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‘The Book Eaters’ book review: A fascinating story with gorgeous writing

‘The Book Eaters’ book review: A fascinating story with gorgeous writing

A secret line of people lives out on the Yorkshire Moors in England. These people eat books. They retain the book’s content after eating it. They eat maps to remember the routes and the destinations. For dessert, they sink their (book)teeth into romance. Children, when they have to be punished, are forced to eat dictionaries, which are considered mundane. Devon Fairweather is a part of an old, reclusive clan of book eaters. Her brother eats stories of adventure while she is fed fairy tales and cautionary stories.

Then she has a son. He isn’t a book-eater like her. Instead, he feasts on the minds and souls of people. Devon flees with her son, Cai, as she doesn’t want him to be turned into a weapon for the family as most mind-eaters are destined to become. Devon must figure out how to cure her son or risk losing him forever while dodging her family. Every soul Cai consumes makes him lose a little of himself so Devon doesn’t have a lot of time.

Almost every other BookTuber I have subscribed to on YouTube mentioned ‘The Book Eater’ by Sunyi Dean in their videos last year. The story—about a clan of book-eating people if you can call them that—sounded intriguing. But I couldn’t find the book anywhere. Then I came across a copy at Bookverse in Civil Mall in Kathmandu. Despite the tiniest font size ever, I bought it. My friends said I’d probably go blind by the end of the book. Having heard so much about it, it was a risk I was willing to take.

I must confess I wish the font size was better but I have no other complaints with the book. The story is fascinating. The writing is gorgeous. The characters are lovely, complex, and interesting. The events line up beautifully. There is always something happening, you are never bored, and the story moves forward at a comfortable pace. I could conjure the scenes in my head as Dean has masterfully crafted her world, paying attention to even the most minor detail.

The narrative alternates between the past and the present but it’s not difficult to keep track of what’s happening in the two timelines. The past and the present chapters complement one another, making it easy for the readers to figure out the intent behind the protagonist’s actions. The story deals with some important issues like trauma and patriarchy. I had to put the book down to think about things several times. Dean makes you contemplate quite a lot.

If I’m honest, the story takes on a dark, sinister tone at times. A five-year-old devouring people’s minds and adopting their personalities feels a little disturbing. At one point, having devoured over 25 people, he acts like an adult. His words and actions don’t suit him. It quite literally gave me the chills. Dean uses this opportunity to ask some provocative questions about how our minds define us. It was insightful but creepy nonetheless. All in all, I enjoyed ‘The Book Eaters’ and I would highly recommend it.

Fantasy fiction/Horror 

The Book Eaters

Sunyi Dean

Published: 2022

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Pages: 298, Paperback