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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 Nameless by Stuart White

Blog Tour Review - Nameless by Stuart White


In a dystopian world dominated by genetic perfection and numbered gene pools, sixteen-year-old E820927, known as Seven, yearns for an identity beyond his assigned number.

To escape a life as a Nameless Exile, and become a citizen of the Realm, he must pass a loyalty test to prove his allegiance to the totalitarian Autokratōr.

With the world's fate hanging in the balance, Seven's journey sparks rebellion, hope, and the reclamation of individuality.

But as the truth unfolds, Seven faces a difficult choice between revenge and love.

The Nameless throws us into a really interesting dystopian world. There's an emphasis on genetic perfection, and gene manipulation that goes right from the animal kingdom (lots of references to blended creatures) to creating perfect soldiers. 

The first batch of characters we are introduced to are, like the title, nameless. Instead they have numbers, and our main character is E820927, who goes by the name Seven. He's a teenager in a camp about to go through the final tests he needs to pass to gain a name and a role in society, either in the military or as an academic. If he fails he'll become a nameless exile. With him in his class are other, numbered, students, including Six, who he quite fancies, Twelve, the class bully, and Three, the class failure. A lot of the detail and processes are left shrouded in mystery. According to the book blurb they are numbered gene pools, which is never made clear in the book, and the actual structure of the society is never really explained either, beyond the military and the academics it can be assumed that the exiles do most of the rest of the work necessary to keep society running.

The tests themselves, and the guards who administer them, are harsh and cruel and it abundantly clear that this isn't a kind, just or particularly nice society they're being indoctrinated into. Thankfully it's not long before they're being broken out and go on the run with a motley band of rebels. 

Seven soon falls into the role of the Chosen One, the person who has been picked out to lead an army of thousands of rebels and overthrow the tyrannical, evil government. Seven himself never seems particularly suited for this task, to be honest. It's quite possible that the high number of times he gets hit on the head is to blame for the really bad decisions he keeps making, but there is also the almost obligatory love triangle he has to contend with while trying to become a leader without ever actually telling people why it is he's been chosen to be their destined leader. Unfortunately the only person who knows dies before telling anyone else, after many chapters of "I'm going to tell you why you're so important, but not now, soon." to keep both Seven and the reader hanging on for the crucial detail. 

There are a few niggling inconsistencies too. There's a really heartfelt monologue where Seven examines his own actions, and crucially the times where he didn't act to save people. He comes to the conclusion that no exile would stand by and watch someone die when they could jump in and save people, and that this is what distinguishes the exiles from the people of the realm. This is despite the fact that the exiles repeatedly tell him that their way is to leave people to be captured if rushing in puts others at risk and the bit where an exile was standing next to him encouraging him to not take any action during the sequence he's actually considering the failure in his inaction.

There was another part where, during an urgent mission in a stolen van, one of the characters manages to get captured when she gets out of the van to check on something and then wanders hundreds of feet away from it to pick berries in the woods. It staggers belief that experienced rebels in a dangerous area would be so careless, though it does lead to one of the book's more gruesome and tension filled sequences.

A sudden change in POV for a chapter or two towards the end of the book felt quite jarring. Though it was an interesting POV, it kind of came out of nowhere and I felt like it disrupted the flow more than it contributed anything. This probably wasn't helped by one of the characters in that section changing gender from chapter to chapter. I thought the chapter heading inserts from the second POV much more effective than the full chapter changes, though it would have been better if we'd actually known where they had come from rather than them being presented in a rather cryptic way.

It felt like there was a well-thought out world behind The Nameless, but a lot of the detail just didn't come across in the novel, which rushes us straight into a fairly typical chosen one narrative, a slave uprising and a slightly forced love triangle. Where there is exposition, it doesn't flow naturally, and the exposition around the blended animals felt particularly forced. 


The Nameless by Stuart White is out now, published by Penobi Press.

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


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