The Sin Eater Review: Pros and Cons of a Medieval Murder Mystery

April 27, 2020 by Bec | 3 stars, Books, Reviews

The Sin Eater Review: Pros and Cons of a Medieval Murder MysteryThe Sin Eater Published by Pan Macmillan Australia on March 31, 2020
Source: Netgalley
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery, Historical
Amazon | Book Depository | Publisher | Angus & Robertson | Booktopia
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The Sin Eater walks among us, unseen, unheard
Sins of our flesh become sins of Hers
Following Her to the grave, unseen, unheard
The Sin Eater Walks Among Us.

For the crime of stealing bread, fourteen-year-old May receives a life sentence: she must become a Sin Eater—a shunned woman, brutally marked, whose fate is to hear the final confessions of the dying, eat ritual foods symbolizing their sins as a funeral rite, and thereby shoulder their transgressions to grant their souls access to heaven.

Orphaned and friendless, apprenticed to an older Sin Eater who cannot speak to her, May must make her way in a dangerous and cruel world she barely understands. When a deer heart appears on the coffin of a royal governess who did not confess to the dreadful sin it represents, the older Sin Eater refuses to eat it. She is taken to prison, tortured, and killed. To avenge her death, May must find out who placed the deer heart on the coffin and why.

For those who don’t follow me on instagram, this past year I started doing some Pro vs Con style mini reviews. They’re quick and easy to write and read, so I thought I’d try posting them here too and see how they go on an actual blog.

The Good Things

  • The writing is beautiful. I can’t put into words exactly why I the writing loved it so much, but the style was the type that just leaves you in awe. The last book I remember giving me this vibe was The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly.
  • It’s a standalone medieval England murder mystery/ treason plot! Lots of political scheming, secrets, and betrayals to keep you entertained, all wrapped up and answered by the end.
  • I’m fascinated by the role of sin eaters. I’d never head of them before, and the way May was perceived by society made for a really interesting murder investigation (the confessed their sins to her, but otherwise she was outright ignored


The Not-So-Good Things

  • This is not an edge-of-your-seat-suspense filled thriller/mystery. It’s slow and steady, but suits the nature of the story. It’s more a psychological mystery that focuses on motive than danger. The twists and turns only really start to come in the last quarter of the book after a long build up.
  • There were a few characters that could have been explored further. Because May is shunned as a Sin Eater, she doesn’t really get a chance to talk to a lot of people or learn their names. There was a lot of potential to further observe, develop and explore relationships with side characters (like the Instrument Maker and Country Mouse). Instead we only get the briefest glimpses of what could have been and it was a bit disappointing.
  • It’s a standalone…. As much as it ties up all the loose ends, there are so many potential plot threads that could be expanded on and explored as May grows up. And it is such an interesting concept! I’d love to read more about May uncovering mysteries as she hears people’s sins on their deathbeds.


The Sin Eater is a beautifully written historical mystery with a really interesting and unique concept. While it had a slower pace than most mysteries I read, I still really enjoyed exploring medieval England from a unique point of view. Sin eaters weren’t something I’d heard about until I stumbled across this book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 

Thanks to PanMacmillan Australia for the providing a review copy via Netgalley!

The Sin Eater is out now! Get your copy from your local Australian book store or via The Book Depository.

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Bec is an Aussie blogger and reader who loves all types of novels. Fantasy, sci fi, and historical are my usual go-to genres. If I’m not binge reading, I’m usually gaming, trying to take decent photos for bookstagram, or freaking out about silly things.

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4 responses to “The Sin Eater Review: Pros and Cons of a Medieval Murder Mystery

    • Bec

      It is a really fascinating concept! I’m hoping that maybe if it does well the author could maybe decide to write a couple more books about it with May as an adult.

    • Bec

      It’s a sign of a good standalone that wraps everything up while leaving you wanting more of the world. But also can get frustrating at times haha.

      I don’t think this was too complex in its world building compared to some epic fantasy novels I’ve read, and it it straight historical, but it could be a bit ambiguous at times. I feel like people who know about the history of the time will probably get more out of it.

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