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Crimson Wind [Mass Market Paperback]

Diana Pharaoh Francis

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Book Description

Dec 28 2010 Horngate Witches Books

Max knows what trusting the wrong person can cost you. Her former friend Giselle, a powerful witch, enslaved Max years ago, turning her into a Shadowblade—a deadly warrior compelled to fight for Giselle. But there’s more at stake now than Max’s thirst for revenge. The Guardians, overseers of the magical world, have declared war on humanity and on any witches not standing with them. Max and Giselle have come to an uneasy truce in order to protect what’s left of Horngate, their coven’s home. Max would do anything for Horngate—even give herself over to a mysterious otherworldly creature in the nearby mountains in exchange for his help. But first, she intends to save the mortal family she left behind. And Alexander, the Shadowblade warrior who could be her closest ally or her deadliest enemy, is going with her.

On a road trip into the unknown, Max and Alexander face wild magic, desperate enemies, and battles that bruise both body and soul. But the greatest challenge will come from unexpected revelations that test everything Max believes about who she is—and where her loyalties lie. . . .

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Books (Dec 28 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416598154
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416598152
  • Product Dimensions: 17.2 x 10.8 x 2.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 181 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #472,935 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Diana Pharaoh Francis has written the fantasy novel trilogy that includes Path of Fate, Path of Honor and Path of Blood. She has also written The Crosspointe Chronicles, which include The Cipher and The Black Ship. Diana teaches in the English department at the University of Montana Western. She is a lover of chocolate, Victoriana, and sparkly things. For more a lot more information including where to go to read her blog, maps of her worlds, updated news, and other odd and fun tidbits, visit or follow her @dianapfrancis.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


Max struggled. She hung pendant and weightless in the abyss between worlds. Tatters of magic swirled like bright jewels in the black. They shimmered and billowed like silk rags, and they sliced like razors wherever they touched.

She twisted to avoid a swooping cluster that bunched and spiraled like a deadly flock of birds. A gauzy wisp of purple slid along Max’s hip, and she wrenched away from the liquid curl of acid that reached intimately down inside her, causing a fierce ache in a place beyond flesh and bone.

Max did not scream. She had done it just once, the first time Scooter had dragged her here. She wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction ever again.

A force shoved her insistently toward the right. Scooter. The fucker. She yanked away from the pressure, tumbling in the darkness and into a cloud of gray magic. It clung to her with tenacious eagerness. It melted into her. Her heart pounded frantically as her healing spells kicked into high gear, drawing on her shallow reserve of calories from the food she’d eaten before bed. It wouldn’t be long until they began feeding on her flesh. If she couldn’t wake herself up, she was going to die.

She hesitated, tempted to let herself stop fighting. He wanted her bad, and she was worthless to him dead. She’d love to see his face if he killed her.

But he wasn’t the only one who needed her. The thought spurred her. She resumed her struggle.

Again the demanding push. She snarled and hauled back against it. She couldn’t keep Scooter out—she couldn’t keep him from attacking her every time she fell asleep—but she didn’t have to let him push her around while he had her trapped here. She didn’t care if he probably was a half-breed god.

Something like fear quivered deep inside her. She ignored it. She could panic later. And there would be a later. She’d make sure of it.

She felt his frustration like an explosion of quills drilling through her insides. They curved like hooks and ripped through her. Pain burned like nothing she had ever felt. She opened herself to it out of habit, letting herself relax into the boiling cauldron of agony. It filled her, drawing her down into its depths. Far away, her body twitched and went as still as death as Max embraced the pain. Her breathing slowed, her heart beat evenly. She felt her spectral self smiling with vicious triumph as she drew perverse strength from the hurt. It was a skill she’d mastered the hard way. She refused to ever let anyone use her body against her, not if she could help it. And today she could.

Scooter hovered out of sight, waiting for her to capitulate. He prodded her again. It felt like she’d been Tasered. Max snarled, wishing she could pummel him to bits. But there was no fighting him here. She didn’t know how. But that didn’t make her helpless.

With slow deliberation, she reached out to her body. She told herself to kick and thrash. On her bed far away, her physical self responded, sluggishly at first, then began to jerk and convulse. She redoubled her efforts, evading Scooter as he sought to shatter the connection. It was a race. If she could wake herself first, she’d win.

