I haven’t done a lot of series reviews but I am going to in this case… I have to say I loved this series and really hope that we get to see more stories set in this world as I am addicted.
A few months ago I saw a tweet from an author asking if anyone wanted to try her series out and if so to let her know as she would put us in touch with her publicist. I proceeded to wander out to the web and find out more about the series before I responded and found the premise to be intriguing although not completely a style I have read a lot recently. I went ahead and said sure I’d love to try the series out and waited patiently to hear back. I was luck enough to get a response and waited eagerly to hear from them. Well it took a bit but I finally got the books this month and I must say … I adored them. Mind you these are not easy, flowery reads… there is blood, death, torture of both a mental and physical kind… but under all that there is heart… heat… love… respect… and a true sense of family bonds during a time of immense change and sorrow. You do need to read these in order as they build off one another and while you may not get grabbed early in the first book please keep reading as the story grabs you along with the characters. You want these people to find happiness and security even during the times you want to strangle them.
Bitter Night – Book 1
We start the series off with a bang, Max has received a call from her witch, Giselle, telling her to go check something out in a nearby city. You see Max is a Shadowblade, a creation of magic and humanity that makes her unable to handle any light from the sun even the moon. She’s strong, able to stand immense amounts of pain, and due to the magic also able to heal from wounds that would kill mortals. Max is driven by a sense of revenge in the early parts of the story and even though she is sworn to Giselle she would love nothing more than to kill the woman she once loved like a sister. She feels immensely betrayed by Giselle’s turning her in to a Shadowblade even though it is truly the core of her being. Max is strong… loyal… bitter… compassionate and above all else reckless. She doesn’t always think before she acts which makes her incredibly dangerous as you never quite know what is coming next from her. I liked seeing her strength but what I most enjoyed was her weaknesses…
This book moves at a fairly quick pace but it doesn’t seem to suffer from the normal dump tons of data on you without having a story. You get drawn in to the chess-match between Giselle and Max, Alexander and his witch, Max and Alexander… well heck between Max and the rest of the world. Change is coming to the world and it brings horrible consequences to everyone not just the magical world.
Great start to a series and trust me you want to keep reading… there is quite a bit of tension between Max and Alex but the story is mainly about the world and the hell that is about to be unleashed.
Crimson Wind – Book 2
When we left the last book Giselle and Max have come to an uneasy truce as the destruction the Guardians are unleashing causes more destruction to what Max realizes is her home and family than revenge will ever be worth. Does she trust Giselle… No… but at the same time she starts to understand why Giselle did what she did. She still feels betrayed but the need to protect her home and family means more to her than her need for revenge. I respected her for this but she still has a ways to go before she really becomes whole again.
Max has been granted a boon by the being she calls Scooter to go bring her family back to Horngate for protection. She’s determined to do this on her own but is forced in to taking Alexander who isn’t completely comfortable with his desires for her or his place in this new reality. He’s a Prime and finding himself sort of serving under someone other than just a witch does grate on him but mainly not knowing what his place is in this coven is taking a toll. He’s also wanting Max to admit she has feelings for him or at least be willing to open the door up to him to try to see what they have between them. He’s a good man but at a bit of a loss right now.
Max and Alexander learn a lot about each other on this trip and seeing him be there for her when the worst sort of betrayal hit her was wonderful to see. She needs someone to truly back her up and accept her for her… he does give this to her even though at times it doesn’t seem that way. She fights for her family and really realizes what it means to be a family in this book. It isn’t always about blood but more about heart and compassion. She grew up quite a bit in this one but still makes rash decisions that can come back to haunt her. I found myself being more and more drawn in to the world and for this I thank the author.
Shadow City – Book 3
We start this book with Max and Alex still in limbo but this book pulls everyone apart… Max is now having to help Scooter get back parts of himself in another realm while Alex is trying to keep it together and save Horngate from a birthing Fury.
This book has it all.. death… destruction… love… angst… action… I swear your head will be turning repeatedly as you try to keep up with all the moving parts but at the core we are still watching Max figure out who she is and what she can do She’s also brought to her knees by realizing what exactly drives her and it isn’t what she always thought. She does things without thought but at the core she is driven by a need to protect those who cannot protect themselves either due to being weaker or due to being slaves as she once was. I like her core of strength and in this book she needs it more than before. She is driven to the edge of her own limits and in one case almost permanently removed from the equation. I loved watching her fight to be free and to free Scooter from his chains. She is someone that I would probably want to kill 90% of the time but would want at my back and as my friend due to her loyalty.
Alex… sigh… poor tortured Alex. He gets put through the wringer many times in this series and this book was hard on him from a personal perspective but also from the standpoint of finding his place. He does step up and protect Horngate from a sense of obligation to Max but you also start to sense that this is now his home in more ways than just a place to stay. He’s putting down roots and it scares him to his core as he isn’t sure exactly what he means to Max or to the others. This is an incredibly strong man who has been through hell but even when he almost goes feral manages to come to peace with his Prime and step in to lead what is now his… I liked watching him get control back and felt that he deserved so much more from Max than he ended up getting. I wanted to just hurt both of them while understanding why we are getting tortured by the author. This one will break your heart quite a few times but man is it worth the ride.
Blood Winter – Book 4
This one will be the hardest to review as I don’t want to give anything away to followers of the series. We get a ton of questions answered along with seeing some major changes in the characters we know and love.
Max is back and is still reeling from things that happened in Shadow City. She and Alex are spending time together in the bedroom but things just don’t seem to be moving forward from anything other than a sexual standpoint. Max still has a ton of issues and she just hasn’t let him in yet. It pushed a lot of buttons for me watching them both hurting but stick with it as what you truly have to work for at times is exactly what you need. If something is easy to have and hold it might not be worth it.
Horngate is now being threatened by extremists who believe that witchcraft is causing the hell on earth that the Guardians are unleashing. The foe they meet is hiding as a religious leader but in reality is a witch with help from a source that had me shaking my head. This is a painful story to get through from both an emotional standpoint and a mental one as there are a lot of innocents being killed/tortured in the name of “God” and watching everyone see/deal with this was just hard. Of course Max does what she does best and that is go in with both guns blazing no matter what the cost is to her or to the people around her. I love this about her but hate it as much as I love it… She really does begin to piss you off but the ending is what I wanted to see although I really hope we get more.
Ok.. go read this series… I know I tend to review more romance novels on this site than anything else but this UF series is so worth a try as it will give you a romance, action, love, family and a sense of home that a lot of other series just can’t seem to match. I loved Max and Alex plus all the supporting cast that you cheer for and cry for when the time comes. I just have to say I truly hate that it took me so long to find this series and I really hope we get to see more from this world.
Thanks again to Diana Pharaoh Francis and to the publicity team at Simon Schuster/Pocket Books for giving me the chance to read these wonderful stories.