Review of Skeletal by Emma Pullar

Gale City is the last city in the world and under the strict control of the illusive Centrals.When females reach adulthood, they’re given the chance to compete at Showcase for the honour of becoming surrogates for the Morbihan – a highly intelligent, obese race of people, unable to procreate naturally. All the other girls are excited to become hosts, all except Megan Skyla. Convinced there’s more to life, Skyla teams up with an unlikely friend and they go in search of a cure for the Morbihan condition. Things don’t go to plan and their journey becomes a harrowing quest fraught with danger and deceit.How can Skyla discover the truth when everything she’s been told is a lie? Can anyone in Gale City ever really be free?Skyla is about to discover that freedom has a price and she’s going to have to fight to survive.

Going into Skeletal it’s clear that it takes it inspiration from a number of other sources, some on genre and some surprisingly not.  From the forced use of the female body to reproduce in a nod to the Handmaids Tale to the Morbihan’s use of the hover chairs as they are so overweight which reminded me of Disney’s Wall-E – but Disney this really is not. I have to say there was a lot about about this book which was fantastic but unfortunately it just missed the mark for me.  I very much enjoyed the darker parts, I think because I have been reading a lot of YA recently it made these moments all the more shocking.  The world outside of the Morbihan area of Gale City is harsh, filled with outcasts, gang culture and drug addiction.  It’s very much a society of “have and have not’s” with the have not’s suffering more than they perhaps should.  I would love to have known more about the cultural hierarchy and how the city came to be that way.  It’s a truly dystopian future which is silent on the whens and hows but we eventually get some answers in a twist that sadly doesn’t feel as shocking as it should.  It’s quite the story game changer though but I think my mind was on too many other parts of the story to really take it in which is a shame as it’s quite the revelation, it’s tied into a lot of events which I was reeling from so perhaps could have been given a bit more build time.   There is a lot of violence and scenes that are vividly technicolour at the times when you would rather they weren’t!  The Mutils are horrifying to imagine and the authors use of aroma’s to paint a picture really bring the true extent of the world home.  It’s incredibly descriptive and not at all for the faint hearted, it feels more horror than thriller at times. For me one of the most memorable scenes involves Skyla being locked in a facility with a rising wave of something you don’t even want to think about, the gasping and page turning pace is fantastic.

Character wise, Skyla is a difficult one. To start you really feel for her, she just wants to be left alone and has no interest in becoming a host.  However, as her character progresses she becomes pretty unlikeable, but the author does seem to give her some sense of self realisation of that fact. Sadly though it does mean that a lot of impact in the closing stages was lost for me, I don’t know.  Personally, I hate triangles so that probably didn’t help with my feelings towards her.  There is a spark of getting the right thing done and I’m sure she’ll turn it around with a renewed sense of vengeance. Bunce is an interesting character, as a younger Morb he still has all his faculties and it’s his character which becomes the most enriched as he seems to be as unwilling to accept his future as Skyla but for very different reasons.  Kian is one which I want to know so much more about, given that book 2 is “Avian” i’m hoping we’ll get more of his story as there is certainly a lot more going on which created an almost fantasy element to the story, and why am I feeling so strangely drawn towards Bullet?

Where did it fall short then? The revelation involving Clover left me feeling confused and “what’s next” it didn’t seem to really factor into much. Tess’s arc felt rushed and to be honest, I thought there would be much more to arise out of an underworld bargain made by Skyla.  The sex wasn’t particularly well written which surprised me as earlier connections in the story felt organic, but when this level was reached with the characters the writing just felt cringy. Maybe I’ll revisit some of these points after reading book 2 however, I have to accept that it was very much a page turner with imagary that stays firmly entrenched in the mind, with thriller style pacing and situations which individually did get my heart thumping.

One big issue, which is I would assume down to the publisher and not the author (so i’m not deducting anything for it) is that the way book looks isn’t great.  The chapter openers offer a baffling use of drop caps and the scene breaks are huge and took up half a page of my kindle! This was very distracting (perhaps more so as i’m a formatter) and something that perhaps needs to be looked at.

I certainly want to know how the ends get tied together and for the most part it did find this a great read so it gets a solid 4*

Skeletal is currently free for kindle at Amazon here

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