Review: Blood Winter by Diana Pharaoh Francis
Summary From Goodreads:
Max always does her job, no matter how brutal and bloody. That’s how it’s been ever since she was enslaved by a witch, turned into a supernatural warrior, and assigned to protect the coven of Horngate. But her job just got harder….
Waves of wild magic have returned much of the world to a time when fairy tales were real and danger now lurks behind every tree and bush. As winter descends and food, heat, and water are harder to come by, many have turned to Benjamin Sterling for protection. Leader of the Earth’s Last Stand cult, Sterling claims to be the Hand of God, but his power and charisma secretly come from a dark and terrible source. With devout followers eager to do his sadistic bidding, he has his eyes on Horngate and its magical inhabitants. To save those she loves, Max will knowingly walk into a trap. But when the cult strips Max’s soul bare for all to see, will even Alexander—her lover and her strength—remain? And if she were to lose him, what does it matter if she gains the whole world…
This book. I can’t even describe how many times I almost quit on it. Truly the only reason I didn’t was because I received it from the amazing people over at Arcycling. It just didn’t feel right to DNF it, no matter how much I wanted to at times. So I slogged through and have made it through to the other side. The funny thing is, Blood Winter isn’t a bad book. I wouldn’t even be surprised if quite a few bloggy friends of mine into fantasy would read it and like it. It just wasn’t for me. Let me tell you why.
Wordiness. I love beautiful descriptions and depictions of the worlds authors create and the characters that inhabit them as much as the next person. That does not mean, however, that I want 50+ words to describe what you could tell me in 10. I will qualify all of what I’ll be saying about this book by reminding you that since I received it from Arcycling it is an ARC, there may have been some changes. The advanced reader copy I received is 388 pages. It probably should have been closer to 300. There is simply too much description, too much minutia to wade through and that’s all there is to it. Moving on.
Style. Francis wrote Blood Winter in a way where we are being told what is happening rather than being able to experience the action along with the characters. This happens. Then that happens. Then some more stuff happens. While there are exceptions to every rule, in most cases I don’t recommend writing in this way because it feels passive, or worse, even distances the reader. It’s like reading a history book where all of the action has already taken place. You aren’t connected, you don’t feel with the characters and because of it the book loses so much potential for readers to enjoy. Meh.
The relationship. Gag me with a spork. Alright, please don’t as that sounds quite painful, but this “romance” did nothing for me. At no point did I hope for Max and Alexander’s happiness, feel saddened by their struggles or uplifted by their happy times. I felt numb, kind of like they do at various points in the book. It’s this on again, off again spiral of frustration, it’s a ride they can’t seem to get off of and, at least for me, just gets annoying. I get it, you are fighting, you aren’t the most compatible of people, but can we move on yet? In fact that’s exactly what I’ll do.
There are positives in Blood Winter. Arcycling book or not, if I didn’t find some things that interested me I would have DNF’d it after 100 pages or so. Max is actually a great character when she isn’t dwelling on Alexander. She’s a kickass near-superhero type with a sharp sense of humor. Who doesn’t love that? I wish she would have just ditched Alexander in the beginning since she was clearly having attachment issues as it was and moved on to kick everyone’s butt. Alas. She felt the most real out of any character in the book and things from her perspective, as opposed to Alexander’s, just felt right. Give me more Max and less mushy crap and I’d have been hooked.
The world that Francis created is also very intriguing. It is teeming with supernatural creatures of all types from angels to “Blades”, from witches to “Grims” plus a host of others. This is where the author’s tendency to go into too much detail was a help rather than a hindrance. You could pick up Blood Winter, which is the fourth book in the Horngate Witches series, and read it as a stand alone without feeling lost. As a reader I understood every facet of the world after about 50 or so pages. If it wasn’t for the style of writing employed I’d be keen on coming back and discovering more.
So overall no, I didn’t enjoy Blood Winter. If you are tempted to DNF a book that many times it takes some miraculous writing near the middle and end to save a book, this one didn’t have it. I didn’t like the style, the book could have been a lot shorter to cut down on the wordiness and excessive descriptions and the relationship was grating on the nerves. The positives, Max and the world building, couldn’t outweigh the negatives. Nothing to be done. Thank you as always for reading and don’t forget that I’m hosting a big celebration giveaway on July 2nd!