Blood Winter by Diana Pharaoh Francis – a Review

Blood Winter by Diana Pharaoh Francis – a Review

Blood Winter is the 4th book in Diana Pharaoh Francis Horngate Witches series. Below is the book description, then my review.

Set in apocalyptic America and featuring a magically enslaved 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. When he manages to capture Max’s niece, brother, and several teenagers from Horngate, Max tries to free them but finds that Savage has twisted their minds. They worship him—even her brother, who is a witch and whom Savage intends to burn 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


The story picks up after Shadow City, with the apocalypse having begun. With winter coming to Montana, the Witches and Shadowblades of Horngate are trying to stock up on supplies, especially since they need food to feed their power.  Max is our heroine in this series, and she continues to be awesome & kickass, as well as dedicated to helping save humanity and the coven she must protect.  Blood Winter is urban fantasy at its best, as this book is non stop action from start to finish.  

They discover that the town has become divided with humans trying to salvage whatever food and supplies they can, and a cult following a preacher, who is not what everyone thinks he is.  Max and her Shadowblades recognize that this preacher, Sterling Savage, has very strong powers, very much like a witch.  But his cult hate witches, they want to destroy them all, as well as anyone who helps them.  Savage has built an army of mesmerized followers, who will do anything he tells them to do, even torture, murder, and burn suspected witches.  The Horngate witches and Shadowblades are dedicated to saving and protecting humans, and now they are up against a powerful enemy.  They have no idea why they are now the target of this preacher.

But Max, during her investigation comes upon a demon, who is truly the one brainwashing the preacher. This demon throughout the book, threatens and promises Max, he will hurt and destroy her, as he wants all of Horngate to pay for something they have no idea why.

In between all of the danger, Max is somewhat confused over her feelings for Alexander, one of her Shadowblades. Alexander loves her, having left another coven to join with Max and Gisele of Horngate. They have fantastic sex together, but something holds Max back from letting herself acknowledge that she is in love Alexander too.  Because he senses her hesitation, Alexander shuts himself down, and pulls away from Max.  All of this during the terrible impending doom. 

Max must put aside her confusion, and face the enemy who threatens to destroy all of them.  Her brother, cousin, and others have been captured by the preacher’s army, and they will be tortured and killed, if Max and all of the Horngate witches/shadowblades don’t get to them in time.  The demon appears in front of Max, while she is visiting her angels, who became comatose in Shadow City; the deamon hurts and marks her, and she cannot defeat him.  He orders her to come to where the Earth’s Last Stand cult and Savage have gathered for her punishment. 

Max knows she has no way to defeat him, he is much too strong, and at the same time she knows he is more then a demon.  She decides she must sacrifice her own life, and try to pull the demon with her into the abyss, so she can save her friends and family.

Throughout this book, there is lots of fighting, terrible dark torture, non stop action, in a thriller of ride.  Our heroes must face two sides, one of which they will try to win over for help against a terrible adversary.  Will Max Survive?  Will she be able to save mankind?  Will Alexander come back to help Max? What happens to the comatose angels? What really is that demon?  Diana Pharaoh Francis answers all the questions, in an exciting action packed ending.  What I love the best, is she has created such wonderful characters, who you cannot help but like.  I loved Max, as she is one of the best female kickass heroines. Francis’s supporting characters within Horngate, including the witches and shadowblades are awesome.  Terrific writing by Diana Pharaoh Francis, and Blood Winter was a fascinating read.

ORDER LINKS: Amazon / Barnes and Noble / The Book Depository / KOBO

Reviewed by Barb

Copy provided by publisher


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