Book Eaters a yummy summer read

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Image courtesy of Tor
Image courtesy of Tor

THE BOOK EATERS
SUNYI DEAN
2022 Tor
$26.99
304 pages


As a child, Devon Fairweather's days were spent on Yorkshire moors near her family's mansion, exploring the woods, and playing with her older brother, Ramsey. She didn't worry about school, because she was a book eater: both nourishment and knowledge came from pages of literature and nonfiction. She particularly loved the taste of fairy tales.

She'd been a fearless child, secure in the knowledge that princesses like her were rare and never punished as long as they kept quiet, married twice, bore two children, then gracefully withdrew. Devon's brothers — and there were many — became knights or rulers of their family's quadrant. Other children — those unfortunate offspring born with a mind eater's curled proboscis — were whisked away at birth to became dragons, because they couldn't be trusted not to kill.

That was the way it was. Like everything in the family, it was as it'd always been, just as it was expected that princesses would relinquish their children — forcibly, if necessary.

Devon had lost her firstborn this way, and she vowed that it wouldn't happen again. So when her second-born cried with a telltale curled tongue and her husband prepared to send the baby to the knights, Devon weighed her options: find someone in the Ravenscar family to give the boy curing medicine; hunt for him biweekly, until he could hunt for himself; or let the family have her son.

Or she could run, as she'd done for three years now, as knights and dragons watched for her constantly and circled her everywhere. And her boy was always hungry. As he grew, so did the danger, and there'd be no happily ever after...

Princesses, knights, and dragons, oh my! They're there in the novel The Book Eaters, plus everything else you want in a dark fable — tattered cities, menacing thickets, evil step-relatives, monsters — all of which makes this a fairy tale that definitely isn't for five-year-olds.

It's probably not even the kind of book a sensitive soul would want to read before bedtime; the very idea of a world parallel to ours full of thick-browed dragons and exhausted princesses could either keep you awake or give you nightmares. It wouldn't help that you'd be happily plagued by multiple I-didn't-see-that-coming plotlines and a modern-not-modern heroine who fights misogyny, child-snatching, and being someone's lunch.

And how wonderful is author Sunyi Dean's prose? Well, on the first page, she shoves readers into a dank apartment above a car repair business, and we can practically smell the rubber of new tires. Indeed, it's gut-punch storytelling that shouts at the imagination.

No, sorry, this ain't the Brothers Grimm. It's much better: dark and tasty. You'll be obsessed with The Book Eaters. In fact, you'll devour it.