Pain streaked from her hand to her arm, and Max woke. She lunged to her feet. Her ribs bellowed as she panted. Blood ran from a ragged three-inch gash that seamed across her palm. She closed her fist around it with a grim smile of triumph. For the last two weeks, every time she went to sleep, Scooter came for her, and every time, it was harder and harder to wake up and escape. This time, she had planned for it.

Max glanced down at the tack strips on the floor surrounding her mattress. Four-inch twenty-penny nails spiked from the wood in a six-inch-wide moat. She’d known that sooner or later as she struggled to wake, she’d impale herself and the pain would give her the means to wake up. Above on the wall was a dream catcher. Or it had been. The center of it was shriveled and twisted, and the smell of burned leather and feathers filled the room. She grimaced. It had been a long shot. The shaman who made it was powerful but nothing like Scooter.

She opened her hand. The wound had mostly closed, thanks to her healing spells. Her stomach cramped sharply, and she wobbled dizzily. The spells were sucking more out of her than she had to give. For days, she’d been eating enough to feed the entire Pittsburgh Steelers defensive line, and it still wasn’t enough.

She stepped over the tack strip and grabbed a power bar from the stack on her nightstand, left there for just this purpose. Her hand shook, and she steadied it with an effort. She gulped the bar in two bites and then ate another dozen in quick succession. She grabbed the lukewarm bottle of flat Mountain Dew and chugged the entire thing, making a face at the foul taste. The bars and drink would give the spells some fuel to work with until she could calorie-load in the dining commons. Which, if she had any sense, she would do right now.

She ran her hands through her short blond hair, annoyed at the way they still shook. She clenched them as anger seared through her. She was getting really fucking tired of this. What she ought to do was go deal with Scooter once and for all. The only trouble was that seeing him might be the last thing she ever did in this world.

Max drew a sharp breath and blew it out as her compulsion spells jerked tight. Tears burned in her eyes, and she staggered, sagging onto the box spring of her bed. Her legs felt like syrup. She drew deep, ragged breaths, bracing her elbows on her knees and pressing her hands against her face. Her compulsion spells didn’t like the idea of her dying in a Scooter confrontation. She doubted Giselle had even thought what would happen when the witch-bitch promised to give Max to the bastard. If just thinking about going to him set off her compulsion spells—she was supposed to protect Horn-gate and Giselle, not abandon them—actually going to him might kill her. But then, so would he if she kept putting him off.

Max snarled. Trust Giselle to make her the center of a game of magical tug-of-war and never think what it might do to Max.

Giselle held the anneau of Horngate—the knot of magic at the heart of a covenstead’s territorial power. She was a powerful and smart witch, as she must be to hold an anneau, as well as ruthless and cruel. Max’s mouth twisted. She knew better than anyone just how ruthless and cruel Giselle could be. The witch had taught Max everything she knew about pain. Max had spent uncountable hours being tortured on her altar as she was bound to Giselle’s service, then thousands more as those bonds were strengthened and increased.

The memories were as fresh as when they were brand-new, and familiar fury swirled up inside Max as hot as on the first day she’d woken up to find herself no longer human. Giselle had turned her into a Shadowblade, one of two castes of warriors that every territory witch created as her own personal army. Shadowblades were creatures of the night—the magic that made them was fueled by the elemental force of darkness. They could not go into the sunlight without burning or melting—it was a swift and nasty death. They were preternaturally fast and strong, and many had other talents, depending on what spells the witch layered into them. Max was Giselle’s Prime, the strongest of the Shadowblades and thus their leader. They answered to her, and she answered to Giselle.

She ground her teeth together and swallowed, forcing down the foul taste that rose on her tongue as the memories of those first years of enslavement played vividly through her mind. Quickly she thrust them away. No. That was history now. Four weeks ago, she and Giselle had called a truce, and as bitter as it was, Max was going to stick to it. She had agreed to put aside her hate and thirst for revenge and work with Giselle to protect Horngate. It was a sacrifice she was willing to make, as was giving herself to Scooter. Horngate meant more to her than almost anything else. Almost. She still had something important to do, and come hell or high water, she was going to get it done before she tied a red bow around herself and hopped under Scooter’s Christmas tree.

