ARC Review: The Pharmacist, by Rachelle Atalla.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Release date: 12 May 2022.

Pages: 353

Representation:  NA.

Trigger warnings: Abduction, abortion, suicide, drug abuse, sexual assault, physical assault, mention of rape, miscarriage, birth, infertility, indirect mention of eugenics. 

Summary: Wolfe remembers a time before the Bunker when life was about meeting friends for coffee, fresh air and freedom. She knows she’s only there because she’s needed; the bankers, politicians and other important people wouldn’t be able to survive without doctors and a Pharmacist. When their leader starts to ask for favours from her, will she betray those she knows? Are creature comforts worth anothers’ life? How far will she go to survive in a world where survival means a life locked underground?

Purchase the book using the following links to support Indie bookshops, and me:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The pharmacist is a surprisingly heavy read that conjures multiple emotions mixed like a cocktail of prescriptions. 

It’s always challenging to write about characters that are enclosed or trapped. We learn just enough about the Bunker so that everything makes sense, but not enough so that we have the whole story; it gives the entire book an air of intrigue and mystery as we wonder when or if we’re ever going to learn more. It helps give the story the suspense to push it forward and adds to the atmosphere.

Wolfe is a complicated character; she understands she’s only in the Bunker because she got lucky, but she seems willing to risk her place a lot. Everything she does seems to go against what she thinks she’s meant to do. I liked her, even if I didn’t always agree with her. An unreliable narrator definitely magnified Wolfes emotions and experiences. I was incredibly pleasantly surprised to see that she didn’t fall into the “chosen one” trope of dystopian genres; it added to her likeability and the readers’ ability to relate to her. She was enough being an ordinary citizen, and I liked that. She was realistic enough that I cared about her and wanted to see where her story ended.

The plot was interesting but didn’t feel like it had any high stakes despite what was happening. I wasn’t entirely invested in it. I knew what it was trying to be, with its mysterious, two-faced leader and blatant dictatorship, but it just missed the mark. I think this was because everything felt segmented; the plot points were lined up one after the other, like a neat list ready to be checked off. It broke the flow of Wolfes story up. It didn’t help that the author used no punctuation to indicate speech, this is a personal preference, but it made it seem blocky and harder to read. 

 It was still a fun, exciting read. I didn’t struggle through it, but it wasn’t something that I couldn’t wait to keep reading. I’d reread it if I had the urge.

Shining glory: The descriptions made it so easy to visualise the Bunker, and helped intensify the claustrophobia the characters were experiencing. The narrative was extreme well written.

Fatal flaw: Each plot point starts and ends within a chapter or two despite everything that happens. Rather than a flowing story, it feels more fragmented.

Read this if: You like a dystopian thriller that isn’t afraid to deal with complex subjects and want to escape the “chosen one” theme that runs through the genre.

Skip this if: You struggle with complex topics. You want a read that feels full and flows through from beginning to end. You want plot points that come full circle, with a beginning, middle and end that explains everything. You prefer writing that uses quotation marks to signify speech.

Purchase the book using the following links to support Indie bookshops, and me:


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