Author: Diana Pharaoh Francis
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Horngate Witches #4
Mass Market Paperback, 400 pages
Publication: December 26, 2012 by Pocket Books
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Source: Publisher (Gallery/Finish copy)
NEW GAME. SAME RULES. SHE FIGHTS. THEY DIE. Max always does her job, no matter how brutal and bloody. That’s how it’s been ever since she was enslaved by a witch, turned into a supernatural warrior, and assigned to protect the coven of Horngate. But her job just got harder. . . .
Waves of wild magic have returned much of the world to a time when fairy tales were real and danger now lurks behind every tree and bush. As winter descends and food, heat, and water are harder to come by, many have turned to Benjamin Sterling for protection. Leader of the Earth’s Last Stand cult, Sterling claims to be the Hand of God, but his power and charisma secretly come from a dark and terrible source. With devout followers eager to do his sadistic bidding, he has his eyes on Horngate and its magical inhabitants. To save those she loves, Max will knowingly walk into a trap. But when the cult strips Max’s soul bare for all to see, will even Alexander—her lover and her strength—remain? And if she were to lose him, what does it matter if she gains the whole world. . . .
Blood Winter is the latest and final (according to author’s interview) book in the Horngate Witches series, centering on Max and her covenstead ,Horngate. The book takes place 4-5 weeks after Max survived a challenge against the Korvads in Chadaré, and arrives safely home to Horngate following the completion of Scooter’s request. Things in Missoula are getting worst and worst with food shortage, and people scrounging for whatever they can find. With the Magic in the air already creating havoc, a preacher who says he’s the right hand of god is stirring up trouble by creating a following to condemn all witches, demons, or just about anyone who isn’t with him. What the Earth’s Last stand cult doesn’t know is that their leader is a witch himself, and he’s targeting Horngate.
Max and the gang are all back, and like the first book everything takes place at Horngate/Missoula. No more leaving to another state or another dimension like the other books. Francis does an amazing job at creating another emotional-action packed novel that will have you flipping nonstop till the end. Max definitely has a lot on her mind this time around, still grieving over the deaths of ---, her relationship with Alexander, and the Earth’s Last stand cult. The pacing of the book was on the dot as usual, there’s never a dull moment in the book, and the author packs an emotional punch in every scene. While the majority of the book was well-done/written, there were two things that bothered me in this book; Max and Alexander’s relationship and the story/plot. After the ending of Shadow City, I thought Max knew what she wanted, Alexander.
In Blood Winter, Max and Alexander are together but not really official. Max would show her affection for Alexander in private, but brushes him off/gives him the cold shoulder when in front of the other blades/sun-spears. Max constantly questions herself for treating Alexander the way she does, but doesn’t fix it till near the end of the book. At one point in the book Alexander gives Max the same treatment she gives him, and she gets really butt-hurt and puts on a front that she doesn’t care. I just wished they talked about their feelings to one another instead of just waiting around till someone makes the next move. I also found the story plot line not that interesting (Sterling and his cult) but towards last couple of chapters things started moving forward, and the real reason behind the attacks are revealed which made up for the previous half of the book’s problem (my frustration with Max and Alexander’s relationship).
Overall it was a good read, but it didn’t meet my expectation. While this is the final book in the series, I felt like there were still unanswered questions (or at least questions I had). For example, where did the Salamanders/Grims go? What happened to the angels Tutresiels and Xaphan? Regardless of it being my least favorite of the series, it is still one of the best urban fantasy series I have ever read. I highly recommend this series and if you plan on starting it, it is best to start at the beginning with Bitter Night. This is a unique urban fantasy with a complex world and realistic characters that build on top of one another and readers will be missing a lot if books are read out of order. Hopefully this will not be the last of this world and characters; Francis says she might one day visit this world again whether it be short stories or novellas. With all four books already available, it might be a good time to check this series out now…you won’t have to wait a year between books like I had to!
FTC disclaimer: Pocket Books provided me with a copy of Blood Winter, and in return I provide an honest review.