Monday, December 31, 2012

Blood Winter by Diana P. Francis

Title: Blood Winter
Author: Diana Pharaoh Francis
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Horngate Witches #4

Mass Market Paperback, 400 pages

Publication: December 26, 2012 by Pocket Books

Buy the book

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.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Best of 2012 Giveaway Hop (INT)

Welcome to my blog on the giveaway hop, hosted by  I AM A READER, NOT A WRITER
Giveaway runs from 12/27 through 12/31 

I read some great books this year, and the following books either received 4 or 5 stars right here on the blog. One (1) winner will choose his/her book choice from my 'Best read of 2012'.

If you're interested in one of the book that's part of a series, you can choose the first book instead.

Please fill out the rafflecopter, giveaway is international (as long as Book Depository ships to your country).
Leave book choice + email in the comment section! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Check out the following blogs that are also participating in the blog hop!

Shadow City by Diana P. Francis

Title: Shadow City
Author: Diana Pharaoh Francis
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Horngate Witches #3

Mass Market Paperback, 369 pages

Publication: December 27, 2011 by Pocket Books

Buy the book

Source: Publisher


The world is falling apart. The magical apocalypse has come. Now is the time to guard the covenstead against both raiders and refugees. But Max has been stolen by a powerful demi-god who is determined to force her to find a way to use a magical power she never knew she had—even if it kills her. Meanwhile, back in Horngate, a Fury is birthing. When the creature breaks free of the fragile bonds that enclose her, her rage will scour the covenstead from the earth. Max finds herself in the Shadow City, a place of mysteries and magic, where she must battle for her freedom or become a slave to creatures of dreadful greed and power. Back in Horngate, Alexander must swallow his anger and pride if he hopes to defeat the Fury, a creature that no one has ever successfully fought before.


It is no secret that the Horngate Witches is one of my favorite urban fantasy series (see ‘favorite series’ tab) , it is by far the most imaginative, dark and gritty written urban fantasy out in the genre. Shadow City is the third book in the Horngate Witches series, which takes place a few weeks after the events in Crimson Wind.  Max, our protagonist was captured by the demi-god Scooter at the end of the last book, and finally readers learn the reason why in Shadow City. Scooter ‘Nayan’ is slowly dying, and he needs Max to go with him to Chadaré (shadow city) to retrieve his heart, horn, and silk that was stolen from him long ago. Chadaré is a city through the abyss full of unknown creatures and magic that Max has never seen before, she will have to battle the Korvads and win if she wants to save Scooter and get out alive.
Meanwhile, back at Horngate Alexander, Giselle and the other blades and spears are battling a problem of their own, a fury is being born that threatens the destruction of Horngate and it’s surrounding. Furies are born from the souls of women who have been brutally betrayed, the most powerful-disastrous force of the embodiment of all suffering women.  Time is running out as Max searches for Scooter’s missing part and as Alexander and the gang try to keep Horngate from another cataclysmic blow.   

This book had two stories going at once, one with Max and Scooter in Chadaré and the other with Alexanader and the entire coven stead at Horngate. The chapters jumps back and forth (sometimes two chapters at a time) between Max in Chadaré and Alexander in Horngate, I love both sides of their stories and how it came together towards the end of the book.  Readers are in for a real treat when Max arrives with Scooter in Chadaré, as we get a whole new play ground to explore. Chadaré is different at every turn, one minute you think you’re standing in Arabia, the next a futuristic blue crystal city or back in the renaissance era with medieval castles. I was also glad to learn more about Scooter, who before in the previous book was a total mystery...and underneath that disguise of a man lays a demi-god with scales, horn and talons. 

The world building is already top-notch and complex all on its own, but the characters is also another reason that makes this series a must read for all urban fantasy fans. While Max and Alexander were separated for most of the book, I still enjoyed the interactions they had with the rest of the cast of characters. Francis introduces a new ally demi-god, Ilanion that helps Max in Chadaré but not without motives of his own and readers also get to see Valery and Holt again from the previous book as they help Alexander with the Fury business. Oh almost forgot! There were also an animal/creature bonding going on which I found funny and fascinating in both worlds for Max and Alexander… a pack of grims, dog-like beast and a tagalong calopus. 

Another amazing addition to the series, readers get everything that they love in the previous books plus more. I can’t recommend this series enough, if you haven’t started this series yet…what are you waiting for?! Buy it now, and I highly suggest you read this series in order starting with Bitter Night, Crimson Wind, Shadow City and finally Blood Winter.  Superb writing, world and characters that will stay with you long after you finish a book, I can’t wait to read the next book in the series! 

FTC disclaimer: Pocket Books provided me with a copy of Shadow City , and in return I provide an honest review.