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Blog Tour Review - The Only Way Out is Death by Varun Gwalani

 Blog Tour Review - The Only Way Out is Death by Varun Gwalani Twelve powerful people are kidnapped and imprisoned in an empty hotel. Each one of them has three choices: Live out the rest of their days peacefully in the hotel, Die by suicide so the rest of their companions can go free, Or murder one of their companions so they alone can go free. The Only Way Out is Death follows the story of these twelve people from the perspective of a young lawyer, Kiriaki, told as the events unfold. She has to forge messy alliances, navigate complex relationships and feuds, and, above all, try to stay alive. Meanwhile, the mastermind of this death game is lurking just out of view, watching them closely, making sure they are primed for murder. Will Kiriaki find the mastermind before it's too late for her? Will she outmanoeuvre the cutthroats before they cut her throat? There are twelve selfish lives in the hotel. Will it end in twelve selfish deaths? The Only Way Out is Death is a fascinating nov

Blog Tour - Sistersong by Lucy Holland

 Blog Tour Review - Sistersong by Lucy Holland

In the ancient kingdom of Dumnonia, there is old magic to be found in the whisper of the wind, the roots of the trees, and the curl of the grass. King Cador knew this once, but now the land has turned from him, calling instead to his three children. Riva can cure others, but can’t seem to heal her own deep scars. Keyne battles to be accepted for who he truly is—the king’s son. And Sinne dreams of seeing the world, of finding adventure.

All three fear a life of confinement within the walls of the hold, their people’s last bastion of strength against the invading Saxons. However, change comes on the day ash falls from the sky. It brings with it Myrdhin, meddler and magician. And Tristan, a warrior whose secrets will tear them apart.

Riva, Keyne and Sinne—three siblings entangled in a web of treachery and heartbreak, who must fight to forge their own paths.

Their story will shape the destiny of Britain.

I adored this gorgeous historical fantasy novel! 

Sistersong is set in a very interesting period of British history, shortly after the Romans have left our shores, and as the Saxons are arriving. It's a time of great turbulence and warfare, as the Ancient Britons try to hold onto their old ways and resist the next wave of invaders. 

The conflict between the old ways and the new is at the forefront of the narrative. There's a priest in town, you see, a relic of the Roman invasion, he is preaching Christianity and trying to turn people away from the pagan gods they've been worshipping. This is a source of much of the conflict in the novel, and it is fascinating and powerfully depicted. Particularly so because in Sistersong, the magic is real. Spells can be cast to heal, to manipulate, to glamour and to protect. The magic comes from the people's link to the earth, and particularly the royal link. There's a real sense that the king is the land and there's power and safety when the two are in connection, and this new faith, these new practices, this abandoning of old forms of worship are breaking that connection, weakening the magic and casting aside its protections.

The pacing of the novel reinforces this part of the narrative. It's set over a year, focusing on a series of pagan feasts, feasts that often coincide with Christian celebrations. It's clear to see the links between the old religions and Christianity as we still practice it today, with Easter and All Souls taking the places of Eostre and Samhain, seeing some of the pagan practices that look so familiar even today, now fully combined with the "new" religion but losing something in that mix.

There are plenty of other conflicts however. This story is so much more than just about conflicting belief systems. And one of the really beautiful things about this story is how easily and naturally they all link into each other. Everything is connected, and comes together and builds momentum so brilliantly.

There's the war with the Saxons, for one. For most of the novel this is a background threat, something that is happening somewhere else and might come to Dumnonia. And then, perhaps inevitably, it does, with violence and surprises and some very interesting twists. I loved the way this played out, and although I expected some of it there was still plenty to surprise me.

One thing I really wasn't expecting is that this is also a book about trans rights, and I thought that element was handled brilliantly! It appears, from the start, that this is a story about three sisters. It isn't. It's a story about two sisters and a brother. It's just that a lot of people have trouble realising or accepting this. There are exceptions, Keyne does have support and help, which grows over time. Honestly, the way this is dealt with throughout the story was just the best. I really liked this aspect, watching people around him start to see him as he wanted to be seen, rather than as they thought he was, it was beautiful and enriching and powerful.

It's also a story about family, about siblings. This is probably the most heartbreaking aspect of the book. There's so much tragedy here, and it's so powerfully depicted, this family not just at war in their lands but at war with each other, the little divisions that can drive people apart and the links that pull them together.  I felt for all of them, rooted for all of them, wept for all of them.

Sistersong is a powerful, beautiful and very well told story about an oft neglected period of our history. I adored it!


I was given a review copy of Sistersong by Lucy Holland in return for an honest review and participation in the blog tour. The tour was arranged by Black Crow PR. Don't forget to check out the rest of the tour!

Sistersong by Lucy Holland is out now. It is published by Macmillan


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