Review: The Sin Eater’s Daughter trilogy by Melinda Salisbury

If I had to choose an author whose books I hope mine are one day shelved next to in book stores, it would be Melinda Salisbury. The Sin Eater’s Daughter is one of my all time favourite series, and the style of YA Fantasy that I absolutely aspire to write. It’s been a while since I finished reading The Scarecrow Queen, but I wanted to review the series here for anyone who hasn’t read it yet. (Where have you been?! Get to the library quick sharp!)

 

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5 stars

The Sin Eater’s Daughter

The Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury

Twylla is sixteen, betrothed to a prince, and forced to serve as the court executioner. The human embodiment of a goddess, she has the power to kill with just a touch, her skin imbued with a deadly poison that has no antidote. Only the royal family are immune to it. But that doesn’t stop her supposed fiance from staying as far from her as possible.

When a new guard is assigned to her, she finds his playful smiles and lack of fear a refreshing change, and soon falls for his charms. The controlling and paranoid queen reveals her plan to destroy the enemies she believes are out to threaten her rule, and Twylla must choose between escaping into the night with her lover, or staying to protect the kingdom she is bound to serve.

I adored the first book in this series, it’s full of fairy tale elements and forbidden romance. Twylla’s character doesn’t have much agency in book one, she seems to be pulled along by the actions of everyone around her, but that is a big part of her arc and by the end of the series she’s become much more active than reactive, and the growth and development she undergoes is more believable for being a slow, steady change.

The big revelation towards the end of book one was a complete surprise to me, I  did not see it coming at all, and it left me questioning absolutely everything about the world I’d become absorbed in. It’s a very well done twist, adding another layer to the dark, Brothers Grimm style fairy tale.

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The Sleeping Prince

The Sleeping Prince Melinda Salisbury

Ever since her brother left them to work as a guard at the castle, Errin has been struggling to keep both her and their sickly mother alive. Foraging in the forest for ingredients to create her illegal herbal concoctions, selling them to a mysterious stranger who refuses to show her his face, and dodging the authorities who are looking for any reason to throw them both in the makeshift jails that are popping up all over the kingdom. But that all pales in comparison to the threat of the Sleeping Prince, whom the queen has woken from his enchanted sleep, and is now on the war path.

When Errin’s village is evacuated and her mother is taken by soldiers, Errin is forced to travel across a dangerous, war torn kingdom alone. What she discovers along the way could be the key to defeating the Sleeping Prince, but is the danger closer to home than she realises?

Book two follows a completely new character who is mentioned but never appears in  book one, which makes it slightly more difficult to get into at the beginning. By the time I was a few chapters in though I was enjoying this book even more than the first – I’d go so far as to say it’s my favourite of the three. Errin is a brave, strong and complicated character, and after Twylla’s quieter, softer persona and her life at the castle, book two is a real change of scenery. Both books are tense, suspenseful and exciting, but instead of court politics, veiled threats and the creeping feeling that something isn’t quite right, book two is full of danger, betrayal and monsters straight out of a nightmare.

The Sleeping Prince begins after the action of book one, and the story lines merge towards the end in a pretty satisfying way. The two protagonists balance each other out nicely, so I would recommend persevering if you didn’t absolutely love Twylla, or if you struggle at first with the change in POV from book one to two.pink divider

The Scarecrow Queen

The Scarecrow Queen

The Sleeping Prince has taken control of the kingdom with the help of his terrifying golems and has now installed himself at the castle. Twylla and Errin have become separated, Twylla is in the mountains gathering a force against Prince Aurek and Errin is simply trying to save her mother, and herself, from his evil clutches. As the war rages on and time begins to run out for the rebels, allegiances will be broken, friendships betrayed and lives lost before the final battle can be fought.

