Guest Review – Blood Winter

Douglas Meeks has been really great about contributing guest reviews, and this one is no exception.  This time around, the review is for Diana Pharaoh FrancisBlood Winter, which is the fourth book in the Horngate Witches series (it will be available on December 26th).

What Doug said…

by
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Release Date 26 December 2012
For details/info on this series first 3 books go here:
SETTING:
Ages ago, the Guardians of the Earth created an army of creatures—faeries, banshee, chimeras, oni, lamia, kelpies, angels…the Uncanny and Divine things that populate myth and legends that most humans suppose never really existed. It was an army meant to contain the human population, to keep them from overrunning the earth…hungry parasites taking more than the host can provide.
The army failed. The Guardians were too benevolent and did not prune back the weed of humanity as severely as needed. As a result, cold iron took a heavy toll on the creatures of the Uncanny and Divine.
Centuries later, the Guardians have decided to act before it is too late—before the magic dies entirely. This time, they are holding nothing back. Over centuries, the creatures of the Uncanny and Divine have grown less susceptible to iron, and they will no longer let mercy or pity get in the way of saving the earth and it’s magic.
A war is beginning, one that will remake the earth and decimate much of humanity. It will move mountains and drain oceans. Magical beings will once again walk the earth, more powerful than ever before. Will anyone protect humanity? Who will survive when the war ends? The line in the sand between good and evil is smudged and crooked and right and wrong is impossible to know. But no one will be left on the sidelines; everyone will have to choose side.
SUMMARY:
Set in apocalyptic America and featuring a magically enhanced 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. He manages to capture Max’s niece, brother, and several teenagers from Horngate and Savage intends to burn them 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:
This is the 4th book in the Horngate witches series (which is a bit of a misnomer since the books are largely about Max and her fellow Shadowblades). This novel starts with the apocalypse already in full swing and the need to find and store basic necessities is a primary concern for most people but Max does not live a normal life and food while necessary is far from the forefront of her problems.
A so called preacher with powers that suggest powers far beyond what any human could/should have has emerged and is building an army of dangerous sycophants who are enthralled with him. His main targets are witches who are actually one of the forces holding the world in check and without whom chaos and death will rule the earth.
The witches of Horngate and Max in particular (although she is no witch) seem to be the target for his venomous attacks and sadistic desires. The relationship (or lack thereof) between Max and Alexander adds in an overwhelming amount of angst into the mix. The “sleeping” angels have not awoke so once again Max is putting her life on the line for others.
The thing that makes this novel (and others in the series) work so well is the level of sacrifice that Max and others show during these novels; it brings them to a bit higher level in the emotional involvement of the reader.
The level of evil displayed by the enemies in this novel don’t make it hard to figure out which side you are on but I do question a couple of more benevolent moments and would have liked to have a bit more closure, maybe I will get it in the next book.
RATING:
This addition to the series was a bit harder to rate than the others because of the depth of suffering and the myriad plots and subplots occurring. Additionally, a large amount of the “action” takes place in Max’s head which can be a confusing place.
At the end of the novel though you are pleased with most things (but not everything) and are not left with a sense of things left undone, you have more questions but most good authors leave a few crumbs to attract readers to the next book, which is not a bad thing if done with a light touch as it is here.
Bottom Line: 5 Star reading, dismal environment, sacrificial heroine, soaring ending. What more can you ask? It was great, when can I get the next one? Get this series, get this book.
I have heard great things about this series – are there any other fans out there?  Who else is excited for the next book?
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12 thoughts on “Guest Review – Blood Winter

    • Well, that does suck. I hate to see a series come to an unexpected end (and Doug will not be amused, either). Thanks for the info, though.

  1. I’m looking forward to the next/last installment in this series but disappointed that the series is ending. On a positive note I’ve enjoyed everything this author has done and I’m looking forward to her future endeavors.

    • I was really surprised to see that it was ending. I thought her series was ticking along nicely, probably doing a lot better than quite a few others I can think of. Guess it shows that you never really know what is going on behind the scenes.

      • Whoa, I missed all this, this is NOT the end of this series unless the author has forgot to tell me something :) The other series I was reviewing the WVMP series did end. The Horngate Witches has a few more to go I am sure

        • I wondered if you had heard about it. On her blog, Diana said I got word today that it is now certain that Blood Winter will be the last Horngate book. The positive thing is that it really wraps up on a good closing note. The fact is the books arent selling well enough. I need to find a way to get more people to know my name and buy my books. ” It really is a shame, though.

          • I subscribe to her blog and I did not see that, she is begging for some postings of reviews on social media I plan to do but I had her personal email so I dropped her a line to find out for sure. While Blood Winter could be a decent ending it really is not a closing story to be honest. She is getting ready for some travel so not sure if I will hear back soon or not.

  2. Dammit! I hate when one of my favorite series I just discovered goes belly up below is the response to my post, got a bit more in the email but I will keep that to myself.

    “Yep. Sadly the sales aren’t high enough for Pocket to want to keep it going. That’s why I really worked hard to wrap things up properly in Blood Winter. I could do more independently, and I may if the stories arise.”

    SH*T!

    • The only good thing about a situation is that authors now do have the option of self-pubbing, if they choose to. Not long ago it was publishing house or nothing, even though I imagine it would be hard to make the transition.

  3. Update from Diana’s blog -she has a new publisher and more books are coming. I feel better now.

    http://www.dianapfrancis.com/2014/04/05/a-horngate-witches-announcement/

    I’m super pleased and over the moon to be able to tell you that Samhain Publishing has contracted to publish two more books in the Horngate Witches series! The titles will be Bone Dreams and Stone Thaw. I’ll be writing them in 2015, and I’m not sure when the release will be. But so excited!!!! I hope you are too.

  4. Hey, just found a new Diana Pharaoh Francis book online, Amazon. Titled Trace of Magic. I’m quite pleased to see her out here with a new series. My weekend reading is set.

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