Now she just had to tell him so.

She thrust to her feet. No time like the present. It was only about noon, so her Blades would still be asleep, and the Sunspears would be on patrol. No one would be around to try to talk her out of it.

As she crossed to her dresser, her compulsion spells coiled around her like razor wire. She panted shallowly. Usually she could think around them, twist her logic so that they loosened up and let her do whatever stupid thing she wanted to do. Not today. Compulsion spells didn’t care if Giselle had traded Max away to Scooter. All they cared about was making sure Max protected the witch-bitch and Horngate. Committing suicide by visiting Scooter didn’t cut the mustard.

She laughed softly and let the pain feed her resolve. One good thing about it was that it helped keep the predator Prime inside her from rising. If it did, all her Blades would come running, and she really didn’t need to explain herself. They should just obey her orders and quit harassing her to be more careful. She rolled her eyes. Like there was any safety to be had anymore. Like there ever had been.

She stripped off her clothes and tossed them in the direction of her hamper, then dressed in heavy black cargo pants and a long-sleeved black T-shirt.

Next, she went to the spacious closet. Two walls were devoted entirely to weapons. The third was stacked with ammunition, grenades, flash bombs, whetstones, reloading supplies, cleaning paraphernalia, and boxes of power bars, jars of peanut butter, cases of Gatorade, and several jugs of Mountain Dew. Sever...

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.3 out of 5 stars  41 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Crimson Wind Jan. 7 2011
By R. Bogosh - Published on
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This sequel was even better than the first book in the series! We pick up where we left off with Max trying to get Horngate back on track and repaired from the recent fights that nearly destroyed it. Max though has been having trouble sleeping and is plagued by the bargain that Giselle and she struck with the unknown force she nicknames "Scooter". He wants what he was promised, Max, but first Max wants to go get her human family and take them to Horngate so they will be safe. She and Scooter come to the agreement that he can wait a week for her to get her family but once she gets back she's all his.

Max and Alexander set off to retrieve Max's family. Alexander has not one but two prophecies hanging over his head, one regards his place at Horngate and the other is about Max. I really enjoyed Alexander I thought he stepped up a lot in this book, and he really got to show more of his emotions. Along the way to Max's family they encounter new characters that we will hopefully see in the next book. Max picks up strays where ever she goes, and it was great to see that despite how cold and unfeeling she thinks she can be she has a big heart. This book was all about the trials to finally get to Max's family, at one point you wonder if they are ever going to make it. They encounter wild magic and witness the beginnings of the world changing, more ShadowBlades and Sunspears from different coven's, and we get to meet someone Alexander cares about and calls family. Throughout their journey these two grow closer and are trying to decide whether to act on their feelings or in Max's case not to because of her fate with Scooter hanging over her head.

This book was amazing, we got everything that was alluded to in the first book. Definite character growth for Max and Alexander, though I wish we got to see more of the side characters, the entire book was Alexander and Max on the road and at the end they reached the family. I wished we could have seen more of the side characters because they always bring comedic relief and you can really tell that they care deeply for one another. These was also a big surprise in this book, and a betrayal of sorts. It was something that I definitely didn't see coming and can't wait for it to be explored fully.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must Read Series Dec 29 2010
By Addicted2Heroines - Published on
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I love, love, love this series!! Max is one of my absolute favorite female characters. I cannot come up with one single complaint about this book. I'm glad Alexander finally stepped up and became more aggressive. It was sexy as hell. Max definitely has to have a strong male who can keep up with her. There is a lot that goes on in this story. Max's ultimate goal is to locate her family and ensure their safety before having to surrender herself to a nameless and very powerful being that she has nicknamed "Scooter". She is sidetracked numerous times and she recruits several people along the way. There is also a lot of sexual tension and teasing between Alexander and Max. It was great ;) I also like that Tutresiel seems to be developing a crush on her. Maybe book three can end with Max in an Alexander and Tutresiel sandwich. I have my fingers crossed.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Live To Read Feb. 15 2013
By Chels - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition
In the first book, Max – the main character – was tricked by her friend Giselle – a witch – to because an ultimate fighter called a Shadowblade. She couldn’t visit her family, or Giselle will go ape-s*** and hurt everything Max holds dear. We find out in the second book that her family is in danger, and Giselle finally lets her go to protect people she loves and hasn’t seen in 30 years. Alexander goes along for the ride as well.