Book three alternates between the POVs of both Twylla and Errin, following their parallel story arcs to the ultimate conclusion where they converge once more. Whilst I was a little bit disappointed about some of the character arcs and how they ended in The Scarecrow Queen (#JusticeForLief), the conclusion of the series was very satisfying and credible. Twylla was the character who came the furthest in my opinion, as Errin started out a stronger and more independent woman, but Twylla became strong and really developed over the course of the three books. The plot and subplots all tie up nicely at the end, but it still left me hoping for more from this dark and beautiful fairy tale world.

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In addition to the trilogy, there’s a novella called The King of Rats which I haven’t actually read, but hopefully one day I will! It’s a prequel detailing the story of Crown Prince Aurek and his sister Aurelia, and how the curse came about, which is one of my favourite parts of the series, I love how Salisbury took fairy tales we all know well, such as the Pied Piper of Hamlet, and twisted them into something completely new and surprising. I’m not sure what inspired the concept of the Sin Eater, I’d love to know if it’s something that truly takes place in some cultures, as I found it fascinating and loved how it was woven into the story.

Final word: if dark YA fantasy and fairy tale retellings are your cup of tea, you’ll absolutely love The Sin Eater’s Daughter trilogy.

Lyndsey

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Review: Perfect by Cecelia Ahern

Hi guys! I have news 🙂 On Wednesday 11th April my beautiful baby boy finally arrived! He’s officially eight weeks old today. I can’t believe I’m the mum of a two month old baby… While I bury my head in the sand and try to ignore the fact I’m now frighteningly grown up and completely responsible for another human life, here’s a little book review for your reading pleasure.

The first book in this duology, Flawed, was the first book I ever reviewed on this blog! You can check out my review here, if you haven’t read book one and don’t want any spoilers then I wouldn’t recommend reading on…

TL;DR Celestine is in hiding after escaping the clutches of Judge Crevan and his Whistleblowers. Holed up in a Flawed safe-house with a group of fellow branded outcasts, she’s a sitting duck when the Whistleblowers eventually turn up to raid the facility. Forced to go on the run again, she decides to hunt down the one person who may be able to help her overturn her Flawed sentence, but will she find the elusive footage and expose Judge Crevan for the monster he really is?

 

Perfect by Cecelia Ahern

3.5 stars

Synopsis

So, we left Celestine at the end of Flawed leaving her parents’ home and going on the run from Judge Crevan and his Whistleblowers, and we meet her again at the beginning of Perfect hiding out on her granddad’s farm. If you remember, Granddad is a Flawed sympathiser who speaks out against Crevan and his court, and helps Celestine when she first goes into hiding in book one. He’s an absolute legend with zero filter, like many granddads, which unfortunately means he’s already on the court’s radar, so it’s not long before the Whistleblowers turn up to raid his property in search of Celestine.

Barely escaping a pretty horrifying and fiery death, our girl Celestine is forced to run again, and with the help of some old friends, winds up at a facility where Flawed are hidden and employed in secret. She’s reunited with Carrick, but the peace doesn’t last long as Whistleblowers soon arrive, having been tipped off to Celestine’s location by someone she considered a friend. Worse, a familiar face is among the soldiers sent to escort her to Highland Castle.

With nowhere left to run, Celestine is forced to seek out the one person who might be able to help her overturn her Flawed sentence, if only she can find the lost footage of her sixth brand. If she discovers the tape in time, she’ll have a decision to make that could impact on the entire country – use the footage to blackmail Judge Crevan and have her sentence overturned, or release the tape and expose Crevan for the monster he is, in the hopes this revelation brings about the demise of the Guild itself. Will she save herself, or sacrifice her only leverage in order to free her fellow Flawed from their own sentences?

You’ll have to read it to find out! 😉

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Perfect is a gripping novel that provides a satisfying conclusion to the Flawed series, answering some of the questions we’re left with after book one and posing several more about ethics, morality and humanity. There are parallels with the Nazi regime in this book that highlight the ease with which people can be turned against a subgroup of society, given enough indoctrination.

