Skip to main content


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

Review - Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron

Review - Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron


Arrah is a young woman from a long line of the most powerful witch doctors in the land. But she fails at magic, fails to call upon the ancestors and can't even cast the simplest curse.

Shame and disappointment dog her.

When strange premonitions befall her family and children in the kingdom begin to disappear, Arrah undergoes the dangerous and scorned process of selling years of her life for magic. This borrowed power reveals a nightmarish betrayal and a danger beyond what she could have imagined. Now Arrah must find a way to master magic, or at least buy it, in order to save herself and everything she holds dear.

Amazing West African inspired magical fantasy!

Kingdom of Souls is definitely one of the better fantasy novels I've read in its approach to magic and divinity. There are different regions with their different gods and their different types of magic, but there are enough common links to make it feel organic and connected.

There are the tribal regions, where everyone has magic and it's a part of life and ceremony. Their magic comes from a deal with their god, Heka. That's an element I really liked and hadn't really seen before, the contractual nature of divine magic, and it's one that had serious implications in the story too.

There's also the city, where there are a number of different gods each with their own portfolio of responsibility. These are the Orisha and there's a wonderful mysteriousness about them. There are hints throughout of them interacting with mortals, from demanding rituals to gifting mysterious statues of themselves to the temple, and one of them is an Unnamed One with an unknown and mysterious past. While magic in the tribal regions is seen as a spiritual force, in the city it is used for everything from healing to changing one's hair colour. I really liked this playfulness to the magic, and cosmetic application of spells definitely feels like something that would happen in any world where magic is commonly available.

Rena Barron does a fantastic job at seeding plot threads in the early parts of the novel that are then yanked taut at the perfect time later on. These include Arrah's need for magic, and her peculiar powers that make her hard to read, her strained relationship with her mother and her love for her father, the veiled predictions of her grandmother, it all plays an important part in the growing story.

This is a book about two of the most destructive forces in life, love and revenge. There's politics, but with a light touch. It's a motivating factor but it doesn't spend too long dealing with political machinations. There's a beautiful romance at the heart of it too, slow and softly spoken but burning strongly throughout.

Kingdom of Souls really becomes something quite extraordinary about halfway through. The first part of the story does an excellent job at establishing the world and the characters, there're mystery elements with missing children and we see what Arrah is prepared to sacrifice for magic and answers.  Then things shift dramatically and incredibly effectively. There's a surreal, dream-like quality to it, as the magical forces around overwhelm Arrah, twisting reality and time. There's such a sense of power here, but in a slowly building threat kind of way. It's very human, which makes it all the more dramatic rather than a distant, powerful overlord to be overcome. 

The orishas really come into their own, becoming complex character as they're revealed as both very powerful and vulnerable, and we learn more about the demons, another crucial element in both historic and current conflicts and more complex than they may appear at first glance.

Then things shift again into a violent and very dramatic conclusion, as secrets come to light and everything is revealed.

There are elements of horror throughout, from old tortures and the lingering effects they had to beings of great power with all the moral restraint of a bored cat.

With the depth and strength of its magical world, the complexity of its characters, and the freshness of its West African inspired setting, Kingdom of Souls is one of the best fantasy novels I've read in a long time.


Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron is out now, published by HarperCollins UK.

I was given a review copy via Netgalley in return for an honest review.


Popular Posts