I feel bad for saying this, but Crimson Wind wasn’t as appealing to me as the first book. Max still won my heart, but she kind of got on my nerves as well. Alexander confessed his feelings to her in this book, and she turned him down to protect him. I thought that was okay; I mean she’s in a dangerous position, and it’s not really time for a whole lot of lovin’. Shouldn’t she treat him better? She’s a little harsh and stand-offish when he’s trying to help her. I didn’t feel that a strong leader like Max should have done certain actions towards characters. Don’t get me wrong, I still think Max is a perfect lead for this book. She’s still smart, adventurous, caring, and self-sacrificing. I just sometimes felt like it was a little out of hand. The plot was fast and action packed. I loved reading the hardships and problem solving Max had to endure, and it was great to see her on top. I still am in love with this series… it just felt a little off to me. I’ll pick up the third book no problem! If you want to start this series, PLEASE pick up the first one, you won’t be disappointed.

*Received a copy for review, this in no way affects my review*
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great sequel! Jan. 27 2012
By Van @ Short and Sweet reviews - Published on
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Crimson Wind, is the second installment in the Horngate Witches series. The book picks up four weeks after the events from the previous book, Bitter Night. Max, Giselle, and the other shadowblades and sunspears are rebuilding their coven after being attacked by the guardians. On top on rebuilding the coven, max has become sleep deprive. Every time Max closes her eyes the creature "Scooter", that lives underneath Horngate keeps trying to take her in her sleep. Scooter keeps on mentioning that Max is his "gift", which no one knows what that means. Scooter then shows Max a glimpse of her human family in danger, and gives her about a week to retrieve them before he pulls her back to him (he attaches something to her arm, which is like an invisible leash). Max sets out to save her family with Alexander of all people to keep her watch her back and make sure that she comes back alive.

Crimson Wind, is an excellent addition to the series and even better than the first! The book captured my attention right away. The book opens up with Max having another dream, where Scooter is trying to take her away and shortly after that Max goes out to retrieve her family. There's never a boring moment in the book, it's jammed packed with nonstop action. The chemistry between Max and Alexander is scorching! I love their interaction as they try to fight their attraction to one another. The secondary characters such as the shadowblades (warriors who can only go out in the night time) and sunspears (warriors who can only go out in the day time) are a joy to read. They have a great sense of humor, are fiercely loyal, and all have their own distinct personalities. If you're interested in looking for a new urban fantasy with a strong heroine, and an amazing cast of characters look no further. This series will need to be read in order to get the full effect of the great world building and characters. The order of the books are as follows; Bitter Night, Crimson Wind and Shadow City. Many other readers felt like this book had nothing to do with the first book, that it was a filler book but I disagree. The book gives us another perspective into Max's life besides her being a shadowblade prime (leader of the shadowblades) and we get to meet her family and learn more about her.

I highly recommend this series to all urban fantasy fans. If you haven't read this series, you're really missing out! This is a truly great sequel and I can't wait to get my hands on the third book, Shadow City.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Liked It...But I'm Perplexed May 21 2011
By Tracy - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
It's been four weeks since Max and the Horngate Witches, Shadowblades, and Sunspears fought off the initial attack of the genocidal Guardians, gaining two powerful angels as allies in the aftermath of the melee. Max suffers no delusions, though. She has no doubt that whatever the Guardians have planned next is going to make that battle seem like a picnic in the park as they rid the earth of humans and bring back the magic that has long since slipped from the world.

As Prime to the witch-bitch Giselle, Max is compelled by magic to protect Horngate and defend the Witch to the death. That job would be considerably less complicated if Giselle hadn't given Max over to the godlike entity Max calls Scooter, who is demanding in no uncertain terms that Max fulfill her promise to him and come with him to walk the web between worlds. Not that Max has any idea what that means...or what Scooter is, really. In fact, all she knows is that this is one promise she can't get out of alive...and one that may kill her by fulfilling.

