Firstly, a huge thank you to Caroline and Angry Robot Books for sending me a copy of The Phlebotomist in exchange for an honest review.
In a near future where citizens are subject to the mandatory blood draw, government phlebotomist Willa Wallace witnesses an event that makes her question her whole world. To recover from a cataclysmic war, the Harvest was created to pass blood to those affected by radiation.GoodReads
But this charitable act has led to a society segregated entirely by blood type. Patriot thanks and rewards your generous gift based on the compatibility of your donation, meaning that whoever can give to the most, gets the most back. While working as a reaper for the draw, Willa chances upon an idea to resurrect an obsolete collection technique that could rebalance the city.
But in her quest to put this in motion, she instead uncovers a secret that threatens her entire foundations…
As a lot of you know by now, I do love a dark, dystopian novel and this certainly ticked all the boxes on that front! I loved all the dark and gritty descriptions of the world that we found ourselves in; the small glimpses of history that caused the world to become this way were brilliant in adding to the mystery of the novel. There was just something additionally unsettling that people weren’t really sure what the major event, the Chrysalis, event was, despite the fact it caused complete chaos and destroyed the world they once knew. Into a world where blood is the most valuable commodity which is just as creepy as it sounds. Having a class system based on blood type was fascinating to me and not something I’ve come across in dystopian fiction before.
From the very first page Panatier sets the atmosphere as incredibly unnerving to say the least. The novel begins at one of the units where blood is ‘harvested’ by the organisation Patriot, where we meet our protagonist, Willa Wallace, who is a phlebotomist (referred to as ‘reapers’) who is at work collecting the blood donations. The detailed descriptions of this process and how desperate people are to donate, regardless of if they’re putting themselves at risk. Generally, I’m not an overly squeamish person, however I most certainly am when it comes to anything medical. Although, even if I wasn’t, the way Panatier writes this opening chapter would be enough to make anyone feel uncomfortable and yet eager to read more; I could feel myself tensing as I read but I couldn’t bring myself to put down this addictive read.
Willa was an interesting choice of protagonist too, a loyal Patriot worker that is doing everything she can to give her grandson a good life despite being a ‘lowblood’. For the most part, she was a very rational, logical and sensible woman. Yet, the fact she finds herself on the run with a resistance group with one of the most wanted hackers, the Locksmith, wasn’t as far fetched as you may think from the opening. Although Lock is very different from Willa, even down to the way that she speaks, I really liked the dynamic between them and how they both just want to do the best for the children in their care. Alone, each character felt a little too much like a character or caricature but together complemented each other wonderfully and they were a joy to read.
Overall, this was a wonderful dystopian novel with a gripping mystery running throughout it with a chilling final chapter. This brilliant blend of horror and sci-fi will leave you wanting more and is one I highly recommend for anyone that wants something uniquely dark.