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Thursday, May 12, 2011

“Skulls” by Tim Marquitz (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Order “SkullsHERE
Read An Excerpt HERE
Watch a Video with Tim Marquitz HERE
Read FBC’s Review of “SE: The Temple Of The Dead
Read FBC’s Interview with Tim Marquitz

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Tim Marquitz is the author of Armageddon Bound, the first book in the Demon Squad series, and the Sepulchral Earth short stories. He is also an editor, a heavy metal aficionado, a Mixed Martial Arts fan, and is also a member of the Live Action Role Playing organization. Currently, he’s writing the next chapter in the Sepulchral Earth series as well as whatever else catches his imagination. Tim lives in El Paso, Texas with his wonderful family.

ABOUT SKULLS: Life held little interest for Jacob . . . until he found death.

Abused and neglected, Jacob’s only solace comes when he is alone in the woods or in the arms of his new girlfriend. But when he stumbles across a hidden bunker filled with human skulls, he learns what true suffering is. Drawn to examine the skulls, he finds there is more than just empty blackness behind their lifeless stares. Through their eyes he watches them die.

With every glance, he witnesses another murder, the memories of the dead playing out inside his mind until reality becomes a blur. A primal cruelty awakening, Jacob returns to the morbid comfort of the skulls, over and over again. But when he happens upon a fresh skull, a victim tortured and slain for his amusement alone, he knows his time has come. Face to face with death, Jacob must choose whether to resist the darkness that dwells inside or condemn himself forever, murdering his innocence on the edge of an axe...

FORMAT/INFO: Skulls is 122 pages long divided over twenty-six chapters. Narration is in the third-person, mainly via the protagonist Jacob Rile. There are also other POVs featuring supporting characters and the antagonist, but most of these are one-offs. April 1, 2011 marked the Paperback publication of Skulls via Damnation Books. Cover art is provided by Jessica Lucero.

ANALYSIS: Skulls was an experiment of sorts for Tim Marquitz, who wanted to see whether he could bring his dark storytelling ability to a YA novel. Considering that the author’s previous books included the darkly humorous Armageddon Bound and the melancholy tinged Sepulchral Earth:The Long Road, I had no idea what to expect from Skulls...

Skulls begins by introducing us to Jacob Rile, an emotionally neglected and physically abused teen who happens upon a bunker where he discovers a gleaming array of human skulls. Not knowing the reason for their existence, Jacob rapidly exits the bunker with trepidation, but also a hint of curiosity. Before long, Jacob develops a psychic link with the bunker and is able to see and feel the murder of each skull he picks up. This awakens a very dark nature in Jacob as he’s drawn continuously to the skulls and their morbid memories. At the same time, the killer learns about Jacob’s connection to the skulls and is debating whether to kill the teen or apprentice him, while Jacob’s friends start to withdraw from him except for Cassie who tries to rescue Jacob from his own dark nature. From here, the plot escalates as more murders occur and Jacob seems hell-bent on making himself a murder junkie.

Skulls is a dark tale, and even though there is a mystery occurring at the same time, it is not very absorbing. Characterization however, is a major attraction, particularly Jacob Rile, a young soul who is drawn into a vicious web of murder & sadism due to familial neglect and the allure of dark power. Jacob’s struggles are the heart of this tale, which includes a stunning choice he has to make at the end of the story.

Negatively, the identity of the killer is easy to guess which softens the mystery aspect of the tale, but since the killer’s identitiy is not a central thread in the book, it’s not a major issue. Skulls is also a bit on the short side, but increasing the page count would mean losing some of the narrative tension and rapid pacing.

CONCLUSION: All in all, Skulls was a different book from Tim Marquitz’s previous efforts. It was also different from the few other YA books I have read due to its grim content, but it is a very good book because of its characters and plot. In short, I’m glad Tim Marquitz took this chance with Skulls, because it allowed him to showcase his literary skills in a different direction, while providing YA readers with a grim, but entertaining thrill ride...


Conor said...

Skulls sounds interesting. I like the excerpt too. I will have to check it out. I have really liked grim YA since reading some of Neil Gaiman's stuff like The Graveyard Book.


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