‘I had taken the Morningsbane once every moon to prove to the kingdom I was Daunen Embodied, truly the Gods’ choice. It was the mixing of my blood, the drinking of the poison and surviving it that showed I was divine, something more than a girl.’
Twylla is a murderer.
Every person who comes into contact with her skin dies because she’s poisonous. In the last two years she’s killed thirteen people – including Tyrek, who was her only friend – all traitors to the throne, deaths all willed by the Gods. The only people who can touch her are the queen, the king, and Prince Merek, her betrothed. They’re the only people the Gods will allow to be immune to her touch.
Because Twylla is Daunen Embodied: the returned form of the daughter of Naeht, the Empress of Darkness, and Daeg, the Lord of the Sun.
‘Daunen exists as the balance between both God and Goddess; she must be death on behalf of her mother, as she is life on behalf of her father.’
Before she was discovered to be Daunen Embodied, Twylla was the Sin Eater’s daughter, and because she was due to inherit the role she’s never been able to choose her own destiny; her life has always been predetermined. Whenever someone dies – apart from a traitor to the throne – a spread of their sins is placed on top of their coffin, and the Sin Eater must come along to clean their spirit to allow it passage to the other side. This involves Eating soured cream if the deceased had an abortion, or crow if they were a murderer.
Twylla is a murderer, and because she left her family to live with the royal family as Daunen Embodied, the role of Sin Eater will pass to her little sister Maryl. Twylla feels constant guilt – both for leaving her sister and for the fact that she will have to Eat crow on her behalf – but there’s nothing she can do; as Daunen Embodied she needed to embrace her godly parentage and couldn’t stay in touch with any of her earthly relations, even though the queen does send money home to provide for them.
Twylla’s been alone for most of her life, with the exception of her loyal guard Dorin. While other guards have come and gone – some only staying in the position for a matter of weeks, unable to deal with being surrounded by death and danger – Dorin has stayed by her side since her arrival at the palace. When the newest recruit, Lief, starts in his position, Twylla is wary. He’s from Tregellan, the sworn enemies of Lormere, and no Tregellian citizen has ever been employed in the palace before. However, Dorin quickly falls ill after a bee sting becomes infected, and when it becomes obvious that there’s no one willing to replace him, Lief becomes her sole guard and confidante.
It doesn’t take long before Twylla is falling for Lief. He’s the only person but Tyrek who’s ever treated her like a girl rather than a deity. She knows she’s betrothed to Marek and she feels awful for betraying him, but she’s never had any choices in her life and she wants to be able to follow her heart. But with Marek determined to move up the wedding day after his father falls ill, Twylla is torn between her duty to her country and her wishes for herself…
All I really want to do is spoiler spoiler spoiler, but I’m restraining myself because I really want you to experience it for yourself. For the first half of the novel I kept thinking to myself ‘eh, this is a solid three star read, but I don’t understand why everyone hypes it so much’. But then THINGS KEPT HAPPENING. Before you know it I’m head over heels in love with Melinda Salisbury’s writing style, I’m being shocked and surprised with every page I turn and all of my expectations were flipped on their heads.
If you think you know what’s going to happen, you don’t. That’s the most I’m going to tell you. It seems like it’s going to be stereotypical YA, but it’s so much more than that: if you’re a fan of the fantasy genre, you will love this even if you normally avoid younger reads.
I also hate to be that person, but if you’re a fan of ‘Game of Thrones’ you will love this too. There’s murder, incest, politics, tension, poisoning, deceit… Everything you could ever want and more.
The epilogue leaves the book on a massive cliffhanger, though, so if you don’t have the sequel close at hand don’t even think about reading it. Get both books ready, then dive into this one. I’m going to be reading the second book very soon.