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  • Writer's pictureHannah Zunic

Food For Thought: A Review of Sin Eater by Megan Campisi

Hello, Book Nerds! Welcome back to Reading Has Ruined My Life or welcome if you are new. As always, my name is Hannah and I am your captain on this journey into my bookcases.


Bears waving.
How's everyone doing today?

I hope you all enjoyed last week’s post. Quite a different style for me, but it was a lot of fun for me to create. But I’m back to basics this week with a new review! And who knows how well this will go cause I’ve been fighting a cold and am nice and loopy! This could be the hot mess express. This could be the best thing I’ve ever wrote. I’m running on vitamin C drops, lots of coffee, maybe five hours of sleep, and the fact my dogs need to eat; I’m not sorry for anything that is about to ensue. With that being said, let’s get to the book!


I have a very interesting read for you today. A very interesting and quite odd little story. A story that intrigued me the moment I read the synopsis.


Please welcome to the stage Sin Eater by Megan Campisi!


Book cover of Sin Eater by Megan Campisi.

We will get to the synopsis in a minute. First I do have a content and trigger warning for you. There are multiple mentions of rape and sexual assault sprinkled throughout the text. While the vast majority of them aren’t prevalent to the story, they are hard to avoid as they pop up so randomly. There are also some mentions of animal abuse. Just be aware of those things before going into this book. And as always, a spoiler alert is in order for my review; you’ve been warned. Synopsis time now.


Our story begins in Tudor era London. Yes, we are once again in the Tudor era, did not know that before going in, but I have a brand and am sticking to it. Anyway, out story begins with our main character, May, being arrested for stealing a loaf of bread. She’s quickly thrown in a jail cell and stuck there for nearly a month. Then the worst of the worst happens. No, she’s not hung. No, she’s not burnt at the stake. No, she doesn’t die from whatever diseases plague the jail. No, she becomes a Sin Eater.


"Dun-dun-dun."

I hear you asking: “What is that? What is a Sin Eater? I understand those words separately but not together.” Don’t worry, I got you! A Sin Eater is an outcast. A social pariah. A Sin Eater will come to you on your death bed, listen to your sins, and then eat the corresponding food of your sins at your funeral so your soul can go to Heaven. By eating your sins, the Sin Eater takes them on and saves your immortal soul.


May would rather be burned at the stake than be a Sin Eater. Sadly she’s our protagonist so she’s stuck in her new profession. For roughly a week, May trains under the only other Sin Eater. It’s very hard training as Sin Eaters aren’t allowed to speak, not even to one another; they’re only allowed to speak when they’re telling people the list of ritualistic food needed for them to eat upon a person’s death.


Things get even harder for May as the other Sin Eater is thrown in jail for refusing to eat a deceased’s sins. May does eat this person’s sins, even though she knows the deceased did not confess to one of the sins on the coffin. Girl just doesn't want to go to jail. Now May has a mystery to solve. What crime did the deceased supposedly commit? Who placed this item on their coffin? How can she get anyone to listen to her? And can she save the older Sin Eater?


I recognize this synopsis may sound confusing, but I promise the book is not. There is a small learning curve, but it’s only two chapters tops. A Sin Eater was not a term I was familiar with prior reading this book. To my surprise, Sin Eaters did indeed exist. Learned all about them in this book. Hats off to Megan Campisi for teaching me all about these unseen, unheard tragic figures while keeping the novel easy to follow.


Woman clapping.
Snaps for our author!

Until the end. The ending comes on very quickly. But let me backtrack a little here. Sin Eater’s mystery is a slow burn. May is working alone, people won’t talk to her or even look at her, and while she can pretty much freely travel to any location necessary, she often times has no clue what or who exactly she’s looking for. Most of the information or clues she gains does come from eavesdropping and gossip she overhears. By some act of god, May is able to solve this mystery; which I call bullshit on.


This mystery is one that basically solves itself. May didn’t really do much to solve it, she just happened to be in the right places at the right times. Or wrong times as she is sometimes chased and almost killed or thrown in jail, but I digress. To me, the ending happens, an exciting incident occurs, secrets are revealed, and the mystery is solved because another person finally wises up to the person committing the crime May’s trying to solve.


Chloe meme.
I'm not buying it.

Side note, this person isn’t met until the very end. Once again, I call bullshit. Technically, they’re alluded to throughout the story, but it doesn’t really work. At least for me. The villain is supposed to have this big reveal, this big twist at the end of the story, with readers having believed the perpetrator to have been another character all along, but the reveal comes across as lackluster. It doesn’t feel fair seeing as this character isn’t properly met. I call bullshit! It feels lackluster and is lowkey disappointing.


Jonah Hill shaking head no.
It's a no from me.

Thankfully there are many aspects that make up for my dislike of the ending and final reveal. Namely the imagery. As May hardly speaks throughout the text, Sin Eater truly hinges on descriptions. I smelt the horrid location May lived at. There was a glaring distinction drawn between the upper and lower classes of this alternate Elizabethan England without being heavy handed. The descriptions of the theatre troupes, the costuming, makeup, set making, everything about theatre at the time, is top tier; Megan Campisi is a theatre expert and it shows. All in all, the descriptions in Sin Eater are utterly decedent. Also, I know the food descriptions in this novel are somebody’s kink.


Before I go, I must discuss May and her character arc. She begins her story as a young girl, seriously she’s 14, and she begins her story with that naivety. She has no one. She's lost in the world. She’s still growing up. Then everything she knows, the only life she's ever known, is gone. She becomes this social outcast with a heavily imposed ritualistic job that she never asked for. Yet this is where she grows. She gets all her power from something that’s supposed to tear her down and make her invisible. She adapts, she survives, she thrives.


Overall, Sin Eater is a haunting historical fiction novel that makes you think while keeping you engrossed in the story. While I call bullshit on the final reveal, I will always adore stories about women finding their own power; especially in societies and systems that are built to tear them down and keep them silent. A great read in my opinion.


With that, I must bid you all adieu. I shall see you next week with another shorter post. I know I’ve been doing a lot of things that aren’t reviews lately and I apologize for that. I had anticipated doing more reviews this month, but the cold I got is kicking my butt and I sadly don’t have the concentration necessary for reading. Truly a tragedy. I promise y’all will like next week’s post though!


Until then, stay safe, wash your hands, and read some good books for me; I really need that this week.


Bears waving.
See y'all then, bye!

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