dogs to rip them apart. In one scene, the queen tells Twylla, “I have a mind to make you watch the dogs eat your lover first . . . Do you think he’ll try to shield you from their jaws when they tear your heart out . . . Do you know what my father used to do? He used to slice across the ankles of the wretches we were hunting. He’d cut them and leave them in the trees. He’d give them an hour to try to escape . . . it might be time to bring it back.”
- The queen backhands Twylla across the face and threatens to kill her, “for opening your legs to another man while my son planned to wed you.”
- In the end, the prince tells his mother, “I sentence you to hang by the neck until you are dead.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- At dinner, one of the lords becomes drunk and upsets the queen so she has him killed.
- When someone is sick, they are given poppy tears to help control the pain.
- When a woman wants to “lose a child” they take an herb that will make them “lose a child.”
- The queen uses poison to kill her husband.
- The queen calls Twylla, “a little slut,” a “whore” and a “harlot.”
- There is a tale of a Sleeping Prince who is an alchemist. The prince was put under a spell that made him sleep forever. The queen has a totem that can call the Bringer, who is said to be able to bring the prince back to life with the death of a young girl. The queen believes that she can control the Sleeping Prince if she has the totem.
- Twylla is told she is Daunte Embodied, the reborn daughter of the Gods. “The world has always been ruled by two Gods: Daeg, Lord of the sun, who rules in the day, and his wife Naeht, Empress of Darkness, who rules the night. . . She (Naeht) hatched a plan and seduced her husband, tiring him so much he couldn’t rise. Then she took the skies for her own and ruled alone, plunging all the world into darkness. Nothing lived, nothing thrived, and death was everywhere without the Lord of the Sun to light the world and give warmth and joy.” The God’s daughter was said to bring Daeg from his sleep and whenever Lomere needed the daughter, she would return as a symbol of hope.
- As Daunte Embodied, Twylla is taught that she must, “strike down those who would hurt us. You will go and do your duty. You don’t want to anger the Gods do you?”
- Twylla believes the Gods have chosen her path, and she must, “obey the Gods.”
- When someone dies, a person’s soul, “will linger near the body for three days and nights after a death. During that time, the Eating must take place so the soul can ascend, otherwise it will drift to the West Woods to join its damned brothers and sisters in the trees. . .” During this time the sin eater must eat a particular food for each sin the person committed.
- When Twylla’s mother talks about a woman taking an herb to lose a child, Twylla, “shook my head, not understanding. Losing a child wasn’t a sin; everyone knew the Gods could take away as they saw fit and sometimes they called an unborn back to the Eternal Kingdom.”
- Twylla’s guard tells her that the religious rituals they perform are all lies and that her beliefs are, “just to scare people into obedience.” He explains that “We used to have Gods, too. And now we don’t and yet the country doesn’t falter; it thrives without them…It’s all made up. You are not beloved by the Gods—there are no Gods.”
- Twylla tries to figure out what she believes and she thinks, “Neither my mother nor the queen have ever said they believed in the Gods. My mother needs them because if there are no gods, then there is no Eternal Kingdom and that makes the Sin Eater nothing more than a prop for mourning. The queen needs them because the fear of death is what makes people obedient, and kind, and good, and sorry.”
- Twylla’s guard tells her that, “I don’t believe there are any [Gods] at all, but I believe there are men and woman whose lives are made easier by believing someone is watching over them.”