Review: Shadow City by Diana Pharaoh Francis

4 Jan

Shadow City by Diana Pharaoh Francis
Pocket (Dec. 2011)
Mass Market: $7.99; ebook: $7.99
ISBN: 9781451613858

Favorite Lines: “Why is it men always have sex on the brain?”  she asked. “You’d think you’d be worried about dying right now.” (p.131)

From the moment she was bound by magic and transformed into a deadly warrior, Max dreamed of escape. Instead, she went to war. She saved the coven she was enslaved to defend from unearthly destruction, but only at the cost of her own freedom.

Now Max has been taken captive and forced to become the champion of a demigod in a deadly game where the losers die–or worse. Alone and unarmed in a strange, magical city. Max must battle bizarre creatures with unpredictable powers. If she wins, she just might get a chance to go home to her friends, her family, and to Alexander, the Shadowblade warrior whose fate is entwined with hers.

But Horngate’s own future is far from certain. The covenstead is threatened by a Fury–a creature that, once it escapes its fragile bonds, will wreak untold destruction. Will Alexander and the other Shadowblades be able to protect Horngate without Max? Or will Max discover that she doesn’t have a home to return to?

If you read this blog you know that the Witches of Horngate written by Diana Pharaoh Francis is one of my favorite series. One reason I connected to it so much was for a mysterious entity that I had to know more about. Book three, Shadow City, gave me everything I had been waiting for.

Warning: Don’t try to read this book as a stand alone. It will NOT work.

Shadow City picks up weeks after the events of Crimson Wind (book 2). Max has departed Horngate to fulfill her promise to assist the entity she has named Scooter. Initially she was given to Scooter by her witch, the one woman she hates more than any person in the world, but as Max often does, she decides Scooter is hers and will stop at nothing to protect him.

This book tells everything about Scooter. Where he comes from. What he looks like. Who he truly is. His life before Horngate and his former associates are explained and the reasoning why he took up residence at Horngate is exposed. Once you know, well it’s pretty magical and brutal. So is most of the book.

Pharaoh Francis writes dark scenes as part of her urban fantasy series. It began in book one (Bitter Night), continued into book two and reasserts itself in Shadow City. The stark and brutal world and creatures have access to magic and it showcases how different everything is from the world of humanity. Human rules don’t apply, as was shown when a character asks:

Does a daughter want her father to cut her apart and bleed her? Does a daughter want her father to listen to her beg for her life with deaf ears? Does a daughter want her father to reach into her body and drench his hands in her blood so he can write his magic spells on her flesh?–p. 271

This wrongness and evil takes place in both stories which make up the book. What do I mean? Well, Shadow City feels like two separate tales until they are combined in a manner similar to the way separate threads are interwoven by the three Fates. We get to watch Alexander struggling for acceptance and a place within Horngate without Max. We also get to see Max in another world without her friends.

This works because both characters grow individually making it possible for them to possibly create a strong relationship together. One where neither is jockeying for a position. One where they can work as one. While the romantic aspect of the book has little page play, what is shown is quality stuff.

If you can’t tell by now, I really enjoyed Shadow City. From the action to the planning to the tension felt by all at Horngate, book three is a story not to be missed. My favorite aspect of this series has always been wrapped around my curiosity of Scooter. I was so happy to finally know exactly what was up with him.

The third book in a series is usually a sign of whether I want to continue or stop.  I’ll buy the next book in the series because it’s just a series that has several things going for it. It’s filled with violence but always ends with a ray of hope. Each book is a quality step towards answering questions about various situations and characters. In other words, the plot always advances. I have yet to read simply filler material. However, if the series were to stop now I’d be disappointed, but enough points have been cleared up that I’d live.

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