Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury

“I am the perfect weapon. I kill with a single touch.”

Daunen is the daughter of the two Gods who have always ruled the world. Daeg, Lord of the Sun who rules during the day and his wife, Naeht, Empress of Darkness conceived their daughter when Naeht seduced her husband to make him too tired to rise. In doing so, she was able to rule and plunged the world into darkness where nothing lived or thrived. It wasn't until Daunen was born did Daeg awaken. Light and life was restored to Lormere. Daeg was so grateful that he promised to return the spirit of Daunen to Lormere when she was needed most. Everyone would know who she was by her red hair and beautiful voice. She would be known as Daunen Embodied. Not to be outdone, Naeht insisted that she be represented too. As a balance between them, she is death on her mother's behalf and life on her father's. Daunen Embodied must prove herself to be God's’ choice by taking the poison Morningsbane and surviving. The poison is kept in her skin and her touch would be the death of traitors.

Twylla is Daunen Embodied. She has proven it every moon cycle. The result is that her skin is poisonous since the Morningsbane remains in her body. The queen initially kept Twylla's true role a secret to make sure that she was God's choice. Now on the cusp of womanhood, the Queen can no longer protect her after two harvests. She must now act as Daunen Embodied. She thought by living at the castle the price she would pay would be to never touch anyone, except for those also blessed by divine right; the king, the queen, and the prince. Twylla left behind her sister, Maryl, the only person to show her any love or affection. Unfortunately, the price for living in the castle is now she must touch and willingly. There is no antidote for Morningsbane and just by touching her skin, a grown man is dead within seconds. Twylla is to become the Queen’s executioner.

Tyrek was Tywlla's only friend. One of her guards, they only see one another in the Telling Room. On the day Tyrek died, he didn’t keep up his usual banter with Twylla. Instead, he was all business. When the Queensguard rushes in to arrest him for treason, she goes to find the Queen. The Queen tells her that after an extensive investigation, she discovered that Tyrek used his friendship with Twylla to uncover information about her life and duties at court and passed them to their enemies. Since being Daunen Embodied is more than singing, praying and ingesting Morningsbane, she will dole out his punishment. She refused at first but the Queen cannot promise her safety if she doesn't fulfill her duties. Twylla knows that she will have to touch Tyrek. They were were both fifteen. He was terrified and Twylla was ashamed for him. The Queen watched as she placed her hands around his neck. When nothing happened at first, Twylla thought that the Gods had intervened but her relief was short lived. Pulling her hands away when he began convulsing, Tyrek was dead with a minute. The Queen tells Twylla that it had to be her. This was her destiny.

It has been two harvests Twylla killed her best friend. Thirteen more traitors have followed in the two harvests since then. After her latest visit to the Telling Room, one of her guards was finally given the transfer he requested from the Queen. Dorian, the one guard who has always been with her, says that the new one the Queen has chosen will join her after the hunt. When the men arrive at the tents when their prey has been caught, Twylla is shocked to see Prince Merek with the king. Betrothed in a ceremony four harvests ago, Merek has had nothing to do with her since. In fact, for the past two harvests, Merek has been away on progress, learning the ways and history of the kingdom. Not once has he inquired of her. Twylla cannot help but notice how handsome Merek is. Merek, it turns out is the only person who can talk back to his mother and not readily agree with everything she says. When the Queen asks Twylla to sing, an already tense situation at the tent goes downhill quickly when a drunken Lord will not stop talking during her performance. The Queen stops Twylla and sends the Lord on his way back to the castle on foot. After he leaves, the Queen calls over the huntmaster with two of the dogs. The dogs take his scent from the chair where he sat and are released. It is all the people at the table, including Twylla, can do not to react to the sounds of his death. Twylla is grateful that the ride back to the castle is quick and she doesn't have to be in the Queen's company. Dismounting her horse, she sees Merek staring at her. Desiring his attention in the past, his gaze now makes her uncomfortable.

Dorin is there to meet Twylla with her new guard, Lief. He speaks and she takes notice of his voice. The riderless horse is led in and Twylla and Dorin exchange a glance. He asks if she is ready to go to the temple but Twylla would like a private moment with him first. Lief stands away and Twylla asks Dorin where he is from. Dorian says that he is Tregellian. Twylla is shocked, knowing how much the Queen dislikes the people from the kingdom they won a war with. Dorian admits that he bested all of the Queen's guards as well as himself. The Queen is confident in Lief's abilities. At the temple, Twylla is distraught over the day's events but also the path her life has taken. Even though she is living the life of her dreams, she is the Queen's tool and sequestered from everyone. Outside, she finds Dorin and Lief going through some drills. She is shocked to find Merek waiting on her. He asks if she stitched the flowers on the screens and she answers yes. He wants to know if she ever tires on doing the same images. Before she can answer, he tells her how much he enjoyed her earlier performance and her theatrics. He is glad that she is one of the few. who try He inquires about her next performance and realizes the control the Queen has over her. He departs by saying that she should stitch some new flowers and that he likes dandelions. Once again, she is shocked that he remembers an incident from years earlier between the two of them. Back in her rooms later, Twylla's floored again when she sees that someone has left flower sketches for her. Knowing it was Merek, she plans for a new screen.

Twylla's life is not her own. Becoming Daunen Embodied is not at all what she thought. Twylla gave up her old life as the Sin Eater's daughter completely. She didn't realize that her relationship with her sister would be gone. She has grown to hate the Queen and her domineering ways. Singing has become the only part of her life she loves. When Dorin falls ill, the Queen sequesters Twylla to her room since Lief is her only guard. Without Dorin to guide him, Twylla sees how much Lief doesn’t know about being around her or the royals. She begins to see a side of her new guard that interests her but she vows not to make the same mistakes that she did with Tyrek. And Merek begins to come see her more and more.

Why did the Queen name Lief as Twylla’s new guard? What was Lief’s life like before coming to Lormere? Will Dorin recover? Why does the Queen keep such tight control over Twylla? Is Merek really interested in Twylla or is he attempting to make the best of the situation? Will Twylla ever see her sister again? What happens when Twylla and Lief grow closer than they should?

No word yet as to what the second book will be called or when it will be published.

Visit Melinda Salisbury’s website.

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