Esmes Indie Highlights/SPFBO: War Witch by Layla Nash

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This is a semi finalist in Lynn’s Books grouping, it’s an urban fantasy with shape shifting, witches, covens and demons – a lot of action in this book.

Bingo: Self Published, 2017


Lily is living in a post war era Earth after something called The Breaking, which spilled magic into the rest of the world and alerted humans that they were living among Others.  A war broke out between the Others and humanity and it was bloody, after the war alliances were crucial to keeping the peace and keeping ones safety.

Living in a post war era, Lilith is on her toes because she’s Unaligned, having no ties to any faction after the Truce. It leaves her vulnerable to attacks with no one to help her, but she finds the price of swearing loyalty too high to pay.

Witches are dying around her, some of them old friends and old coven mates. There’s dark magic being used, but no one is sure by who or to what end. Witches are being arrested and accused of dark magic, but most of it is just power displays with no real criminals apprehended. The main character is skirting around being arrested herself since she’s been in the wrong place at the wrong time, there’s a mysterious person trying to help her but we don’t know if they’re friend or foe.

There’s also unrest between the different factions, many groups unhappy with Sorens leadership and may plan to depose him, which would send everything into a war again.

There’s a lot of mystery going on and you’re never sure who’s trust worthy and who’s not – there’s also a lot of politics. Different wolf packs, bears, cats, humans, witches all having different goals and allegiances.

Final Score: 7/10


  • Lily – the main character and a war witch, one of the most powerful witches left after the war, is an old war hero but still despised by many for actions during the war that weren’t made clear until the end of the book. She’s an adult that’s lost both of her parents and an old lover, she doesn’t have many people she can rely on outside of her best friend, Mo.
  • Mo – a wolf shifter and part of a wolf pack that’s friendly to Lily, she’s kind of sassy and fun and she’s a great friend for Lily being one of the only people she can trust. She’s got her own stuff going on with pack problems and her sisters wedding.
  • Lief – a complicated love interest, he’s part of law enforcement and since Lily keeps getting into trouble he may end up having to arrest her. This was an interesting take on a romance and it kept things surprising.

It’s a single POV so you get all of this through Lilys eyes, and she’s a bit biased and mistrusting, so you don’t know if people really are that treacherous, or if she’s been hurt so many times she sees back stabbers everywhere. She’s not very trusting and keeps most of her problems, even serious ones to herself rather than asking for help.

Final Score: 7.5/10

World Building:

There are people known as Others who are magical, and before The Breaking no one really knew they existed. Shifters can change into any kind of animal, but only one, and they generally form clans/packs and alliances between different related species – Canines stick together as do large cats etc.

Loki’s are unregulated shifters, they are generally feared both by humans and Others – some cool stuff going on with this once you get halfway through.

Witches have different levels, and they have to wear rings to identify their power ranking. War Witches are the most powerful, but someone like a Mender is considered low ranking.

Witches can be ‘collared’ with an iron ring which cuts them off from their magic, used when people are getting arrested or tortured.

Externals are a group of humans keeping an eye on the Others, looking for people breaking the Truce or dark witches. They have started arresting people whether they are guilty or not, they’re also performing illegal interrogations. They’ve been hounding the MC and she’s running out of time before they send her to jail. And jail in this world is not pretty, it’s full of iron to cut witches off from magic which can have real consequences, magic withdraw can have the same effects as a drug addiction.

There are glamours, and portals to demon realms, scrying, runes, spellcraft, grimoires, summonings, ghosts, demons, undead, and more.

Final Score: 7.5/10


The pacing was pretty fast even though it was 455 pages, there was a lot of action going on. The main character had multiple enemies throughout the book all of which were making some kind of attack, or arrest attempts. There were demons and spirits and other fight scenes with wolves that kept things going. There was moderate cursing, 39 fucks were given! The tone was darker-ish, the main character wasn’t exactly happy through most of the book, the world was bleaker since it was post war and there was oppression going on for the magical races, people were dying, and demons were being summoned.

The plot *sort of* wrapped up at the end, but it’s definitely part of a series.

Pacing Final Score: 7.5/10

Writing Final Score: 8/10


I’ve read a lot of post war urban fantasy where magical people are discriminated against, so it makes it difficult to make yourself stand out, but there was enough going on here that was new to keep me interested

Final Score: 6.5/10


  • For people who like witches
  • For people looking for female POV
  • For people looking for female authored
  • For people looking for demons, ghosts, summons, and dark magic
  • For people looking for a lot of action
  • For people looking for a lot of magic
  • For people who prefer single POV
  • For people who like a lot of politics

Final Score: 44/60 or 7.33/10 or 4 stars on goodreads


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