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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

Blog Tour Review - Time-Marked Warlock by Shami Stovall

 Blog Tour Review - Time Locked Warlock by Shami Stovall

Adair Finch is the most powerful warlock in the world, and one of the best private investigators for hire. He has dealt with corporate vampires, murderous werewolves, and even fae royalty. Everything was perfect until he lost one case—the case where he also lost his brother.

So Finch retired. From magic. From PI work. From everything.

Bree Blackstone, a twelve-year-old witch, doesn’t know or care about any of that except Finch’s reputation. In the middle of the night, she bangs on Finch’s door. Her mother has been murdered, and now the assassin is after Bree as well.

Reluctantly, Finch agrees to help, only to discover something sinister has been brewing in town while he ignored the world… He’ll need to dust off all his old skills and magic before it’s too late.

What a wonderful read! I really enjoyed Time-Marked Warlock for its blend of recognised tropes and original ideas, mixed in a way that kept everything fresh and interesting.

It has a contemporary setting, a modern day small-town California. It has magic. In this world spellcasters seem to divide up into witches, who have their own, innate magic and a connection with the moon, and warlocks, who gain powers through pacts with other magical creatures., whether spirits, gods, demons or angels. One thing I really loved was the depth and intricacy of the magic setting. Warlocks can have multiple pacts, but at a cost, and there's an important difference in the types of pact that a warlock can be entered, one linked to different body parts, that both felt fresh and new and made a lot of logical sense. Witches function differently but in a way that is explained well enough that one can see how it operates in the same set of rules, and they have their own distinctions based around phases of the moon.

We see a range of different kinds of magic, but it's left open enough that there could be all sorts of future possibilities, and I loved the power difference represented between a warlock who formed a pact with a being of godlike abilities and the comic-relief warlock who made a pact with a weak spirit but struts about because he has magic. 

Adair's key power comes into play pretty much immediately. He can mark a point in time and rewind time to that point at will, as long as it is within 24 hours. It's an incredibly powerful ability and the narrative is essentially built around it. It's like Groundhog Day, but under his control. It's used really well for both dramatic and occasionally comic purposes. And this story mixes both humour and drama to great effect. A lot of the humour comes from Kull, a trickster spirit, and Bree, a twelve year old girl (which is almost a trickster spirit!) and their interjections and observations. Kull's obsession with modern society and its quirks keeps everything feeling very contemporary.

That's quite important, because at its heart Time-Marked Warlock is a classic Noir narrative. There's the washed up private eye, mourning the death of someone he failed to save, there are gangs and corruption, kidnappings and murders. Adair really does fit the pattern of the Noir detective beautifully, right down to his dishevelled appearance, albeit one with the powers of a fire spirit rather than a handgun. And it plays the trope of the washed-up old timer redeemed by having to care for a young child beautifully. Bree is a joy and a wonder, and her curiosity about the world of magic makes all of the exposition feel natural and interesting. 

With its blend of humour and drama, Time-Marked Warlock adds a spark of magic to familiar crime noir territory. I'll definitely be checking out book two.


Time-Marked Warlock by Shami Stovall is published in June 2024.

I was given a review copy in return for this honest review and participation in this The Write Reads blog tour.


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