Review: Shadow City by Diana Pharaoh Francis ★★★★

Shadow City by Diana Pharaoh Francis
Genre: Urban Fantasy (Fantasy, Witches, tough female protagonist, warriors, magic)
Series: Book three in The Horngate Witches series
Original Language: English
Publisher: Pocket
Country: USA
Publication Date: December 27, 2011
ISBN: 978-1451613858
Page Count: 384
My rating: ★★★★

Summary

THERE ARE GOOD GUYS. THERE ARE BAD GUYS. AND THEN THERE’S MAX.

From the moment she was bound by magic and transformed into a deadly warrior, Max dreamed of escape. Instead she went to war. She saved the coven she was enslaved to defend from unearthly destruction, but only at the cost of her own freedom.

Now Max has been taken captive and forced to become the champion of a demi-god in a deadly game where the losers die, or worse. She must perform three impossible tasks, each one more dangerous than the last. Alone and unarmed in a strange magical city, Max will battle creatures she’s never even heard of. If she loses, she dies. If she wins, she might just get a chance to go home to her friends, her family, and to Alexander, the sexy Shadowblade warrior whose fate is entwined with hers.
But Horngate’s own future is far from certain. The covenstead is threatened by a Fury—a creature that, once it escapes its fragile bonds, will wreak untold destruction. Will Alexander and the other Shadowblades be able to protect Horngate without Max? Or will Max discover that she doesn’t have a home to return to?

REVIEW


“What is a Max?” 

“She is…unique. And she is about to kill you.” 

I am once again bowled over by the incredible imagination of Diana Pharaoh Francis.

The vivid backdrop of the Shadow City and its inhabitants in this instalment was as wacky as it was wonderful. If you've read the previous two books, Bitter Night and Crimson Wind, you'll know that Francis' word building is highly original and unusual as are the creatures and supernatural beings that reside within. In Shadow City, this is taken to an even higher extreme.

Some of these creatures were adaptations of beings from myth and legend, others were spawned directly from Francis' mind and they were many and varied. As was the scenery. Each new place Max visited was as intriguing as the last, every building, every sight, every smell was brought to life in full technicolour.

The setting of the book was equally split between Horngate and the Shadow City. In Alexander's POV for the former, and Max's for the latter. This kept both storylines moving along at an equal clip and it was great how the ramifications of events from one side were experienced from the other.

The only slight negative to this split is that I missed the camaraderie between Max and the rest of the gang. I wanted her reunited with them, especially Alexander, with an almost frightening intensity and it just couldn't happen soon enough for me. Even though I enjoyed Max's foray out on her own, and Francis kept me interested throughout, I was still counting the pages until it happened.

On the plus side, the time spent alone did serve to give Max the chance to reflect on how she feels about certain things and certain people: Giselle, her family, Alexander. As well as her role and her forced servitude. I felt there was yet more growth for her as a main character in this story. The bitter, resentful woman from book one is slowly thawing and letting people in and it's great to witness.

Recommended for all Urban Fantasy and Fantasy adventure fans.

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