Blood Winter Mass Market Paperback – Dec 26 2012
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"Maximum attitude, maximum action. Who can deliver on all that and more? Max to the max, that's who." --Rob Thurman, New York Times bestselling author of All Seeing Eye
About the Author
Diana Pharaoh Francis has written the fantasy novel trilogy that includes Path of Fate, Path of Honor and Path of Blood. Visit DianaPFrancis.com or follow her @dianapfrancis.See all Product Description
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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!
"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."
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.
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.
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. 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 which is a great thing.
Bottom Line: 5 Star reading, dismal environment, sacrificial heroine, soaring ending. What more can you ask? It was great, get this series, get this book.
"The Lord of Heaven and Earth bids us not suffer a witch to live," the man declared in a singsong cadence. "We must not suffer evil in our midst, or we will become evil; we will defile our Lord's name by our very existence. We must do His work, no matter the cost. He sacrificed His only son for us; we must be willing to sacrifice no less for Him!"
Someone claiming to be the right hand of God is threatening Horngate and the surrounding communities. They've managed to bypass Horngate's wards and have made their intentions clear. What the "preacher" doesn't say is the bible also warns to beware of false prophets, which the man wearing sandals and a long beige cotton robe belted with a rope clearly is. In fact, the "prophet" himself is a witch for otherwise he and his followers would never have been able to breach the wards which protect Horngate from outsiders.
Additionally, Divine creatures, some of which were thought to be extinct, are popping up all over the surrounding areas. If all that is going on can be attributed to the witch claiming to be a prophet of God, then he is a powerful witch indeed. It may take all or more power than Giselle and her coven possess to overcome this enemy. With the previous attack still fresh in her memory, Max vows, "No one--no one--was going to get away with attacking her home again. She didn't care what she had to do to protect it and the people within. This was her home, her family. She'd kill anyone who threatened them."
This is the fourth book in the Horngate Witches series. Because there is so much to the Horngate series' world, I highly recommend you read the previous books to the series. While some may be able to pick up enough without reading the previous stories, I feel you'd cheat yourself out of the whole experience the series has to offer by doing so. I was first introduced to this series a year ago by the publisher, and when they told me they had copies of Blood Winter available for review, I immediately put in a request for one. Ms. Francis never fails to entertain me with this series.
While the name implies the books focus on witches, Max, a Prime Shadowblade, is the primary focus of the series. Shadowblades are individuals who were once human but have been magically altered by a witch to never age, be physically stronger and faster, and to have the ability to heal from just about any injury. In trade, they are unable to disobey the witch who created them, are no longer able to have children, and cannot venture out into sunlight. Additionally, they originally needed to leave their friends and loved ones along with their old lives behind. A witch is supposed to get permission from the individual they turn and, while technically Giselle did ask, she'd gotten Max drunk and the question was posed more as a hypothetical one than a true question. For thirty years after her transition, Max had hated Giselle, her one time best friend, for what she'd done and what she'd taken from her. When the Guardians, however, unleashed the flood of magic back into the world, Giselle allowed Max to save her family and bring them back to Horngate to keep them safe. Since then, she no longer hates, but neither does she like Giselle, and she's come to terms with what she is, a Shadowblade.
In Blood Winter, a so called religious sect called Earth's Last Stand is displaying cult like behavior and being lead by a witch claiming to be a "prophet" of the Lord. The group is bringing murder, mayhem and corruption to Missoula and threatening Horngate. The man in charge, Benjamin Sterling, seems to have no problem killing and torturing witches and humans alike under the guise of the Lord's will. While sometimes bringing a religious angle into a series can be a poor move on the part of an author, I felt it fit in nicely with what is going on in the world Ms. Frances has created. With a magical apocalypse taking place, it seems almost natural for a magical entity to attempt to gain power using religion to mask their evil doings. Desperate times tend to blur the lines between what some people will consider acceptable behavior, especially when survival becomes their utmost goal. People will follow whoever can offer them the best chance at survival, which can force them to follow the wrong person or people. To defeat this enemy, Max will have to use both her might and brains to rescue herself and others and not everyone will come out of this one alive.
Besides trying to save Horngate and the surrounding areas, Max's personal life is in disarray. Alexander senses Max is holding back emotionally from their relationship and wants her to break down the barriers between them. Considering her last relationship, which incidentally was thirty years ago, left a lot to be desired, she's not sure how. She's guarded her emotions for so long, she seems to know no other way.
Why is the book called Blood Winter? Well, I believe it's because the book takes place in winter and there are so many lives lost that the author chose to name it Blood Winter. A winter so bloody with death, no other name would do.
Overall, I gave this one 5 out of 5 roses. Plenty of monsters, drama, action, close calls, and seemingly impossible situations. There is a major twist in this one which I didn't see coming and enjoyed watching unfold. I highly recommend the book and the series. I love Ms. Francis' imagination and always look forward to seeing what she'll have up her sleeve for her next book. If your looking for a roller coaster read with characters you can relate and bond with, you may wish to give this series a try. This series definitely ranks among my favorites. I'm forgoing the romance rating because while there is a touch romance going on, I don't feel justified in calling it or rating it as a romance. Romance is not the central focus of the series and, for the majority of the story, the two seemed to be trying to define and solidify their relationship. So while there was a little bookie nookie at the beginning, I felt it was just used as a means of providing us a view into the dynamics of Max's and Alexander's relationship.
Since the wild magic has returned and all manner of creatures have sprung up, Max at the Horngate Covenstead face challenges from numerous fronts. Everyone is starving, with food and water supplies dwindling and now a new cult has sprung up. The leader is a charismatic man who promises his followers protection and survival, while turning them all against magical creatures and especially witches. Max must face the fury head on, as always, but will it cost her too much this time??
I've read this series since the beginning and I've always loved Max's no-nonsense character and her strength. While I understand Max's push-me-pull-me feelings in her relationship with Alexander, she seems uncharacteristically avoidant to dealing with the situation. Especially in the face of everything she's gone through in her life, it just didn't feel like `Max'. I liked the action and mystery in `Blood Winter' and I was glad to see the Covenstead allying with the mundanes, as they were all facing the same problem. I've read on the author's website how `Blood Winter' is the last book in this series. I deeply and sincerely hope there is at least one more book in this series. While the book did end in a semblance of `happy ever after', there were loose ends still left open. Overall, I've really liked this series and I'm sad to see it end, if it is definitely ending.
Horngate Witches Series: Bitter Night (1), Crimson Wind (2), Shadow City (3), Blood Winter (4)