For more information please visit Diana Pharaoh Francis's website.
THERE ARE GOOD GUYS. THERE ARE BAD GUYS. AND THEN THERE’S MAX.
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. . . .
Crimson Wind, the second novel in Diana Pharaoh Francis’s Horngate Witches series, is a fast paced thrill ride through a world where mages and witches roam amongst unsuspecting humans. Phenomenal world building, entrancing characters, and a thrilling plot make this a must read for urban fantasy and paranormal romance lovers alike!
As this was my first entrée into the Horngate Witches series and my first time meeting the characters, I was a little unsure about what to expect. However, the buzz around this book was definitely a deciding factor for me and the premise sounded quite interesting. But, what I wasn’t expecting was for the novel to go from zero to sixty in a matter of pages. From the very beginning Max is pushed into action and the world of Witches, Mages, Shadowblades, Sunspears and yes, even Angels come into to quick focus. The after effects from the war between covens and the impending attack by the Guardians on the human race to take back the world in the name of Magic gives this novel a great immediacy as Max has to first settle some unfinished business with Scooter, a demigod who she was promised to by Giselle her Witch master. There is great detail in the atmosphere of this novel, both with dramatic and suspenseful flairs that serve to keep the pace driven. The tense atmosphere between Max and fellow Prime Alexander is wonderfully painted adding a nice sexual tension to an already rife and dire plot line. The world itself is masterfully crafted with wonderfully detailed attention to the hierarchy of the magical society. While complex, the levels of the food chain are easily decipherable from those who have the power, those who fight under that power, and those who are simply to be followers. In addition, the sense of foreboding and suspense adds another element as the world we know begins to be altered by wild divine magic. This magic creates an alien landscape unlike any other and the descriptive quality of Francis’s writing brings it to uncanny life. This adds even more action and danger into an already pumped plot and was an aspect that I both loved and wanted to see more of.
The characters themselves are perfectly rendered and wonderfully portrayed. Max is a no nonsense woman who is both tough and determined. Her loyalties are unquestionable and she doesn’t shy away from danger. Instead, she is more easily described as the one running straight for it with great abandon. Her concern for a family she has let believe she was dead for something like thirty years was touching showing vulnerability in the chink of the armor she holds so close to herself. In truth, I loved seeing the little glimpses of human longing, pain and love within her. They were definitely a contrast to the balls to the walls fighter who we first see going so easily into the Scooter’s den alone. Of course, it is easy to recognize why she would inspire so much loyalty from those around her as her thoughts are always towards others-how to keep them safe and how to protect them without any thought to herself. Alexander on the other hand focuses most of his own attention on her well being, trying to save her from killing herself at every turn with her need to save others. He is likewise a tough as nails Alpha male, only he is willing to lay down his pride in order to claim Max, the heart of Horngate. The chemistry between them is amazing as well. The tension is almost palpable through out the story as Max tries to deny her feelings towards him while he is determined to make her realize the extent of her longing for him. As the story progresses Max does indeed come to see the extent to which she both relies on and desires Alexander only to remember that when the mission is over, she is destined to be bound away with Scooter. In truth, what I really loved about the characters was the extent of inner dialogue. The thoughts and emotions of the characters were wonderfully evoked and really drew you into the them. Their personalities were perfectly captured in this respect and made them instantly likable.
Really, Francis’s writing style in and of itself is a worth a mention as well. Obvious through her details and development of both the world and the characters, she is a master at her craft. She takes an impossible world, molds it and makes it real. The writing is concise giving it a brisk fast pace and yet the story itself is lushly detailed and thoroughly explored. The ever constant conflicts are perfectly presented to add an edge to the pace that keeps it moving and the opening of so many plot lines to explore in later novels leaves the reader wanting more.
However, there were a few things that still nagged at me. One was that despite the fast pace at times the story seemed to lag. It was like an over flow of information that stalled my brain or something, sensory over load I suppose would be an apt term. Also, the dangling romance that never really seems to move anywhere was a hindrance to me. While I loved the tension, I would have liked to see Alexander make a little more progress with Max. Instead, she only draws more deeply into herself cuddling snuggly to her selfdenial. And yes, given her precarious position I can understand it to an extent, but it was just a little too little bang for the emotions…no pun intended. And lastly, the main plot of the book felt a little unrealized. Giselle’s prophecy and even Magpie’s prophecy seemed to be completely bypassed, though it was always in the forefront of Alexander’s mind. These never resolved, nor they even come to pass at all despite the fact that they led me to believe that this was were the story was leading. The fact that this the story actually didn’t lead to the relization of the prophecies was a little bit of a disappointment. And if the battle with the Ice Queens was indeed the void that Giselle felt then oh how underwhelming that was.
At any rate, this was an action packed novel that kept my interest peaked. The world is nicely created, the characters adequately explored and there is a wonderful cliff hanger that leaves you wanting more. If you have yet to read the first novel in the series, Bitter Night, I would suggest you do so before picking up Crimson Wind, though if you do go out of order you can still muddle through quite nicely.
My Rating: 4 out of 5 Scars