ARC Review: Blood Winter by Diana Pharaoh Francis ★★★★★


Blood Winter by Diana Pharaoh Francis
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Horngate witches #4
Publication Date: December 26th 2012
ISBN: 9781451613865
Page Count: 400
Rating: ★★★★★
Review Copy: ARC
Reviewed by: Lynsey
Synopsis: Set in apocalyptic America and featuring a magically enslaved heroine who is “a riveting mixture of guts, compassion, and furious anger as she struggles with a world coming apart at the seams” (Romantic Times), the fourth in a dynamic dark urban fantasy series unlike anything you’ve ever read before.
Winter is coming to Montana and Shadowblade warrior Max is expecting trouble. People are hoarding everything. They are banding together, many flocking to the congregation of Sterling Savage, a fire-and-brimstone preacher. A charismatic cult leader who claims to be the Hand of God, he’s determined to create a human utopia and destroy all magic, starting with witches.

Unbeknownst to him, the “divine” voice he’s been hearing isn’t God but a demon that feeds on hate, death, and destruction. Savage is the perfect puppet for the demon’s ambitions. Max and her people at Horngate are all that stand in its way, and they are woefully unprepared.

Conducting terrible, bloody ceremonies to boost his own power and that of the demon riding him, Savage starts a war between his congregants and two other powerful gangs in the city, fighting for food, fuel, clothing and territory. When he manages to capture Max’s niece, brother, and several teenagers from Horngate, Max tries to free them but finds that Savage has twisted their minds. They worship him—even her brother, who is a witch and whom Savage intends to burn at the stake. Going undercover in the cult compound, Max swiftly realizes just how seductive Savage is. His charisma is reinforced with magic. His followers adore him and will do anything for him. Anything.

But courage, loyalty, and friendship are powerful forces—and Max doesn’t like to lose.


REVIEW

Five action-packed stars!

The Horngate Witches series is set in a post magical apocalyptic America and features badass sword-wielding, not quite human, warriors, mildly sociopathic witches, not very angelic angels, and all manner of other weird mythological creatures and beasties. With a splash of romance enough to make me grin like a weirdo, worldbuilding that knocks my socks off, and action by the bucket load, you can see why this series is right up their with my other Urban Fantasy favourites like Kate Daniels, The Hollows, Mercedes Thompson and all those other great female-led UF series. If you haven't started this series yet and you are a fan of any of the above, add this to your TBR today! You will not be sorry.

The warriors in this series—Shadowblades and Sunspears—act as guardians for the witches and are, in fact, the main focus of books, despite the slightly misleading series name. They're woven with spells that make them nearly indestructible, as well as faster, stronger, more resistant to extreme temperatures, etc. But the downside to all that is eternal servitude to the witch who turned them. Which wouldn't be so much of a problem unless, say for instance, that witch used to be your best friend and did it to you without your permission.

Yeah. That.

Our main character is Max (that's a girl, btw), but at this point in the series, it's fair to say that Alexander is just as much of a main character as it's told in alternating third person POVs between them. Max and Alexander not only have to fight all manner of nasty things in this book as part of their role as leaders of the Shadowblades, but they're also fighting some more personal demons, as well as their increasingly complicated feelings for each other.

Following on from the giant waves of magic that erupted a couple of books back, and then Max's trials in Shadow City, she and her fellow Blades are reunited once again and decide it's time they get out from behind the safety and insulation of Horngate's wards to check out the aftermath and find out what's happening with the humans still out there in the towns and cities. Which is nothing good, as it turns out. Food is in critical demand, people are reverting back to their baser natures, and where there's chaos and panic, there's always some douchecanoe wannabe dictator ready to lead them all up the creek without a paddle. Which loosely sums up the premise of this book, in a very crude and ineloquent way.

I thought the use of the split POVs proved really useful once again; allowing us to see the action from all sides at once. The awkwardness that's developed between Alexander and Max was showcased brilliantly, too. Max, being Max, isn't handling the new dynamic with Alexander very well. She's been acting like Jekyll and Hyde with him and he is both perplexed and annoyed by it. I fully expected Max to make some mistakes at the whole "relationship" thing, and she certainly didn't disappoint! I thought that entire situation was really well-written, and with a few unpredictable twists thrown in for good measure.

Overall, I thought the story was engaging, well-paced, amusing, emotional, exhilarating, intense...I mean, I could just go on and on. It was just superb urban fantasy.

So what are you waiting for, hmm? Go grab yourself a copy right now!

Happy reading:)

5 Stars! ★★★★★
ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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