It’s not often that I don’t know where to begin with a review, but the story of The Book Eaters defies words. The title grabbed my attention, the synopsis sealed the deal and, the rest as they say, is history. Hook, line, and sinker, this is a book that will for sure – despite being only half way through the year – be in the top echelons of my most loved books of 2022.
Gorgeously written, the concept of The Book Eaters is so unique as to verge on the absurd, and yet, WOW, does its originality work.
Fittingly, England serves as the backdrop for the at times, pompous and old-fashioned nature of the six remaining book eater Families, who form the core of The Book Eaters narrative. Born into the North Yorkshire based, Fairweather Family, Devon is a book eater – a supernatural humanoid being, who consumes books as sustenance and in doing so takes on their contents and knowledge.
There is a natural flow to the plot, as chapters alternate from the present day to the past with readers simultaneously following Devon’s journey in the present day, whilst also learning about her past and the history of the Families. A history that is as dark as the blackest night and one where all is certainly not as it seems. For the Families, secrets are a necessity of survival as not all of their kind are born book eaters, some such as Devon’s son, Cai, are born mind eaters – whose sustenance is human minds. And whilst the destiny of most mind eaters is to become a Dragon under the command of the Knights, Devon knows of a drug, Redemption, that can save her son from his fate.
The only problem is, the Ravenscar Family are the only producers and the patriarchs kept the ingredients and process a tightly guarded secret. Unfortunately for Cai, the Ravenscar clan imploded upon the enactment of a family coup, and so Devon’s options for her son are running out; either he consumes humans, starves to death or gets ‘put down’ by the Families. But a mother’s love conquers all, right?
As Sunyi Dean unravels the mysteries of the Families, readers have plenty to sink their book teeth into, from the exploration of a mother’s love for her children, to gender stereotypes, forced marriage, sacrifice and the blurry lines of ones own morals. There are many twists and turns in this dark and at times thrilling story, plus there’s the whole imagination aspect of eating books for knowledge, of being able to assign flavours, textures and smells to books in a completely new way – imagine how many books it would be possible to ‘read’ if we actually ate them instead!
I know without doubt, that I would have ended up reading this book regardless of the identity of the main characters (it really is that fantastic!), but The Book Eaters is all the more sweeter for the presence of an array of queer characters, not least Devon’s blossoming relationship with Hester, which whilst it’s never explicitly stated, is implied to be Sapphic in nature. It is however worth noting that this aspect of the story is a subplot, it’s there but it’s not the main reason for the story and in all fairness, I don’t think I would have wanted it to be.
The Book Eaters is a tale that should be read for what it is, a dark and thrilling urban fantasy, which will set your imagination on fire, anything beyond that is a bonus in my eyes.
By the end of the story, despite any loose ends having been nicely tidied up, there is an overwhelming feeling of there being more to come from Devon et al, wishful thinking or not(?), the ending of this book is such that there is scope for a sequel, and I truly hope that this is something the author pursues.
I received an ARC of this book from Harper Voyager via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Available on 18/08/2022 from (and other book sellers):