Monday, August 27, 2012

Review: Skin Trade by Tonia Brown

Title: Skin Trade
Author: Tonia Brown
Series: (?)
Pages: 236
Publisher: Createspace
Date Published: April 6, 2012
Format: eBook
Genre: Zombie/Western
Source: Provided by Author in exchange for honest review

The Great Undead Uprising of 1870 devastated the western frontier and destroyed the Indian Nations. Though the Army was able to contain the menace before it could devour the entire country, the United States lost claim to her western territories as the survivors fled to the relative safety of the east coast.
Samantha Martin is among the rare folks traveling west, seeking asylum within the infected territories. Running from a past that threatens to consume her, the young Sam dons the mantle of a male and hides in an all boys’ workhouse that borders these Badlands. From there she is thrust into the service of the skin trade; the terrible deed of trapping and skinning zombies for profit. The work is grueling and perilous, but along the way she finds out what it takes to be a man, why she misses being a woman, but most of all she learns what it means to be human.
Can Sam keep her masquerade up long enough to flee the Badlands, or will the outlaws that rule the western frontier find out she’s female before she can escape?

My Review:
My first impressions of Skin Trade were definitely intrigued. I don't think I've read a book with more mixed genres ever before. It's set in the American west, or what would have been the American west had there not been the Great Revenant Uprising of '70 which decimated what used to be the American Frontier. Revanants...a.k.a.the undead...have become a plague upon American society and have turned the most successful up and coming states such as California into wastelands of the dead. Freeze-frame on our hero...or should I say heroine? Sam (Samantha) has been living in an all-boys workhouse. Why would any girl want to cut her hair, disguise herself as a boy, and do back-breaking manual labor for 12 hours a day? Well...maybe to run from a past that's hunting her and memories that she can't escape.

You go into the book thinking that this is going to be just another zombie book. A good zombie book, because of the interesting setting and original premise of an American West Zombie Uprising, but a regular old zombie book regardless. Then the kicker gets you. I suppose with the name of the book it should have been obvious to me, but I was still pretty shocked when I got far enough into the book to realize just what was going on. Not only are Sam and Pete training to be zombie hunters, a staple in zombie literature, but they are working the skin trade. As in revenant skins...former human beings being skinned, cured, and turned into handbags. Yeah people...this book goes there. and I loved it. It was sick and depraved, but not really malicious you know? It's like...think back to the historical American West. Things weren't all peaches and cream by any means. They had gangs and robbers, killings and hangings, and lawlessness ran abound. The mindset of the people at the time was a harsh one, and I think Skin Trade accurately captures that mentality..of course with the added fabulousness of zombies. Everyone is in the game to make a profit, and the most profitable endeavor at the time was dealing in ex-human flesh.

The pacing of the novel was very quick. Wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am kind of action and plot which I loved. Tonia manages to create a completely unique world to house her undead minions than I've ever experienced before. I read LOTS of zombie books and even I had trouble figuring out where the story was going to go with this book. I kept freaking out because something completely random would pop up and shake everything up from the direction you thought the story or the characters would go and you end up in an entirely new story half the time. Definitely unexpected. 

There were honestly only a few minor things that bothered me about the book. The biggest one was that the dialogue seemed a tad forced. There really wasn't a good connection between some characters and the dialogue really reflected that by being choppy, short, and sometimes awkward. At the same time, I will acknowledge that it did sound kind of like a western screenplay or movie. You could almost picture an old time version of this movie playing on TCM or something. The problem was that this was a novel, and the dialogue needed to be fleshed out a little more to make it more story-like and less like I was reading the screenplay for the original True Grit. 

I would definitely reccomend Skin Trade for those of you who are a little worn out with the same-old-same old zombie story. It's got lots of adventure, tons of intrigue, and a plot that terrifies as well as satisfies. It pulls you in from page one and holds you tight until you can't put the book down for any reason other than finishing it. You should probably add Skin Trade to your TBR pile :) 


  1. What a weird cover! I'll so recommend it to one of my friends, she's obsessed with zombies :))