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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 - The Sleeping Stones by Beatrice Wallbank

Review - The Sleeping Stones by Beatrice Wallbank

Gruff and his new friend Matylda live on a small island off the Welsh coast, where legends are beginning to stir...

Islanders find themselves irresistibly drawn to the Sleeping Stones, a line of rocks like natural stepping stones out to sea. Gruff and Mat soon realise they must risk everything to save each other and their community from a terrifying storm driven by an ancient, magic anger.

I think this cover looks gorgeous, but how is anyone meant to jump those rocks?

A magical story steeped in Welsh folklore and farming.

I loved The Sleeping Stones. The first half is a really intriguing mystery, replete with prophecy in the form of old stories, strange standing stones, and unexplained feelings, as powerful magics begin to unwind across an isolated Welsh island. The second half is pure magical fantasy action adventure as Celtic gods unleash their power and draw on their influence (though none of them are actually named as gods, just as strange beings, either ghost like or mysterious sea-beings). 

It's so richly steeped in Welsh mythology and folklore, a delicious mix of old songs and stories and mythological creatures of great power and fury. It speaks to every child who believed in the old tales about the standing stones and the old warnings about meddling with things beyond their ken. It's also rich with Welsh culture and language, with much of the dialogue presented in Welsh and translated into English. There's nothing that would provide an obstacle to those of us ignorant in Welsh, rather it adds another layer to an already strong sense of place. 

As well as the mythology, it also reads at times like a love letter to the farming tradition. Gruff is so at home on his farm, and his love for it and all who dwell on it is palpable. It's quite beautiful, but it also gives him so much more to lose. When the storm hits, we're so invested in the farm and the sheep that every potential loss cuts keenly. It's quite remarkable really, the way this book builds up empathy for a herd of sheep so effectively!

The friendship at the core of this book is beautiful. Gruff and Mat are both presented as such flawed people, something quite unusual in young protagonists in middle grade fiction really, that watching them bond and become friends is really lovely. I love Gruff for all of his flaws, from the anger and bitterness at being lied to, his fear of losing his home, and his frequent bouts of jealousy towards Mat, he feels like a real person and not some idealised child hero. Mat's fear of being surrounded by new people, of being the outsider, always on the move and never allowed to settle also helps to humanise her and provides a sharp contrast with Gruff that's echoed in his fears of losing his home on the island just as she's starting her new life there.

As Welsh as an incredibly Welsh thing in Wales, and as magical as a fairytale, The Sleeping Stones is a beautiful book.


The Sleeping Stones by Beatrice Wallbank is published on 2nd February 2023 by Firefly Press.

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


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