The Flawed are stripped of all life’s luxuries, forced to eat a bland diet, given a strict curfew, banned from gathering in groups of three or more, and forbidden from enjoying many of what we would consider basic human rights.

The rest of society are threatened with being labelled Flawed themselves if they so much as help a Flawed person, suggesting that being Flawed is practically contagious. Sympathising with the Flawed’s plight is tantamount to openly criticising the Guild, another surefire way to wind up branded Flawed yourself, so people avoid their Flawed neighbours, treat them as lesser, something to be pitied and feared, which makes the Guild’s job of alienating the Flawed and controlling the general public even easier.

It’s a terrifyingly credible series of events.

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I gave Perfect 3.5 stars, the same star rating I gave Flawed, it’s a well written sequel and a satisfying conclusion, I enjoyed reading it, but it wasn’t completely unputdownable, and I would have loved to feel more gripped. A little more tension and threat would have made this a four star read.

If you love dystopian stories, you’ll definitely enjoy Flawed and Perfect, the premise is equally fascinating and quietly disturbing, and Ahern’s execution is perfectly tuned to the Young Adult genre, after dozens of incredibly successful adult novels.

Have you read the Flawed series? What were your thoughts, did you find the concept believable? Let me know in the comments.

 

Lyndsey

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Review Perfect Cecelia Ahern Lyndsey's Book Blog

Review: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

I listened to the audio book of The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee back in September, and it was one of my absolute favourite reads of 2017! (Check out My top five books of 2017)

TL;DR Monty and Percy are best friends and high-born gentlemen living their best lives in 1800s London. Drink, gambling and general debauchery are the order of the day, until their Grand Tour of Europe becomes a mad dash across the continent, pursued by dangerous men who will kill to take back what Monty stole from them…

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

5 stars

Synopsis

Henry “Monty” Montague is the son of an English aristocrat, attends one of the poshest boarding schools in the country, and is being groomed to take control of the family estate and affairs when he grows up. If he ever does. Unfortunately, he’s not interested in taking over from his father, or growing up. He’s also madly in love with his best friend Percy, who is blissfully unaware, and he’s being kicked out of school for his roguish behaviour. Surely a few months travelling around Europe will solve all his problems?

Joined by Percy and his sister Felicity, Monty sets off for France – first stop, the palace of Versailles. Unfortunately, one rash decision and a stolen trinket lead to our gang fleeing for their lives, pursued by some very angry French men. They eventually wind up in Barcelona and take refuge in a house with the strange siblings whose father invented the fascinating stolen trinket, looking for an explanation. When the French catch up to them, they’re forced to make another run for it, this time heading for Venice by pirate ship. Their quest for the truth becomes a race against time as the answer to all their questions is in danger of becoming submerged when the islet housing it crumbles into the sea.

Will Monty ever confess his love to Percy? What is the mysterious affliction that affects Percy and why did he really agree to join his best friend on his European Tour? And will Felicity be able to convince her parents and society that women are just as capable as men, and study medicine at university like she wants? You’ll have to read it to find out…

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I absolutely adored this book, it was funny, touching, gripping and filled with diverse, complex and deeply flawed characters who charmed the socks off me with every page. I’m giving it 5 stars and am absolutely gutted that it’s technically a standalone, however Mackenzi Lee has written a companion book from the perspective of Felicity called The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy, and I’ll be damned if I’m not going to get my hands on it the instant it comes out in October. Lee is a huge advocate for amazing women throughout history, you can often find her tweeting about a fabulous lady from the past, proving that girls have always been badass and brilliant. Her Twitter threads have even been turned into a book, Bygone Badass Broads: 52 Forgotten Women Who Changed the World – go buy it immediately and celebrate International Women’s Day 2018 like a proper lady, with an awesome book and a cup of tea (or something stronger if that’s your style, no judgement here! Only four more weeks of pregnancy to go and I’ll be joining you!).

 

Until next time,

Lyndsey

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