Amanda Denham comes out of the gate swinging with her debut novel, Sin Eater. Grounded in the very real turbulence of young love, friendship, and consequences, Denham takes an ordinary, if fraught, teenage drama, lobs a single, magical grenade into her story, and lets her characters’ lives explode. That grenade, the titular sin eater with her ability to wipe memories by accident and intention, causes a blast that ripples through every aspect of the story, twisting what might have been trite plot points in a young adult melodrama into something truly extraordinary.
Anchored by a narrator who is flawed but trying to be more, in the same ways many of us were flawed but still trying as we transitioned into adulthood, and populated by a cast of believable foils, Sin Eater speaks to universal themes of adolescent mistakes and the slow acceptance that only comes with experience. At its heart, this is a story about growth, and Denham conveys that growth beautifully across her narrative.
Written with warmth and set simultaneously over the course of a few days “Now” and several months back “Then”, Sin Eater is a fast read. The plot skips back and forth between these timelines at a steady clip, never rushing through the action, nor dragging when it comes to the drama. For those of you who don’t write long form narratives or spend much time reading the first drafts of novels, this is no mean feat. Pacing is everything in a novel, and to find pacing like this in a first outing from a young author is truly a fresh delight.
A powerful novel from a distinctive new voice, if Sin Eater is Denham’s opening salvo, then I for one can’t wait to see what she does next.