ARC Review: THE PHARMACIST by Rachelle Atalla

I received an eARC from the publishers through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.

Genre: Dystopia
Age Range: Adult
Star Rating: 1 star/DNF at 25%
Series: standalone

Synopsis:

Book cover for THE PHARMACIST: title in white on red with bunker door opening to reveal

THE BUNKER IS DESIGNED TO KEEP THEM ALL SAFE.

In the end, very few people made it to the bunker. Now they wait there for the outside world to heal. Wolfe is one of the lucky ones. She’s safe and employed as the bunker’s pharmacist, doling out medicine under the watchful eye of their increasingly erratic and paranoid leader.

BUT IS IT THE PLACE OF GREATEST DANGER?

But when the leader starts to ask things of Wolfe, favours she can hardly say no to, it seems her luck is running out. Forming an unlikely alliance with the young Doctor Stirling, her troubled assistant Levitt, and Canavan – a tattooed giant of a man who’s purpose in the bunker is a mystery – Wolfe must navigate the powder keg of life underground where one misstep will light the fuse. The walls that keep her safe also have her trapped.

How much more is Wolfe willing to give to stay alive?

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


Review:

I can see exactly why others would love this book – the slow build of unease that things are wrong, but not what, is well done and the heavily removed style mimics the wearying effect of living in a tightly controlled world for a claustrophobic effect. However, it wasn’t enough to engage me with this book.

While the slow build was done well, there wasn’t enough of a hook at the start to draw me in and keep my attention through that build. The events felt too mundane (for the world), not promising enough to snare my attention and make me wonder where it was going to go. There weren’t any questions I desperately wanted an answer to.

Honestly, I don’t think I had any questions at all about the plot at any point, questions about what would happen later. And questions are the biggest driver of narrative tension, the thing keeping you going because you just have to know how it’s resolved.

This is because Wolfe didn’t have any obvious goals – she wasn’t striving for anything, didn’t desperately want anything. While it matches the lethargy of the world inside the bunker, it made it hard to root for her as there was nothing to root for, nothing to hope she got in the end. Plus it bottomed out the momentum because I didn’t have anything to measure success by. I didn’t know if events were getting her further or closer to goals.

The formatting was also a little weird, and I don’t think it was just an eARC thing. It wasn’t strange line breaks all over the place – that was all fine – but instead there were no speech marks. It made it so hard to follow what was being said and what was being thought (particularly as it was written in first person.) That added a layer of confusion and having to read sections several times to work out what was happening – and who, if anyone, was speaking.

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