Shadow City is the third book in Diana Pharaoh Francis’ Horngate Witches series. This book is a fairly large departure from the previous two books and takes you into a far more fantastical world than where we live. Unfortunately, Shadow City does not have the same feel or heart of the other books and marks the beginning of the end for the series.
In this book, Max has accepted her agreement with Scooter and has left her world behind to help him out within the Shadow City. Meanwhile, Alexander is left behind at Horngate to defend their home and constantly worry about Max. There are two constant plot lines in the story and both are equally frustrating and not necessary for the series arc.
Max is the same, as always. Unfortunately, by this point in the series, that is starting to get annoying. Max agrees to help save Scooter’s life even though there does not seem to be any reason for her to feel a kinship with him. Max’s willingness to sacrifice herself always comes back to her feeling like a prisoner and having severe empathy for anyone else who has ever been a prisoner. In the case of Scooter, this doesn’t make sense. Just as much as Giselle forced Max, so did Scooter and yet Max is willing to put it all on the line to save his life. This made me want to strangle Max and move on.
At the same time, Alexander is struggling with Max being gone and taking over the role of Prime back at Horngate. All of Alexander’s motivations are based on his feelings for Max. This is a weird departure from many stories where the female character bases her decisions on a male. While I appreciate the “turn about,” no matter if it’s a man or a woman, it’s not enjoyable to read about a character who only ever makes choices based on someone else and his desire for her. Alexander, if possible, is even more frustrating than Max.
Shadow City is a book that leaves the core issue of the Guardians and instead goes off on its own tangent story. This tangent would have been better in a novella or short story but instead, Ms. Francis introduces an entire new world, a new set of characters, and new issues, while ignoring the original world issue. Even while at Horngate, the Fury is not connected to the Guardians but is instead connected to book one, answering a question we actually never asked.
While the action is still excellent and the world building is enjoyable, Shadow City does not feel like a part of the series. I was frustrated by the lack of forward movement and while Max and Alexander’s relationship finally makes some progress, it’s not enough to make up for the departure from the series arc.