Adding to Max's angst is the need to save the human family that she was ripped away from thirty years ago, as well as her conflicting emotions for Alexander, former Prime of the witch Selange but now freely associated with Horngate and considered one of her Shadowblades. Yeah, nothing quite like being caught between about five different rocks and six hard places to really spice up her life.

Now she's got to make a deal with Scooter for a little more time, then take a road trip through hell - literally - to get her family out of California and back to the relative safety of Horngate. And according to Giselle, she's got to take Alexander along with her to watch her back. If she survives, she has to give herself to Scooter. If she dies, so do many people under her protection. Either way, she's going to end up losing that which is most important to her, her home and the people there. Especially one very proud, very virile Prime who looks at her with emotions in his eyes that terrify her more than Guardians, Scooter, and an impending apocalypse combined.

This strong second installment to the Horngate Witches series was actually a bit more enjoyable a read for me than the first. From a technical standpoint, it's free from several of the issues I had with Bitter Night, with a better balance between description, world definition, mythos, and action. The exposition was thoroughly but succinctly handled, refreshing the minds of readers familiar with the series without weighing them down with an excessive rehash of information they already have, but providing a comprehensive summary of the previous events for readers new to the series. I even found myself much fonder of Alexander, who I had some problems with in the previous book.

Action scenes were plentiful and brutal, and Francis isn't any easier on Max or Alexander in this one. The plot is a little more focused, narrower in scope and mostly encompassing the road trip Max and Alexander go on to get her family. We also get a clearer picture of who Max is and what drives her, and are awarded several tense glimpses at her inner demons. And those are some nasty little buggers.

I do wish we'd have fewer prescient or far-sight prophecies flying around as the series continues. As a reader, I don't like when results of vague prognostication is used as points of conflict or as glimpses of future events. It tends to decrease my emotional investment if I know what's coming - even if I don't necessarily know how it's coming - and it leaves a pall over unfolding events if that glimpse is less than favorable. It can be a useful tool, sure, but in this book it was a plot device used more than once and not always successfully.

At the center of the series is the complex and often conflicted Max, a bitter woman cloaked in barely caged rage at her circumstances, but a woman of strength and valor, with nearly suicidal heroic tendencies, who is just now starting to let some of the people around her in a little bit as she begins to realize how much she cares for them. She yearns for revenge against Giselle, which causes her physical pain, and often her loathing of what was done to her makes her downright frightful, yet her honor is unquestionable and her dedication unwavering.

It's clear from this book that while Giselle and Max may have reached an accord of sorts and agreed to a detente in the first book, neither forgiveness nor acceptance will be on the table any time in the near future. Their unique dynamic and the relationship Max has with her Shadowblades were the most compelling and unique aspects of the series premiere, Bitter Night, and is part of the cause for my perplexity in Crimson Wind, because the plot here precludes much interaction with Giselle or the Blades and Spears. There are several plot threads woven nicely into this book, and I was fascinated by some of the revelations about Max's family, but I'm left feeling a little confused as to the direction of the series given the events of this book, including a scene that introduces two characters that seemed rather superfluous in the big picture, and I'm unsure where the author is going with Max's character.

In fact, several times I found myself frustrated with Max, and wish familiar and fond secondary characters had a larger role to balance out some of the more annoying evidence of her emotional retardation. As much as I think the romantic subplot between Alexander and Max was much better defined and had a ton more emotion in it, the constant friction between them started to get to me after awhile and the rehashing of their different positions started to feel a little repetitive in theme. A bit more variety in characters and conflict would have been appreciated.

Crimson Wind is an odd book in that I enjoyed the story here more than I did Bitter Night, but was left with significant questions about the direction it seems to take the series and a drive to have those questions answered. With a long wait until the December 2011 release of the third book in the series, I'm going to have to be patient for those answers, because regardless of the issues and questions raised by either book, I can't argue that Francis has created a series that is original, fresh, and has a lot of promise. I'm highly motivated to see what comes next.

Reviewed for One Good Book Deserves Another.