Monday, January 21, 2013

ARC Review: Blood Winter by Diana Pharaoh Francis:

The Particulars: Urban Fantasy, Pocket, available in print and e-book
The Source: ARC from the author.
The Grade: B-

The Blurb:

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. . . .

The Review:
This review is a bit late, since Diana Pharoah Francis was kind enough to ship the book from the States. It was well worth the wait. This is the latest book in the Horngate series, and while it stands reasonably alone, I though think you will get more out of it if you have read the first three books beforehand.

The world was believable in the way it described the new normal. Both for Horngate, and how the Sunspears and the Shadowblades need for calories strained their limits. I admired the ingenious ways they had created to main the infrastructure in the Covenstead, from heat sources to water sources. This was a contrast from the way people outside the Covenstead lived. They were scrambling for resources, and to survive the winter. In many ways, this shows how vulnerable our society is and how much we depend on oil.

The plot was gripping. I kept on reading, wondering when Max would break beneath the strain of responsibility and losing friends. But she didn't, she kept soldiering on struggling to figure out how to defeat Sterling, and how to wake up the angels. Despite all the bleakness in the book, it ends with a feeling of hope. That things might be tough, but they will survive. And, if this is the last book in the series, it feels like all the loose threads are wrapped up.

 I enjoyed the banter between Max and Tyler, but also the more serious discussions between Thor and Alexander. That said, I had some trouble connecting with the characters.  Part of the reason was the feeling that all the non magical inhabitants behaved like spoiled children, not seeing the danger they put themselves and Horngate in.  

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