Book Review: THE BOOK EATERS by Sunyi Dean

Title in black on pale cream with ripped pages around
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
Age Range: Adult
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: Standalone


Book cover for THE BOOK EATERS: title in black on parchment with a house and ripped pages

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. 

Blurb taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


THE BOOK EATERS is a dark contemporary fantasy about secret societies, motherhood, and the lengths people will go to in order to protect the ones they loved.

I loved the idea of the book eaters, people who need to consume books to survive, the words in printed form (but not shredded) to be sustained and then gain that knowledge. The idea that types of print have different tastes as well as the genres themselves. It’s such a small little detail that wouldn’t have been missed if it wasn’t in there but it made it all seem more realistic. As soon as it was pointed out, I was all “of course they’d taste different, duh” but it hadn’t crossed my mind until then. (Also as someone who’s spent about eighteen months researching Old English literature, the Families’ preference for older books absolutely made me want to see them toppled because they were clearly to blame for me having such a hard time due to the lack of literature surviving.)

The book is told across two timelines – the present day of Devon trying to find the people with the pills to help her son, and the past that led her to that point right from childhood. The past was very interesting as it showed how rigid and outdated the society was, the way it used women like broodmares and then tried to break all parental/filial attachments. Devon does not do what is wanted and the book is her coming to terms with what it means to be part of the society and then deciding what to do about that.

Which leads to a story of motherhood. It’s messy and imperfect and involves lies and sacrificing herself and others to protect her son, but it’s motherhood all the same. Not the rosy picture society often paints, but something brutal and raw. And OK, the book eating people and sheer amount of death is not what happens to most mothers, but the fact it’s not all happiness and contentment and ease is so realistic and I loved seeing a mother be fierce but also be defined as something more than a mother.

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