Patrick D'Orazio's Review of Tonia Brown's Skin Trade
Skin Trade takes place in the imagined old west where the dead have risen and made much of the country has been left uninhabitable, while the United States remains little more than a sliver of land along the east coast that is zombie-free. Beyond that are the Borderlands, where the government promises new growth and a life for those willing to risk it, though the fear of revenants keeps most people living in squalor out east rather than taking the risk. Beyond the Borderlands are the lands where revenants roam free. That is also where the trappers ply their trade, but it isn’t animals their after.
Samantha, a girl who has escaped a wretched life in a brothel down south, has made it to the borderlands where she has disguised herself as a boy so she can go to a workhouse with other boys desperate to find a way to make a living. There she is recruited by a trapper who needs apprentices to learn his trade. Sam realizes that there is great danger in going west, but knows this may be her best chance to put the past behind her and learn a trade that could set her free. But little does she know about all the dark secrets of the skin trade, though she’ll soon find out.
Skin Trade is quite an intriguing entry into the zombie pantheon of literature, with the undead see as animals to be slaughtered and skinned for the valuable leather they can offer up. They are dangerous and to be feared, but it is the men who ply this trade who represent the real darkness in this story. Sam is a tough, scrappy young lady who has escaped one horrible life to be potentially thrust right into another, but her adventures are fascinating ones, where she discovers a great deal about herself and her fellow man.
Tonia Brown knows how to craft a story, and her fertile imagination does not disappoint, whether it has to do with the undead or steampunk…or both. She is one of the most creative authors out there working her magic on traditional zombie lore, intermingling romance, adventure, horror, and intrigue with ease. Skin Trade is no exception. Her characters are vivid, fun, and compelling, her stories always entertaining. Definitely give this one a whirl if you are a fan of zombie lit-it’s a bit different than the traditional apocalyptic tale, and well worth checking out.