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Qui Est In Literis - MR Graham's Ramblings

MR Graham loves books. She loves the feel, the smell, and the stories inside. After careful consideration, however, she has decided the taste leaves something to be desired.

The Sin Collector (Book 1)

The Sin Collector (Book 1) - Jessica Fortunato The Premise:
Liliana, Sin Collector, an immortal and invulnerable creature who seems to have made Last Rites into a supernatural power, is suddenly confronted with a creepy clan of angry humans who have figured out how to kill Liliana’s kind – the Castus. What started as a fun globe-hopping adventure with a cute guy she knew from childhood turns into a miasma of Sin Collector politics, a love triangle, and the Castus trying to kill everyone.
The Good:
I had never heard of a paranormal story with quite this brand of creature before. I love the idea of the Sin Collectors and what they do. In short, the Sin Collectors are born to perform what is essentially the Last Rites for the dying. They draw out the sins of the subject and take those sins upon themselves, allowing the subject to pass unburdened into the next life. It’s a fascinating mythos, and I wish it had been explored further.
The villains were pretty spiffy, as well. Seeing themselves as a holy order, the Castus are outraged that Collectors would dare absorb the sins of the truly evil and allow genuinely bad people a chance at salvation. Honestly, I can see that happening. Just look at some of the religious conflicts that go on in the world today. They all pretty much boil down to “We’re good people, and you’re not, and you’re only worse because you claim you’re good people, too.” Underneath the magic and the sorcery, the hatred of the Castus is very true.
The work is too short to allow for really deep character development, but I liked most of the characters and could feel a strongly-developed backstory even for minor characters. The world is well-fleshed out, and so are most of its inhabitants. Honestly, one of my favourites only barely got any screen time. I would have loved to see more of the mysterious Rebecca, a Collector so old she is actually beginning to show her age.
Liliana’s character also starts out very strong. She is exasperated with her life, tired of her job, deprived of a real purpose by modernity’s rejection of the supernatural, and she adds a lovely dose of snark and humour to her narration. Unfortunately, that leads me to
The Bad:
For a hundred-and-twenty-something immortal who has seen far more than her fair share of death, suffering, and evil, Liliana comes into her whole ordeal with a startlingly juvenile mindset. She has a tendency to storm off in a fit and slam doors when she gets upset. I had thought for a while that she might be psychologically frozen at twenty years, when some people do still act like that, but other Collectors were shown as wise and hyper-mature as a result of their age and experience. I would have liked to see more of that in Liliana.

***BEGIN SPOILERS***
While Liliana is portrayed as being very smart and worldly, some of her actions do not reflect that. For instance, when her childhood friend William, another Collector, reappears more after more than a hundred years of no contact, she leaves behind the entire life she has built and goes to Ireland with him. While I can understand her boredom and thirst for adventure, the impression I got is that she is willing to leave everything she has worked for primarily because William is hot.
When she begins to suspect William of being traitorous and possibly homicidal, she pushes her suspicions under the rug and has frantic end-of-the-world sex with him. The line is actually “LiLi this could be our last night on earth. Don’t you think we should enjoy it?” There is no mention of her regretting this decision when her suspicions are proven right. It really felt more like an excuse to insert sex, however tastefully described, than an attempt to move the plot forward.
And then, once the traitorous William has been disposed of, Liliana falls in love with her father-figure. Granted, this father figure is physically stuck at twenty years old, like all Collectors, and granted, Liliana has not seen him for some time; however, he is still more than four hundred years older than she is, and he raised her from a small child, and he did kidnap her in order to perform a magical ritual on her against her will.
In some ways, the hostility between William and Olexander (the father-figure) reminds me of the Edward-Jacob dynamic in Twilight, not least because the hostility apparently stems entirely from the two of them fighting over the girl.
***END SPOILERS***

Finally, the book could use a good copyedit. Nearly all of the dialogue is incorrectly capitalised and punctuated. Where there should be a comma and a lowercase, there is nearly always a period and a capital letter, and vice versa. Since the capitalisation and punctuation are consistent, I am more inclined to think that they are not merely typos. I am a strong proponent of using sentence fragments for emphasis, but in The Sin Collector, their frequency is distracting, and in several places, a sentence changes directions in mid-thought or is missing a necessary word.

In Conclusion:
I enjoyed the story. I found it well-paced and highly original, though I felt that the love triangle eventually overshadowed the element of suspense and danger that I liked so much. I hesitate to call Liliana a strong female lead, but as this is the first book in a trilogy, I feel she could easily evolve into a powerful woman. Anyone without my grammar-nazi tendencies could probably get past the syntax issues.
The Sin Collector was not exactly my cup of tea, but I will probably be looking for the next book in the series when it comes out in 2013, and I can see this developing a massive following.