by Diana Pharaoh Francis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Ages ago, the Guardians of the Earth created an army of creatures—faeries, banshee, chimeras, oni, lamia, kelpies, angels…the Uncanny and Divine things that populate myth and legends that most humans suppose never really existed. It was an army meant to contain the human population, to keep them from overrunning the earth…hungry parasites taking more than the host can provide.
The army failed. The Guardians were too benevolent and did not prune back the weed of humanity as severely as needed. As a result, cold iron took a heavy toll on the creatures of the Uncanny and Divine.
Centuries later, the Guardians have decided to act before it is too late—before the magic dies entirely. This time, they are holding nothing back. Over centuries, the creatures of the Uncanny and Divine have grown less susceptible to iron, and they will no longer let mercy or pity get in the way of saving the earth and it’s magic.
A war is beginning, one that will remake the earth and decimate much of humanity. It will move mountains and drain oceans. Magical beings will once again walk the earth, more powerful than ever before. Will anyone protect humanity? Who will survive when the war ends? The line in the sand between good and evil is smudged and crooked and right and wrong is impossible to know. But no one will be left on the sidelines; everyone will have to choose sides
Set in apocalyptic America and featuring a magically enhanced 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. He manages to capture Max’s niece, brother, and several teenagers from Horngate and Savage intends to burn them 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.
This is the 4th book in the Horngate witches series (which is a bit of a misnomer since the books are largely about Max and her fellow Shadowblades). This novel starts with the apocalypse already in full swing and the need to find and store basic necessities is a primary concern for most people but Max does not live a normal life and food while necessary is far from the forefront of her problems. A so called preacher with powers that suggest powers far beyond what any human could/should have has emerged and is building an army of dangerous sycophants who are enthralled with him. His main targets are witches who are actually one of the forces holding the world in check and without whom chaos and death will rule the earth.
The witches of Horngate and Max in particular (although she is no witch) seem to be the target for his venomous attacks and sadistic desires. The relationship (or lack thereof) between Max and Alexander adds in an overwhelming amount of angst into the mix. The “sleeping” angels have not awoke so once again Max is putting her life on the line for others.
The thing that makes this novel (and others in the series) work so well is the level of sacrifice that Max and others show during these novels; it brings them to a bit higher level in the emotional involvement of the reader. The level of evil displayed by the enemies in this novel don’t make it hard to figure out which side you are on but I do question a couple of more benevolent moments and would have liked to have a bit more closure, maybe I will get it in the next book.
This addition to the series was a bit harder to rate than the others because of the depth of suffering and the myriad plots and subplots occurring. A large amount of the “action” takes place in Max’s head which can be a confusing place. At the end of the novel though you are pleased with most things (but not everything) and are not left with a sense of things left undone, you have more questions but most good authors leave a few crumbs to attract readers to the next book, which is not a bad thing if done with a light touch as it is here.
Bottom Line: 5 Star reading, dismal environment, sacrificial heroine, soaring ending. What more can you ask? It was great, when can I get the next one? Get this series, get this book.View all my reviews