Published: August 18th, 2022
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Genre: Fantasy Fiction, Fairy Tale, Horror Fiction, Contemporary Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Romantic Fantasy
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook
Happy Publication Day Sunyi Dean! I am delighted to be sharing my review for this darkly delicious debut on its book birthday. Thank you to Sasha at Pride Book Tours for the invitation to take part in the tour and to Sunyi Dean and Harper Voyager UK for the gifted ARC.
A gorgeous new fantasy horror – a book about stories and fairy tales with family and love at its dark heart…
Perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman, Susanna Clarke, and Let the Right One In
Hidden across England and Scotland live six old Book Eater families.
The last of their lines, they exist on the fringes of society and subsist on a diet of stories and legends.
Children are rare and their numbers have dwindled, so when Devon Fairweather’s second child is born a dreaded Mind Eater – a perversion of her own kind, who consumes not stories but the minds and souls of humans – she flees before he can be turned into a weapon for the family… or worse.
Living among humans and finding prey for her son, Devon seeks a cure for his hunger. But time is running out – for her family want her back, and with every soul her son consumes he loses a little more of himself…
This is a story of escape, a savage mother’s devotion and a queer love that will electrify readers looking for something beguiling, thrilling, strange and new.
“We consume written knowledge, her aunts and uncles had said so many times. We consume and store and collect all forms of paper flesh as the Collector created us to do, clothed as we are in the skin of human-kind. But we do not read, and we cannot write. “
Wow. Just, wow.
The Book Eaters is a darkly delicious debut that you will get lost in. This was a highly anticipated book for me from the moment I saw the magnificent cover and read the synopsis, but I was unprepared for just how special it would be or how I would fall deeper in love with every page. I luxuriated in it, wanting to devour it quickly but choosing instead to take my time and savour every word as I never wanted it to end. It is truly something special and I think I may have found my favourite book of the year so far.
The story explores a secret society hidden within the human world. They wear our skin as their disguise but feast on books, are forbidden to read and cannot write. They live in seclusion among one of the Six Families throughout the UK but their numbers are rapidly dwindling as daughters are extremely rare.
Devon Fairweather no longer lives with her kind. Instead she is hiding among humans in order to protect her five-year-old son, Cai who is a mind-eater – a rare genetic mutation that means he must feast on the brains and souls of humans to survive. The Families would turn him into a weapon, so she must hide him while also searching the country for the one thing that can cure his hunger. But time is running out. Will she be able to find the cure before it’s too late?
“Like the other Families, the Fairweathers had libraries with a flavor all their own: vintage books stitched from carefully aged leather — the darker the better—with textured, embossed covers.”
This book is like nothing I’ve ever read before. Sinister, atmospheric, hypnotic and ambitious, this is a clever twist on the usual fantasy novel. There are characters who aren’t human and feast on books, a lesbian herione, asexual best friend, and even though they live in a patriarchal society, girls are highly desired and valued while boys are expendable. There are even creative spins on the usual princesses, knights and dragons we see in fantasy books. It is all so bizarre yet totally believable and I didn’t question it for one moment.
Sunyi Dean is an exceptional talent who has crafted a story that is like a work of art. From the first lines she draws you into the rich world she has created, the cinematic imagery bringing everything to life in vivid technicolour and immersing you in the story with her pitch perfect writing. Before I’d even finished the first chapter I was utterly captivated and enthralled. It is a book that fuels the imagination, almost as if I was devouring the book as hungrily as one of the book eaters to digest and experience every perfectly-written word. I was also impressed that despite all of the world building and backstories that were told, the book never lost momentum or tension for a moment, keeping my heart racing until the very last page.
“There were so many things to remember when she was out and around humans. Feigning cold was one of them…. having to feign a fear she never felt, but which should have ruled her. Solitary human women walked with caution in the night.
In short, Devon had to act like prey, and not like the predator she had become. “
The story is told over five acts that move smoothly between past and present. It is narrated by Devon, who was easy to like and root for. Despite not being human, I felt an immediate bond with her and loved everything about this strong, complex and tenacious rebel. But I think it is her ferocity as a mother that I loved most of all. In a society where mothers are separated from their children after a few years, Devon refuses to accept this from the start and risks everything to be a more traditional mother. She proves just how far she’s willing to go for her children when she goes on the run with Cai instead of simply accepting the fate the Families have for him. Cai should be a terrifying and abominable creation who turns our stomachs yet Ms. Dean manages to humanise him so that all we see is an innocent child who is forced to do terrible things to survive. I found myself feeling more sadness for him than his victims, which surprised me and is a testament to Ms. Dean’s skills as an author.
An astonishing and imaginative debut, The Book Eaters has everything the bibliophile fantasy-lover could want and more. It made my mind come alive and I will never be able to look at my book collection the same way again. I am hoping that the author turns this into a series as I am hungry for more stories from these characters, especially after that sensational ending.
Sink your teeth into this moreish read ASAP.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Sunyi Dean (sun-yee deen) is an autistic author of fantasy fiction. Originally born in the States and raised in Hong Kong, she now lives in Yorkshire with her children. When not reading, running, falling over in yoga, or rolling d20s, she sometimes escapes the city to wildswim in lonely dales.
Her short stories have featured in The Best of British Scifi Anthology, Prole, FFO, Tor Dot Com, etc., and her debut novel, THE BOOK EATERS, will be published 2 Aug 2022 by Tor (USA), and 18 Aug 2022 by Harper Voyager (UK). Available at all good bookstores, in ebook, hardback, and audio.
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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx
Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.
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