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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 Review - The Whistlers in the Dark by Victoria Williamson

Blog Tour Review

The Whistlers in the Dark by Victoria Williamson

Scotland, 158 AD, is a divided country.

On one side of the Antonine Wall, thirteen-year-old Felix is trying to become a good Roman soldier like his father. On the other, twelve-year old Jinny is vowing revenge on the ‘metal men’ who have invaded her Damnonii tribe’s homeland. At the Damnonii’s sacred circle of standing stones, her planned attack on Felix goes badly wrong, awakening a legend that threatens to bring fire and destruction down on them all.

Can Jinny and Felix overcome their differences and soothe the stones back to sleep before it’s too late?


I've been a fan of Victoria Williamson's writing for years now, since I first read the gorgeous Fox Girl and the White Gazelle, but right now she is absolutely on fire, in the best possible way, and it is great to see! In the last few months this is the third new book by her I've been given to review, with The Pawnshop of Broken Dreams in June and Norah's Ark in August. I've just received a copy of her YA debut, Feast of Ashes, and here is The Whistlers in the Dark. It's an incredible set of releases, and I am so here for it all.

The Whistlers in the Dark is the first historical novel I've read from her. The setting is 158AD Scotland, up on the Antonine Wall, which stressed from the Firth of Clyde to the Firth of Forth. Unlike Hadrian's Wall, which runs past my own house, the Antonine Wall was a wall of turf and ditches, less permanent but still a strong symbol of the most northerly extent of the Roman Empire. The main characters are two children, one from either side of that wall. Jinny is a girl in the Scottish tribe there, the Damnonii people, and is well versed in their traditions and beliefs. Felix is a fascinating character. Raised in the Roman fort, his mother was from one of the local villages and his father, a high ranking soldier in the army there, is absent. Felix is in a really difficult position. He's seen as too Roman by the tribes, and not properly Roman enough for the people currently running the fort in the absence of his father and the Legate. He's dismissed as a tribe boy by one side and distrusted as a Roman boy by the other. And through the course of the story his beliefs, his values and his place in the world is challenged repeatedly and in a really interesting way.

I love how this story opened. It's in the wake of a major incident, several months after a terrible accident. Both Jinny and Felix have a complicated mix of emotions, mostly around guilt and blame and revenge. It takes a little while to understand exactly what happened, as we see it through their very biased eyes, and it takes even longer for them to accept themselves what happened and who should bear responsibility.

A major theme of this story is revenge and how hard it is to let it go. We see how it can eat people up, take over their lives and drive them towards destructive actions, and we see what can happen when people are finally able to let go of that anger. It's powerful and it is emotional and it is very well written.

Another major theme is the effects of the Roman occupation. By the point our story is set, they've been there a fairly long time, about fifteen years I think, so we see a kind of day to day acceptance of things, with underlying gripes and stresses, but we also see how quickly things can change and get out of control. 

Finally, there are the supernatural elements. I absolutely loved these. It hit that sweet spot where it was impossible to tell whether they were actually there or not. Things could be explained away without supernatural intervention, mostly, but there is always the possibility that the stones were awakened and I love that ambiguity. There's no "magic is real here" and no "there's no such thing as magic." It is left to the reader to make their mind up. 

The Whistlers in the Dark is a wonderful novel about two civilisations trying to live next to each other, with complex, well drawn characters and a delicious supernatural element.


The Whistlers in the Dark by Victoria Williamson is out on 21st September 2023 from Scotland Street Press.

I was given a review copy in exchange for an honest review and participation in this The Write Reads tour.


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