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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 - Pax and the Missing Head by David Barker

 Blog Tour Review - Pax and the Missing Head by David Barker

In a country beset by civil war, New London defends itself behind a giant wall. Inside the city, children are forced to work from an early age, except for the lucky few who train to be leaders in the re-purposed Palace of Westminster. 12-year-old orphaned Pax is brilliant at recycling old tech. He enjoys working on the verti-farms and just wants a bit of peace and quiet. But when that is taken away from him, his only hope is to pass a near-impossible exam and join the other students in Scholastic Parliament. There he’ll make new friends and new enemies. He’ll get tested like never before. And he’ll discover that not everything is quite what it seems under the mayor’s harsh leadership

I really enjoyed Pax and the Missing Head.

It does something really clever that I can't remember seeing before. It combines the scary, militaristic, dystopian society with the classic starting a new school narrative. 

So how well does it handle each element?

The school side first, is really quite compelling. Pax is a wonderful main character, a seedling, or child genetically "grown" without any family. He starts out in a horrible and fairly brutal orphanage and earning a school place is his ticket out of there. Once in school there's an interesting mix of subjects he has no experience in and areas where he's already ahead of his peers. There's discrimination around his origins, and a number of wonderfully horrible depictions of privilege. It's clear that it's not a level playing field when rich bullies get bought all the best things and end up with an often unassailable advantage, but such is life. Pax is far from passive though, taking some huge risks and breaking rules to do what he feels has to be done. There are fierce competitions, and the class point system feels like it really matters, there are beautiful friendships forming and hints of romance. The newly invented games are interesting without getting bogged down in unnecessary detail, and it feels like a really cool depiction of a futuristic school, particularly with the robot teachers and high tech equipment. 

What about the dystopian elements? These largely form a backdrop to the school side, but they are fascinating. It's a fractured Britain, divided between the cities and the rural areas, the young and the old, the rich and the poor. It feels rather extreme, a little exaggerated perhaps, but those divides can readily be seen in our own society so there is some grounding there. We're introduced to the harshness of this society right from the beginning in the orphanage, and we soon realise that the school isn't as ideal as it may first appear. Trips to the Wall reveal the ongoing state of the nation and it is pretty bleak!

The story really comes into its own when the two elements collide and the influences of a militaristic society with a leader who is afraid of being seen as weak are felt in the classrooms. It's scary, and exciting, thrilling and worrying to watch events unfold.

And now I can't wait to see what happens next!


Pax and the Missing Head by David Barker is out now from Tiny Tree.

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


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