Sin Eater by Mike Shel is one of those books I was supposed to read ages ago. I had my review copy sitting on my kindle for about 2 years now I think. But hey, what’s late doesn’t hurry, and I finally got around to the audiobook. Fun fact: Aching God, the first book in the Iconoclast series was one of the first books I reviewed for my blog. Actually, it was one of the reasons that I have a blog in the first place. This series always will have a special place in my tiny black and white heart.
|Series: Iconoclasts #2||Genre: Epic Fantasy, Adventure|
|Date of Publishing: May 20th 2019||Trigger Warnings: violence, attempted rape|
|Page count: 574||Publisher: Self-Published|
“I shall baptize you, sir, and my baptism will burn your folly and flesh away.”
A year has passed since Auric Manteo descended into the haunted depths of a Djao ruin to return a lethal artifact, only to face down a bloodthirsty, imprisoned god. Now his daughter Agnes comes to bring him back to the capital with promises of hidden secrets finally revealed.
But the city decays, poisonous disorder is rife, and whispered prophecy foretells of cataclysm and doom. Summoned by their no-longer human queen, Auric and Agnes are commanded to carry out an impossible task, one that can be accomplished only with the mysterious blade Szaa’da’shaela, gifted to Auric on a lunatic’s whim.
Can Auric and his daughter survive a journey fraught with blood, menace, and madness? And can they pay the price demanded by a being every bit as evil as the Aching God?
Sin Eater is the sequel to 2018’s widely praised Aching God and book 2 of the Iconoclasts Trilogy. Get your copy today!
I had a clear idea of what mood/feeling/theme I was going for when I started looking for songs to match with Sin Eater, but I really couldn’t find anything. So, I had to resolve to ask for help and Clayton Snyder rose up to the challenge. I quite like what he came up with, though it not exactly what I pictured, but I admit Bartholomew by The Silent Comedy really fits with the book.
Since it’s been 3 years since I’ve read Aching God, the first book in the Iconoclasts series, it took me a bit of time to get back into the world Mike Shel built. This time I went with the audiobook, which didn’t make it any easier as I wasn’t really a fan of Simon Vance‘s narration. Don’t get me wrong, he has a nice voice and I liked how he portrayed the voices of different characters, but there is something in the way he narrates that took me a very long time to get used to. But this is purely a personal preference and in the end, did not affect my enjoyment of the book.
Sin Eater takes place some months after the events in Aching God. Auric goes into retirement and intends to enjoy his remaining life with Hannah on his side. Only, duty – and most importantly the curiosity and thirst for knowledge – can call him back to Hanifax. Which eventually leads to a mission he can’t refuse.
Joined by his daughter, Agnes, another Syraeic knight Sir Kennah, Belu’s priest Sira (whom I apparently really liked in book one, a pity we didn’t get to see her more here), a broken sorcerer Qeelb, and an ex thief Chalka they set out to visit the Oracle in Pember’s temple. And that’s all I’m willing to say about the plot. But be assured, there is a lot more going on than this short paragraph implies. But I wouldn’t want to ruin your reading experience. There were some neat twists, especially toward the end, most of which I saw coming but they were still very satisfying in veryfying my suspicions.
There is a fairly large cast in Sin Eater, which is a two-sided blade. On one hand, we have a diverse cast – quite literally. On the other, some of them don’t get nearly enough spotlight for us to get them to know well. That’s not saying these characters aren’t well fleshed out though. Queen Genevive remains to be one of the most intriguing characters to whom joins the old Aerican. With his tales and air of – sometimes rather “annoying” – mystery. And a character from the past who brings a bit of gruesome twist into the equation. But the central character remains to be Auric.
One of the most interesting things about Sin Eater is Shel‘s portrayal of Auric and Agnes’ relationship. And I daresay, this is the real core of the book. Not the mission, the political intrigue we get to see more of, or any other plotlines. They are there and they are important, sure, but I think this book is more than just another adventure epic fantasy.
From Auric’s POV, Sin Eater is about coming to terms with his failings, and prejudices. To try and see his daughter not as a child who needs his protection, but as the capable woman she had become. The smart, compassionate, kind, capable woman. Their relationship, their different world view brought to mind my own relationship with my father, and the pretty recent realization of how differently we see the world and how far we’ve drifted from each other. As for Agnes, I really liked her. I can’t say I particularly connected with any of the characters, but she was probably the closest to it. Shel really has a way with character portrayals though. This is where I also need to mention Chalka. I loved how his friendship with Agnes was shown. And how Agnes defended his way of dressing as a woman when Auric complained about it. Showing it to him that he has prejudices indeed, whatever he might have thought before. With the inclusion of both Chalka and Qeelb, there is a strong message of acceptance within the pages.
Where I had some issues was the pacing of the book. Sometimes it felt like it was dragging a bit, especially during the part they journeyed from Hanifax. Sometimes I wished some parts were cut shorter and we got more lore about the Djao (what we learned about them in this installment was awesome!) and the gods. Though, when the political intrigue came into play I admit I was a bit lost of who these people were and what this has to do anything with the plot – I’m sure there will be answers to this in the third book – but it came a bit out of nowhere after the tighter – plotwise – Aching God.
I also felt a bit underwhelmed at the end, the end game was over a bit too quickly for my liking. But these are pretty minor things and probably something that comes down to personal preferences.
All my ramblings aside, Sin Eater is a worthy sequel to Aching God. It shows how much Shel improved as a writer as he finds his footing within the story he wants to tell. It definitely steps up from book one and opens up the scope of the story within the world, building up the foundation of something I expect to be a great ending to the trilogy. If you are into adventurous epic fantasy, a world with ancient gods, artifacts, and secrets waiting to be discovered springled with a few political intrigues, then I think you should check the Iconoclasts series out.