Caitlin Hext’s first shedding ceremony is imminent, but she’s far from prepared to produce a Snakeskin clone. When her Skin fails to turn to dust as expected, she must decide whether she wishes the newcomer alive or dead.
Worse still, it transpires that the Hext family may be of central importance to the survival of Charmers, a group of people with the inexplicable power to produce duplicates every seven years and, in the process, rejuvenate. In parallel with reporter Gerry Chafik and government aide Russell Handler, Caitlin must prevent the Great British Prosperity Party from establishing a corrupt new world order.
Firstly, I would like to thank Titan Books for sending me an advanced copy of this amazing book, I was totally sold on the blurb and the comparisons to the T.V show Humans – it was everything I hoped it would be.
The Fall in 1808 was a seemingly spectacular event, an event which led to the rewriting of modern history, as whilst Snakeskins is a contemporary setting it is very far from the UK that we know today. It has a feeling of being trapped in time, an 80’s vibe at times but with a dystopian feel. The effect of The Fall seemingly stifling the UK on the world stage as it holds closely the legacy of that wonderful yet terrifying day. Whilst we learn very little about what caused The Fall itself, pretty much just one sentence, it helped to lend an air of intrigue throughout. Usually as a reader I hate not being in the know, but once I realised that this story is very much based in the now, I let the narrative immerse me and I just went with the flow.
With 3 intertwining stories, I was kept on my toes throughout. I was struck by the divided society, the eliteness of the charmers and the fact that the country is run by a select few who’s ancestors just happened to be in the right place at the right time. The concept of self segregation by virtue of the financial prowess of the first families of the fall is stark. Catilin as one of only two charmer children at her state run school shows that it is very much a case of the haves and have not’s, and it’s not surprising that we are in a world with a country divided – perhaps not so different to current climes after all.
As well as the impact on societal structure, there is the snakeskins themselves. For a moment in time a new person is formed, a clone taking all the faults of the charmer with them, leaving the charmer anew. For a period of time, even if mainly fleeting, there is a mirror person sharing memories, experiences, scars and all. It was the expendability of the snakeskins that stuck with me the most, a discarded shell waiting in the winds, never having the opportunity to be more, to be accepted for even a few seconds as a person in their own right. As the story progressed I found myself feeling more empathy for the Snakeskins and more horrified and terrified at the reveals. As the divides reach a crescendo, Caitlin takes the biggest risk of all to understand the depth of the secrets at play and I admit I felt frightened for her.
There are heartfelt moments too though, the night of Caitlin’s first shedding was so emotional and beautifully depicted. Given the bleak landscape, it gave the event an almost ethereal feel. There are also people fighting for the rights and well being of those who are different, which restored a little of my faith in humanity. There is so much more I want to talk about but I think I’m pushing to the bounds of spoilers as it is. I was left exhilarated at the conclusion though, the book had a feeling of unease deftly woven through the pages throughout, which made the thriller style conclusion all the more breathtaking. I loved the way everything came together and the setting for it.
Snakeskins is a heart stopping and thought provoking read, which will make you question how you would see your own identity in those circumstances and challenge your perceptions of acceptance.