Unfortunately, this is a simple, bare-bones plot that takes nearly 400 pages to play out, and it is padded all the way through with unnecessarily detailed descriptions of various monsters (e.g., rock troll, giant salamanders, demons) and with never-ending, repetitive battles. In fact, I couldn't wait to get to the ending, just so I wouldn't have to read one more graphic description of Max getting beaten nearly to death and then being quickly healed so that she can go on to her next beating. Here's just one example: "Her body was a mass of scarlet burns. Most of her clothes had been charred away....Her eyelids were gone and most of her nose....Her fingers were blackened stubs, and her skin looked like melted wax." (p. 206) Instead of adding complexity to the plot, the author has taken the easy way out by just dumping Max into one battle after another all the way through the book.
The Max-Alexander relationship drama is absurdly portrayed. Max mocks Alexander in public; shuns any public display of affection; demands sex on her command and then turns her back on him; refuses to discuss her feelings with him; and generally acts like a spoiled brat. At one point, Max realizes that Alexander is starting to pull back from her constant put-downs and thinks, "How was she going to fix this?" (p. 212) Her solution is to berate him a few pages later when he doesn't fall all over her as usual: "'Oh, so you talk, do you?' Max responded sourly. 'And here I thought you'd lost your voice. Or maybe you're just the strong, silent type....I get a feeling you've got a lot to say, Slick. In fact, I get the feeling you're choking on it. So, why don't you stop pouting like a five-year-old and get it off your chest, already?'" (p. 219) When Alexander finally decides he's had enough, Max is immediately devastated, but then she blames him for not hanging in until she gets her act together. She thinks to herself, "If he had ever really cared for her, he wouldn't have been able to shut down so completely. Which meant the real problem was that his ego was bruised." (p. 221) Yes, Max, it's all about ego—but yours, not his! All in all, Max is very unlikable in this book. One of the most improbable scenes for me is when Max kids around with the Shadowblade Tyler about how great Alexander is in bed. She won't discuss her relationship feelings with Alexander and she won't even acknowledge to the rest of the Blades that she and Alexander are an item, so it's entirely unbelievable that she would joke with Tyler about her terrific sex life.
Another improbability: Why does every bad thing happen during the night when the Shadowblades are up and around? Why don't the villains ever take action in the daytime when the Sunspears are active? Why even include Sunspears in this mythology if they are never part of the story (and we never see them in this one)? And one last nitpick: Why do so many of the characters have the weird habit of scraping their teeth across their lower lips when they're thinking about something. I would hazard a guess that the author invokes that bit of behavior 10-15 times during the story.
This series started off with an inventive mythology, strong characters, and interesting plot lines, but each book has been progressively weaker. This one is definitely a disappointing weak link, and I can only hope that the next one has a more complex plot and a better take on Max and her love life. Click HERE to read an excerpt from Blood Winter.
In this world, the supernaturals are made up of two races: the Divine and the Uncanny. The Divine can cast spells and perform magic, while the Uncanny are created from magic but can't perform it. Witches are among the Divine, and they each hold an anneau (knot of magic) for the territory (aka covenstead) in which they live with their minions. Each witch derives power from his or her own unique source (e.g. from the earth, from the emotions of mortals). The witches are protected by two castes of Uncanny warriors: the Shadowblades, who work only at night because they are burned or melted by light (particularly sunlight and moonlight), and the Sunspears, who work during the day because they deteriorate in the dark. Both groups of warriors have been sworn and bound magically with compulsion spells that require them to protect their witches at any cost. Their only release from their bonds is death; they are immortal (no aging), but they can be killed. Some warriors enter into their profession willingly, but others are tricked or coerced.
When a mortal becomes a Shadowblade or a Sunspear, he or she attains self-healing powers and super-human strength, speed, and endurance. Some warriors have additional talents, depending on their witch's power and their own genetic make-up.
BOOK 3: Shadow City
Max soon learns that Scooter needs her to help him retrieve his heart and other body parts, which have been stolen from him by the Korvad—the powerful and evil group of creatures who control Chadaré. As she fights off all of the strange and colorful creatures, she squeezes in just enough time to return to Horngate for some quick sex (FINALLY!) with Alexander and a change of clothing. In the meantime, Alexander is dealing with the fact that a Fury is about to erupt just outside Horngate. That Fury is the daughter of Alton, the evil witch who, in previous books, betrayed Gisele and allied with the Guardians to destroy Horngate. To increase his power, Alton sacrificed the life of his daughter, Cora, who is on the verge of returning to life as a lethal, vengeful Fury. Problematically, Cora is now totally mad, so her revenge will encompass everyone and everything in her path—meaning Horngate and its inhabitants. As each story line plays out, lives are put on the line, and some are lost.
The book ends with the possibility that there is something that Max can do to revive some of her seemingly dead allies. Based on the strength of book 2, I was hoping for far more from this book. I think its lowest point was when Max teleported into a sumptuously furnished room in Chadaré and then (graphically) made use of the toilet. Ewww! Click HERE to read an excerpt from Shadow City.