The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean


Out on the Yorkshire Moors lives a secret line of people for whom books are food, and who retain all of a book's content after eating it. To them, spy novels are a peppery snack; romance novels are sweet and delicious. Eating a map can help them remember destinations, and children, when they misbehave, are forced to eat dry, musty pages from dictionaries.

Devon is part of The Family, an old and reclusive clan of book eaters. Her brothers grow up feasting on stories of valor and adventure, and Devon—like all other book eater women—is raised on a carefully curated diet of fairytales and cautionary stories.

But real life doesn't always come with happy endings, as Devon learns when her son is born with a rare and darker kind of hunger—not for books, but for human minds.


Let's get this straight from the start, this book is amazing and throughout the whole book I got a miasma of feels - anger, sorrow, joy, wonder,excitement and many many others. This book worked on so many levels, but I suppose you may want to know what it's about. 

I think the best way to describe this is from Sunyi Dean's own words - it's a bizarre, gothic - Yorkshire mom thriller! Take from that what you will, but it pretty much encapsulates the story.

The book centres around Devon, a Book Eater and is split into two points of view, Devon in the present, on the run with her son Cai, and then there is Devon in the past where we learn more about her past and how she got to the stage she is now. Through this aspect of the story, we learn about Book Eater Society and how it operates. We learn that female book eaters are rare and are treated as a saleable commodity due to the fact that they have the ability to have children. We learn of the cruel way that women are treated as 'princesses' but are contracted by their families to have marriages and have no control over their own bodies. 

Information about the Book Eaters and the world they inhabit is drip fed throughout Devon's story to build a comprehensive world that lives side by side to our own and that they are organised as a group of families spread across the UK, eating books as sustenance, imbibing their knowledge and information.

However, there are not only book eaters there are mind eaters too (or dragons as they are referred to) who take the experiences of us folk here on earth by eating our minds and assimilating our experiences and personalities. 

Throughout the story we gain snippets of insights into the lore of the book eaters through extracts of familiar works of fiction, but also the characters own diaries, at the head of each chapter. These little snippets inform us of the Book Eaters and their origins. Giving the information they they are some kind of alien/supernatural being whose leader is the Book Collector. They were sent here many ages ago to collect information about the human race. However they have become part of our society, albeit a very cosseted one that has their own culture and live apart from society.

We also learn of the 'Knights' and the 'Dragons', and how the knights rule the houses with fear, setting up these 'marriage contracts ' on order to barter fertile young female book eaters. In amidst this are the mind eaters. The genetic aberration that all the families fear, who are used as killing machines by the Knights.

I have to admit, I found this book to be amazing on so many levels. When we meet Devon originally, she is a broken woman, searching for minds for her son Cai to devour due to him being a mind eater. However, as we move through the story the motives for Devon's actions become apparent as we learn she is looking for a way to manage her son's condition and what lengths she will go to.

Whilst the story runs like a thriller in one aspect , we also get the heartbreaking events that lead us to where we are now. Devon, is basically a person that has been broken by the events that have led her to her current circumstances. We see how fiercely protective she is of her son and how she wants to break away from the cruel society that is the book eaters. We also learn that whilst she is damaged, she has unlimited capacity for love and will protect those that she loves.

I have to say that this book is a wonderful debut. At times it is harsh and there are elements of horror in there. There is some gore in there, but the true horror lies with the subugation of women in the story and the cruel treatment that they undergo, not just by the men, but also other women and the pervasively insidious traditions that lie at the heart of book eater society.

For me, it put me in mind of a number of different things like, Under the Skin, Dracula, at times, bits of Wuthering Heights, and even elements of Brian Yuzna's Society. Like I said, I don't know if that is the case but it certainly brought them to my mind.

The Book Eaters is one of the best debuts I have read, and even after having finished it over a week ago, it is there, lodged at the back of my brain. If you like your books quirky, with elements of gothic horror, and a touch of thriller fiction, you really need to read this book.



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