“Are you good? Are you kind?”
Synopsis: On the Yorkshire Moors live a family of BookEaters, One of Six Families. Steeped in rigid tradition, set roles and rules, the Patriarchy of the BookEater Family dictates their way of life. But where girls are to be good ‘Princesses’, how far will Devon go to protect her son?
CW/TW: Violence/Gore/Violence against children/Cannibalistic behaviour/Sexism/Forced marriage/Implied Rape/Forced separation from children/Drugging/Mentions of Domestic Abuse/Cult-behaviour/Infertility/Emotional abuse/others may be present.
Rep: Lesbian/Sapphic Rep (MC and Secondary character)/Asexual Rep (Side Character – important character)/PoC Characters.
The BookEaters, by Sunyi Dean is a unique and compelling fantasy-horror. I picked this up out of curiosity for the concept and was thoroughly impressed, and surprised, by just how fantastic this book was.
The BookEaters, by Sunyi Dean is a captivating read. The prose is gorgeously descriptive and yet easy to read – perfectly capturing the true horror of the BookEater life, and the life of MindEaters. Sunyi’s prose is compelling because it is full of heart. As a reader, I could really feel the heart and emotions that went into this story, that combined with the rich descriptions and brutality of this world made this a truly fascinating read that you cant help but connect with.
The story is told from a single POV, that of the MC – Devon. However, alongside this single POV we get a dual timeline, Devon growing up in the Family (past), and Devon on the run with her son (present). The single POV worked perfectly for this particular story, and the dual timeline helped keep the book well paced from start to finish. Every event that occurs, occurs from Devon’s perspective which was incredibly interesting – her POV is intriguing because, right from the start, there are mysteries, half-truths and secret plots and plans that weave together, and Devon can only see and plan so much. I really enjoyed how this book was written, and thought the perspective perfectly complimented the plot and pace.
The plot of this book is unique and fascinating. I absolutely love fantasy mixed with horror or thriller elements and this book does it perfectly. The past timeline centres around Devon growing up and following the Family traditions of the BookEaters. The present timeline follows Devon on the run with her son, Cai. As Devon looks for a way to protect Cai and control his hunger, she seeks out those who can aide her in this. Simultaneously, we watch as Devon comes to see the true nature of the Family and ends up as a fugitive. This book is incredibly easy to spoil so I’ll keep this section brief but I really loved this story for a few reasons.
Firstly, I adored the concept of BookEaters, it was unique and incredibly fascinating to watch and learn about. Secondly, the inclusion of MindEaters added much more depth to this world and the story. The horror drawn from comparing the BookEaters and the MindEaters, but then the slow acknowledgement that both are monstrous but then, perhaps, not inherently is quite intriguing. Thirdly, there are no ‘good’ characters in this book – they are all monsters in their own way which makes the story all the more interesting because everyone has their own motives, plans and goals. Fourthly, I adored that this book focused on a single mother and her son and the love between them. Finally, something I really found interesting was the effects/consequences of Book and MindEating. This element really added depth to the world and story but expanding on the abilities of the ‘Eaters but also giving them restrictions and costs – it added realism and made it much more intriguing to learn about.
Overall, I really enjoyed the multiple elements of this plot and was intrigued by how they all came together. There is a subtlety to the plot, to how it handles the good and the bad of love, to how it handles what is good and what is not, and how it pieces together multiple plans and goals in a clever and intricate web to create a story with clever twists and turns. The ending is melancholic but hopeful, and while this appears to be a standalone I would love to return to this world and these characters!
The Characters are all very compelling and complex. All of the characters are, in their own way, monstrous – none of them are quite truly good. Devon is an excellent main character and one who is easy to feel deeply for, despite her flaws and monstrousness. Devon is a single mother, lesbian and BookEater – having lived under the Family’s rule for most of her life, watching Devon try everything and anything to ensure her son’s freedom was compelling and emotional. Devon is a strong and determined character who commits monstrous acts in the name of love, and yet she is also a character who has a softness to her. Cai, Devon’s son, is a MindEater and, despite being only a 5 year old child, is quite the character. As monstrous as his mother, but with the same softness, Cai is intriguing in many ways. Some other characters I really liked were Jarrow and Hester, both of who are interesting from their introduction and continue to be so the more we learn about them.
The dynamics between all of the characters were also well done and there is a hint of sapphic romance throughout the book. While the book deals with Patriarchy, Sexism and Oppression, it also shows Devon’s queer journey. The book also deals with the theme of True family, and what makes a True family. All of these themes are dealt with in clever and sensitive ways, and yet Dean doesn’t hide from the brutal and monstrous nature of this world and it’s people.
Overall, The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean is a fascinating and intriguing read. I loved the plot and the characters, and was fully immersed from start to finish!
*I received an eARC via Netgalley from HarperCollins UK in exchange for an honest review! Thank you!*