Here’s a basic recap of what the last book was about. Twylla was the titular Sin Eater’s daughter, and her mother, who’s obviously the Sin Eater, has to eat people after death so they can be sent to the stars. She was also the executioner because she was able to kill with a single touch, or so she presumed. There was a new guard for her, Lief Vastel, after her old one was poisoned, and a clash between him and Prince Merek was up for the grabs. But now it’s been a little while since Twylla left the castle. Lief is now missing but presumed dead after a midnight raid that revealed The Sleeping Prince has awoken from his slumber after five centuries. He controls indestructible rock golems and is killing everything in his wake as he marches along, and no one is prepared because of the generations that forgot the story of the prince wasn’t just a story. Meanwhile, there’s an alchemist in training named Errin who’s living in a refugee village with a supremely sick and literally demented mother, and Errin has been having to sell homemade illegal concoctions. One day out of desperation, she meets a strange guy who always keeps a hood over his hair and his entire face, who’s willing, presumably, to give her a slimy helping hand.
The Sleeping Prince is brighter and more adventurous than Twylla’s story, with a few clever surprises, but Melinda Salisbury’s writing still isn’t able to give the same pull that makes all the best books so investing and lucious. When I read a book, I feel the description of the environment is important, but not as necessary as talking about the feelings, fears and desires of the people in them. The book also made an unfortunate choice having such a hell-broke-loose beginning (it even says that) and then slowing way down, bringing a feel of disbelief that Errin has the time to ponder everything as the rest of the village leaks away to different places we don’t see them going to.
Also, a major problem was I wasn’t as invested in the adventure as Errin was. She has a goal that clearly means a lot to her which involves her mother, but I wish we could’ve been given some time to get to know Errin’s true mother before the plot ends up being all about her. It’s like reading about the rescue of someone we know nothing about; it’s harder to get invested, especially when the Mother’s madness going rogue across the region would’ve been a much more fun story. There are too many portions of the book so forgettable, and not being as invested makes it occasionally hard to remember names of locations on the main map post-put-down.
There’s a strange hunter Errin meets when she’s trying to trek to a safer location, and he ends up saying a name in response to a question of hers that made absolutely zero sense. And not much goes on considering there’s a war. Feels more like a political climate over an issue that doesn’t really affect our protagonist.
But some good things are that the first chapter is a massacre of epic proportions, something the first book never dreamed of, making us feel like Salisbury is this time destroying our expectations of how far some of these characters will go before they croak. The dream chapters are interesting enough, and the last quarter of the book picks up; I can’t leave that out, and Errin utilizes some knowledge of chemistry that really surprised me. It had a good mix of using real and partially fantastical substances. The history of The Sleeping Prince was also more intriguing that a lot of other histories displayed in young-adult fantasies.
So maybe I’ll take one for the team and read the last book, The Scarecrow Queen. I never thought I’d say that, because in the first book, there was no adventure, a love triangle that was way overly typical, its ideas of incest and man-eating just come out as gross and nonsensical, and its epilogue ruined the cliffhanger by killing off a character I was hoping to see more of and showing off history I wanted to wait for the next book. And The Sleeping Prince did eventually have adventure, it actually had some independence and no love triangle this time, there’s no grossness and its epilogue is decent. But I very rarely give a positive recommendation to a book that required a lot of breaks to re-energize, in both the story and my senses.