Goodreads Rating: 4.21 Stars
Expected Publication: March 8th, 2016
A thrilling reimagining of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, The Steep and Thorny Way tells the story of a murder most foul and the mighty power of love and acceptance in a state gone terribly rotten.
1920s Oregon is not a welcoming place for Hanalee Denney, the daughter of a white woman and an African-American man. She has almost no rights by law, and the Ku Klux Klan breeds fear and hatred in even Hanalee’s oldest friendships. Plus, her father, Hank Denney, died a year ago, hit by a drunk-driving teenager. Now her father’s killer is out of jail and back in town, and he claims that Hanalee’s father wasn’t killed by the accident at all but, instead, was poisoned by the doctor who looked after him—who happens to be Hanalee’s new stepfather.
The only way for Hanalee to get the answers she needs is to ask Hank himself, a “haint” wandering the roads at night.
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Quick Reasons: educational, awesome glimpse into 1920s Oregon; entertaining, fun characters; a sense of mystery and flair for drama; some interesting/unforseen plot twists; complex, heart-wrenching story; subtle but easy-to-spy influence/references to Shakespeare’s Hamlet; LIFE RUINER!
Huge thanks go out to Cat Winters, Amulet Books, and Netgalley for the free eARC in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered how I read or reviewed this book!
“Do you hope to get married someday?” he asked.
“As long as I don’t fall in love with a man the wrong color.”
He exhaled a steady stream of air through his nostrils. “I think love and wrong are two deeply unrelated words that should never be thrown into the same sentence together. Like dessert and broccoli.”
GUYS! I forgot how much I absolutely love love looooove reading historical fiction! And this?! This book is the perfect melting pot of historical, diverse, and absolutely brilliant. Also, apparently it’s a Hamlet retelling, which I didn’t know going in…but can definitely see now! I have to admit, when I found out that little tidbit, I squealed a bit TOO loudly in the husband’s ear. I don’t think he likes me very much right now; I proceeded to go on a five minute rant about how much I love Hamlet. Oops!
But seriously, let’s get into this. The book starts off RIGHT in the middle: with Hanalee pointing a gun at the head of her father’s murderer, threatening to kill him. I mean really…if you weren’t sure about the book before diving in, by the end of the first chapter you should be hooked and dying to know what happens next! I could not slow down while reading; this was a break-neck, full-throttle tilt into the mysteries and drama of 1920s Oregon.
Silence reigned over the world outside the window above the sink, and only a hint of the glow of whiskey stills peeked above the tops of the trees. Or maybe I only imagined that faint glimmer of orange. Maybe the world slept uneasily, holding its breath, waiting to see what I would do next.
Cat Winters did her research, and I give her major props for weaving everything she learned/knew about this time period into a dramatic, heart-wrenching, awesome read! The characters are engaging, redeemable (in the cases that matter, anyway) and complex. They will push your buttons. They will annoy you. They will FORCE you to think outside the box…and to think about things you might not have considered before. This entire read is written in a way that pushes readers out of their comfort zones and makes them actually think about what’s going on. And it will piss you off, no doubt about it. It will make you nauseaus. It will turn your blood to acid in your veins. If you’re anything like me…you’ll love every minute of it.
The prose is also pretty astounding—gorgeous, melodic, and descriptive in all the right places. There’s a masterful blend of the realistic with the paranormal that Cat Winters pulls off beautifully—and manages to work seamlessly into the time period. The entire story is seamless—the plot is action-packed, filled with mystery, and wrapped up by the last page without holes. The character’s all go through life-changing, deep growths. And hey…it’s 1920s Hamlet! Where could you go wrong?!
“I brought flowering almonds for you,” she said, and she handed me the flowers, which she had wrapped in a white handkerchief and secured with a ribbon the same pink as the petals.
“Are these for luck, too,” I asked, “like the alfalfa?”
“No, for hope.” She squeezed my hand. “An entire bouquet full of hope.”
This is a fantastic, pulse-pounding, haunting read—I promise you do NOT want to miss out on it! I’d definitely recommend to lovers of historical fiction, diverse characters, and just a slice of paranormal mixed into their reality worlds. I can’t wait to dive into another Cat Winters read—it’s a good thing I have a few waiting for me on my Kindle!