The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters

Received from NetGalley for review.

I read 132 pages, had to stop for a few days because of work commitments, and when I came back to read it once again I found that I’d completely lost interest. Cat Winters is an excellent writer and this is evident in The Steep and Thorny Way, but the story didn’t grab me in the same way her other books have, especially her stunning debut, In the Shadow of Blackbirds. I will probably still devour every other book Winters releases as she writes about women’s issues and the paranormal extremely well, but I think I may avoid books released that deviate from that formula.

The Steep and Thorny Way is a reimagined Hamlet, set in 1920’s Oregon and focussing on Hanalee, a mixed race teenager whose black father was killed in a car accident – supposedly. In true Shakespearean fashion, nothing is as it seems, and Winters seamlessly weaves the ideas of Hamlet into a more modern setting, dealing with issues of racism and homophobia.

I think the influence of Hamlet is what caused my interest to wane – I have an English degree and I’m an English teacher, so I know the story back to front and that made Winters’ story seem very predictable to me, and too similar regardless of the different setting. From a skim to the end it doesn’t seem to be exactly like Hamlet, but I lost interest long before that point.

The writing is very good, the characters believable and real, and Winters explores the issues of racism and homophobia with realism, something I appreciate in historical novels – technically there is absolutely nothing wrong with this story, and I know that many people will love it, unfortunately it just didn’t work for me.

Read: February 26th-March 6th 2016

2/5 stars


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