THE STEEP & THORNY WAY, by Cat Winters, Amulet Books/Abrams


A thrilling re-imagining 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, died a year ago, hit by a drunk-driving teenager. Now the killer is out of jail and back in town, and he’s claiming that Hanalee’s father’s death wasn’t an accident at all. Instead, he says that Hank was poisoned by the doctor who looked after him—who just so happens to be Hanalee’s new stepfather.

In order to get the answers she needs, Hanalee will have to ask a “haint” wandering the roads at night—her father himself.


I received this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.


What an incredibly fantastic book! I was so emotionally engaged in the writing that the story was over before I knew it.  I sat back and muttered, “wow!”

Then I had to read the last three chapters again just cuz.  This book is excellently, and superbly researched to take place in the 1920s in a southern state in the USA.  The KKK was running rampant during the period depicted in the story.  Racism, hate, violence and cruelty was directed toward blacks then.

Our Protagonist, a young girl who is half-black, loses her father. The powerful writing style brought together with the unique voice of the author creates an electrifying atmosphere of bigotry and hate.  Innocent people are tormented by racists, with their actions being justified based solely on being white and the tormented are black.

I don’t live in an area where racism is prominent and am utterly ashamed at how horrible HUMAN BEINGS can be to one another. Yes, in Canada where I’m located, blacks live with whites and we are friends with lots of different ethnic groups.  Racism is just another form of bullying that has been allowed to go on for far too long in the States.   I’m sick of reading about it and living with it in this day and age in neighboring countries. When will people learn?  When will this world learn that we are ALL human. We all bleed red, we all have the same structure, mechanisms for life and reproduction and basic needs like eating and breathing. We should be celebrating our differences, not condemning someone because of them. Just because a person looks different, they’re treated so horribly? My daughter is special needs; she is Down syndrome and yes, she looks different. Does this mean she too would be treated with bigotry in the US? What about those families who also have special needs children that live in the USA? I’m wondering how they get treated for looking different? Racism is still prominent in the States…why?

Anyway, enough of  THAT.  This author did a fantastic job laying out the setting accurately describing the era, the political and social barriers blacks faced at that time, and the struggles the Protagonist faces when she seeks answers and justice for the death of her father.

The writing style is strong and direct. You should find yourself becoming emotionally engaged. The plot flows with force, bringing to light all the dark and disgusting sides to human nature for the reader to see, hate and want to crush.  I think the author is brilliant and the story fantastic.

The paranormal twist added was rather interesting too. It was just enough to creep you out and make you want to keep reading. However, I didn’t like how abrupt the ending was and it would have benefited the story more to have more of an investigative nature added to Hanalee’s character.

I don’t really think this story was meant to be a ‘mystery’ so much as to point out how a black girl is treated by the KKK during the 1920s. I still found it excellent and recommend it.  It made me angry lol, which means the author was successful in getting her point across. Well done! I haven’t been this angry since reading “The Mississippi Burnings” and then, watching the movie.

I gave this book:


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