In the walled city of Kos, corrupt mages can magically call forth sin from a sinner in the form of sin-beasts – lethal creatures spawned from feelings of guilt.
Taj is the most talented of the aki, young sin-eaters indentured by the mages to slay the sin-beasts. But Taj’s livelihood comes at a terrible cost. When he kills a sin-beast, a tattoo of the beast appears on his skin while the guilt of committing the sin appears on his mind. Most aki are driven mad by the process, but 17-year-old Taj is cocky and desperate to provide for his family.
When Taj is called to eat a sin of a royal, he’s suddenly thrust into the center of a dark conspiracy to destroy Kos. Now Taj must fight to save the princess that he loves – and his own life.
A gritty Nigerian-influenced fantasy.
Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi
If there is one way to guarantee I’ll read your book, just mention sin eaters, and I’m in. The concept of people existing for the sole purpose of consuming the sins from another is just so fascinating to me. So, when I picked up Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi, I already went in with high expectations and was not disappointed! Though, I did need to step back away from it for a moment.
The concept is a fantastic one, and not all that far-fetched considering the real life medieval use of indulgences. In the city of Kos, there exists a specific subset of people that have the ability to swallow sins. Each sin they swallow, they take into themselves, the feelings of shame, madness, revulsion. They are permanently marked with these sins. As such, you can only imagine how the sin-eaters are treated. Not with reverence, but disgust over the various marks of defect on their skins. The fact that they “seemingly” have no problem with taking another’s sins. Little do they care that the sin-eaters are forced to do so by a corrupt system that relies on them entirely. None moreso than the wealthy and the royals (I have so much I want to say about this book but with regards to the royals, I’ll simply say I love how it does not follow typical YA convention — tweet me if you want to discuss!).
There is a smidge of romance, which really leads to the amazing build-up at the end! And boy, that ending was just fantastic! I cannot wait for the follow-up. It was a great payoff to everything that Onyebuchi steadily built and weaved through from the start.
Now, all that said, why did I mention earlier that I needed to step back away from it for a moment? Easy peasy. I was reading and kept wondering WHY I wasn’t as into it as I should have been. It had all the elements and the writing was strong. So, why? I stepped away and thought about what I was having trouble with. That’s when it hit me — the culture/language, it wasn’t something I was used to. Most YA fantasy tends to come to us from a very European backdrop. We have a few that stray (The Bone Witch is one), but they tend not to really use the words. Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova does, but I felt comfortable with that because I am latinx. So, after realizing that was what was giving me difficulty, I looked at myself and said get over it. If I can read Tolkien and all the gobbledegook languages he made up and not have a problem with it, this should be no different. I picked it back up, and it was night and day. Everything was so much easier. I got sucked it and loved every second of it. All it took was me identifying what was blocking me, to get my head in gear, unblock, and fall into an amazing story!
Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi is an amazing YA novel that finally breaks away from traditional European fantasy. It creates its own wonderful mythos and is so extremely rich in detail, I could taste the foods, smell the smells, and believe in the culture. I really cannot convey how much I want everyone to read this, and if you think you don’t ‘get’ it, think about why, and go again.
*Small note – there is an exclusive Pages and Pause Screen podcast on the patreon talking about potential racism in ya fantasy and ya fantasy reviews, for any interested listeners.