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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 - Bitterthorn by Kat Dunn

Review - Bitterthorn by Kat Dunn

Blumwald is a town overshadowed by an ancient curse: in a sinister castle in the depths of the wild wood lives a monstrous Witch. Once a generation, she comes to claim a companion to return with her – never to be seen again. Now that time is drawing near once more...

Mina, daughter of the duke, is grieving and lonely. She has lost all hope of any future for herself in Blumwald. So when the Witch demands her next companion, Mina offers herself up – though she has no idea what fate awaits her. Stranded with her darkly alluring captor, the mystery of what happened to the previous companions draws Mina into the heart of a terrifying secret that could save her life, or end it.

Bitterthorn is brilliant! Powerful and emotional, near overwhelming, this is a book that left me broken and deeply affected. It's just gorgeous.

Bitterthorn is a fairy tale, and draws on elements from a large number of classic fairy tales, weaving them into its story so effectively that, while elements are familiar and recognisable, it's far from being a retelling of any particular story. The girl trapped in a castle with an uncaring monster, but left free to roam its halls feels very Beauty and the Beast, with some aspects of Bluebeard in the commands to avoid particular rooms and the dangerous curiosity about her predecessors. The negligent stepmother and the stepsisters taking priority once they move into the castle feels drawn from Cinderella, and there are definitely aspects of Sleeping Beauty and possibly Rumpelstiltskin in the weaving and some aspects of the magical curse. But all of these different story elements are taken and made into something that feels new and different, with just an edge of comfortable familiarity.

That's about all that's comfortable about it though. From the very beginning, Bitterthorn is a story that has its secrets, deadly secrets too, and it does its very best to create an air of unease, suspicion and fear. It's quite amazing how unsettling it all is as, like Mina, we have no idea what she's walking into, what she's there for or what fate will befall her. The castle she is forced to call home reflects that unease, with its winding, ever changing corridors and rooms and some quite incredible but really quite disturbing chambers. I particularly loved the room where it is always last Tuesday!

More than anything else though, Bitterthorn is a book about loneliness. 

Sure, it's about how being all alone can change you, darken you, turn you bitter and spiky, but it's about more than that. It's about how being rejected, being made to feel unwanted, in the way, a problem can force you to retreat into loneliness. It's about how the despair of loneliness can be easier to bear than trying to make those connections and seeing them getting closed off. It's about that comfort of being alone, whether quietly reading in your room or walking out through the woods learning about the trees and the rocks, and not risking your heart in anybody else's hands. It's about losing the people you love, and coming to realise that you never really knew them after all and they never really took the time to know you. It's about the distance that can grow within families. And it's about what happens when you do take that risk, and open yourself up to the prospect and possibility of love and all of the potential pain it can cause. 

I've never read anything that gets all of that and expresses it so clearly, so lyrically, so beautifully.

Bitterthorn is an exceptionally beautiful and moving modern fairy story. 


Bitterthorn by Kat Dunn is published on 4th May 2023 by Anderson Press.

I was given a review copy via Netgalley in return for an honest review.


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