Today I am so excited to be able to participate in the book tour for The Bitterwine Oath by Hannah West. Thank you to TBR & Beyond Tours and Holiday House for letting me participate in this tour! You can follow along with the tour schedule here.
I received an advance copy of this title from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has not impacted my review and all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Synopsis from Goodreads
Every fifty years, a cult claims twelve men to murder in a small Texas town. Can one girl end the cycle of violence – and save the boy who broke her heart?
San Solano, Texas is a quaint town known for its charm, hospitality, and history of murder. Twice now, twelve men have been brutally killed, and no one knows who did it. A shadowy witch? A copy-cat killer? Or a man-hating murderess? Eighteen-year-old Natalie Colter is sure that the rumors about her great-great-grandmother’s cult of wronged women are just gossip, but that doesn’t stop the true crime writers and dark tourism bloggers from capitalizing on the town’s reputation. It’s an urban legend that’s hard to ignore, and it gets harder when Nat learns that the sisterhood is real, and magical. And they want her to join.
The more Nat learns of the Wardens’ supernatural history, the more she wonders about the real culprits behind the town’s ritualistic murders. Are the Wardens protecting San Solano from even darker forces? As the anniversary of the murders draws near, the town grows restless. Residents start getting “claimed” as this year’s planned victims, including Levi Langford, the boy whose kiss haunted Nat for a year.
Nat knows that no one is safe. Can she and the sisterhood stop the true evil from claiming their town?
“So this – this whole hidden world, the Woodwakers and the Wardens – began with magic in the sacred glade?”
“This didn’t start with magic, hon,” she replied, sounding like an old seer as she settled back into her seat. “It started with darkness in men’s hearts.”
My expectations going into this book were way different than the book I read. I thought this was going to be about a cult our main character Natalie (Nat) gets sucked into as they plan to commit murder on the 100th anniversary of the initial massacre.
What I read was so much better.
First off, the magical element in it was so well done. It answered every question I could come up with each time a problem was presented. How did Nat forget what she saw? Because the bone dust blocks their memory. How do people not see them patrolling the forest with guns or fighting Woodwalkers? Because there are disorientation spells to mask their appearances. I mean it was genius!
This secret society wasn’t just some hobby. It was an entire second life, lived in the shadows
As we got more into the story and the plot, I got more and more enthralled. We have history and familial, generational drama. Plus – we have a love interest who I loved and hated at the same time. Though, eventually, I was forced to love him because in the end, he was such a sweetheart!
And we have Nat’s friends who are so fierce I’m actually scared of them. Vanessa and Lindsey seem so tough and fearless in everything they do and I love how they are so supportive of Nat even in her darkest moments. Well, for the most part.
Vanessa’s chalk made shrill sounds as she started a new sketch. The creature she drew was tall and spindly. Its body looked wispy, its fingers long shadows that tapered like claws. Rather than a human head, atop its body was a deer skull with an extravagant pair of antlers and eye sockets deeper than graves.
As we dive deeper into the history of this curse, it’s clear there are some magical ramifications that Nat has to deal with.
One of them being the Woodwalkers.
The Woodwalkers weren’t just real. They were flesh and bone, rot and ruin.
These monsters freaked me out. Every interaction with them had my heart racing and I definitely got scared reading this book at night. But as I said, Natalie’s friends are absolutely fearless. I couldn’t imagine going up against something so terrifying in my life. It honestly was one of my favorite aspects of the story.
Another thing I loved about this book was a dive into the history of the initial masacre. We have snippets of another book, written by one of the original women, and it brought a lot of insight into how life was back in 1921 for these girls. The expectations, the dangers, and how Malachi wanted to fight against all of it.
My father said that people liked to have someone to punish when bad things happened. It didn’t always matter whom.
Each moment in this book had me completely absorbed. It was difficult to book put this book down without wanting to make time to read more. Every chapter, every snippet, and every scene was so exciting and fun to read, even when it involved Woodwalkers. While terrifying, this book touched on a lot of important discussions: familial legacies/expectations, forging a path for oneself, doing the right thing, and understanding the balance of rewards and consequences.
Overall, this is a great read and I’m excited to read more from this author! This was a strong // 5 stars for me!
Even the moon, infinitely distant as it was, was No longer just a lamp orbiting the earth. It was a harbinger of danger and death. The illusion of normalcy had cracked open and seemed to crumble around me, unsalvageable.
Hannah West is the author of young adult books including The Nissera Chronicles series and The Bitterwine Oath. She’s been writing fantasy since kindergarten, when she penned her first tale about a princess who ran away and lived at the top of a flagpole with two loaves of bread. But it wasn’t until she studied abroad in Orléans, France during college that the premise for her first novel materialized. The fairy tale castles, the snowy winter days, and a Disney princess pencil that arrived in a care package from her parents provided the inspiration that allowed her to wrangle all her untold and unfinished stories into a novel.
Hannah currently lives in the Dallas area with her husband and their two rambunctious rescue dogs.