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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

Review - Day of the Whale by Rachel Delahaye

Review - Day of the Whale by Rachel Delahaye

 'Follow the big blue'. That was the last thing Cam’s father said to him. Cam follows Big Blue - everybody does on the island of Cetacea. Their lives take place within his rules, delivered to them by enigmatic whale-talker, Byron Vos. 

Byron was once a marine scientist but is now organizing an epic clean-up operation to revive the ocean after centuries of human greed and neglect. And yet Cam wonders if there is a more complex truth. A truth that may be connected to his father’s disappearance. 

Cam’s quest to understand Big Blue leads him to new friends and shared adventures – but the truth, when he finds it, is more dangerous than ever he could have imagined.

How gorgeous is this cover? It's by Anna Morrison.

Day of the Whale by Rachel Delahaye is big and brilliant, important even.

This is a gorgeous story about secrets and truth, about authority and corruption of power, about our relationships with nature and the wild and the people around us, about our responsibilities and our memories.

The setting is absolutely fascinating. The island of Cetacea is a post-environmental disaster portrayal of a small part of Australia, a small island with reefs and mountains and fields. Much has been lost, though it's only a generation or two since three great floods destroyed much of the world, but still some parts of it remain, most notably the wildlife and some elements of aboriginal folklore. The wildlife is fantastic, threading its way through both the action and the prose. So many of the similes used throughout draw on the native wildlife, with crowds eating dinner in the square chitter-chattering like flocking cockatoos, Banjo climbing a cliff like a huntsman spider, and so much more. It's vibrant, poetic and really helps infuse that feeling of the wild throughout the book. The wildlife isn't constrained to similes though, and with the world suddenly getting so much smaller, the animals and birds are forced into close quarters with the human inhabitants of Cetacea. From greedy parrots to majestic and dangerous big red kangaroos, Cam and Banjo share their world with a dazzling array of wildlife.

Though the biggest impact comes from the whales, and this book is, in many ways, a love letter to those gorgeous giants of the oceans. Following the ecological disasters of the floods, the people now follow the instructions of Big Blue, a whale who speaks to them through whale expert Byron Vos. They all work hard cleaning the kelp and picking contaminants out of the sand, until their knuckles bleed. It's a harsh, and moving existence, this dichotomy of working for nature yet being, in many ways, separated from it for no-one actually swims in the oceans or sees the whales. That has been forbidden, the sins of the father visited upon the children. What initially looks like an ideal society is quickly revealed as being something quite different beneath the surface.

This is a book about authority and the corruption of power, about how people can shape our beliefs, and use stories to control and manage people, and about how what we see isn't always what's actually going on. Without diving too deeply into spoiler territory, all is clearly not as it seems and it's up to Cam to find out the truth and do something about it. It's a scary, exaggerated yet still eerily realistic portrayal of a grab for power and a society that doesn't even realise it is being exploited.

It's also a book about friendship. There's so much to unpick here. Cam feels very alone and isolated. His best friend walked away from him, with no explanation, and he's clearly feeling the hurt from that. There's a line that goes 

"if you didn't need a reason to break friends with someone, then how would you know when it was about to happen?" 

that really hit me hard and I think really showed why Cam feels so cut off from the people around him. Luckily he doesn't stay like that! Banjo is one of my favourite characters, he's just so full of light hearted joy and exuberance but it is brilliantly tempered by his knowledge of and love for where he's come from and  he teaches Cam about the Dreamtime and the ways of the Darkinjung people. As Cam learns more about the truth, he finds that he's not as alone as he believed.

As we get closer to a full understanding of what is going on on Cetacea, the story builds up into a thrilling and incredibly peril filled climax. It's so exciting and scary watching things suddenly unfold at a breakneck pace as all the carefully stacked pieces finally drop into place.

Day of the Whale is beautiful and exciting, a rich tapestry of a novel. 


Day of the Whale by Rachel Delahaye is out now, published by Troika.

I was sent a review copy by the author in return for an honest review. 


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