Book Review: “The Scarecrow Queen” by Melinda Salisbury

The Scarecrow Queen is the eagerly awaited conclusion to Melinda Salisbury’s Sin Eater’s Daughter trilogy, which began with its eponymous installment published in 2015 and was followed by The Sleeping Prince in 2016. In the series finisher, it’s do or die for protagonists Twylla and Errin. Either they find a way to destroy Aurek forever – or relinquish their world to his power.

The Scarecrow Queen contains a number of elements that Salisbury writes very well: Aurek is dreadfully horrific, much darker than what a lot of YA fantasy offers, and her romantic tensions are as frustrating as ever (though there’s little time for them in this book – there’s a war to be fought!). By this point, most of the magic Salisbury invented for this series has already been introduced as well, but when we do get a couple of new glimpses, it’s pretty cool stuff. If you were a fan of the first two books, it is definitely worth finishing the series out to find out what happens.

Still, I must admit that The Scarecrow Queen felt a little clumsy to me. I think that the problem is that there was just too much that needed to be stuffed into the final book. As readers know, there are two main protagonists. The first book is told in first person perspective from Twylla’s point of view, and the second primarily as a first person perspective from Errin’s point of view. As I noted in my original review of The Sleeping Prince, this switch felt pretty jarring at first, but I eventually came to like Errin a lot (maybe even more than Twylla).

In The Scarecrow Queen, Salisbury has to try to do justice to both characters’ storylines, and that puts a strain on the narrative. She attempts to split the book between both perspectives (the back and forth and some strange third person sections help account for why this book feels so weird), but Errin’s is eventually nudged out to give precedence to Twylla. So even though we find out what happens to Errin and the people important to her, it doesn’t carry the same satisfaction we might have gotten if we had seen things from her perspective. In trying to serve all of the compelling story threads Salisbury introduced earlier in the series, I think very few things ended up being entirely satisfying. The major climax of the book takes a long time to occur, and the book ends immediately after – I think I may have gotten whiplash from the ending.

But even though the structure of this book didn’t quite work for me, I still have a lot of admiration for the author. I think there were a lot of wonderful ideas and character building that went into this series – the author’s imagination seemed to exceed the bounds of the YA trilogy form. I look forward to watching how her writing develops in the future.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review.