Book Review | Shadow City

Shadow City by Diana Pharaoh FrancisTitle: Shadow City (Horngate Witches Books)

Author: Diana Pharaoh Francis

My Review:

Shadow City, the third book in the Horngate Witches series by Diana Pharoah Francis, continues the story of Max the Prime and her battle against the Guardians’ plan to destroy all of humankind. Shadow City includes even more action and excitement than the first two books in the series, but I still rank the series as one of my least favorite urban fantasy reads.

Diana Pharoah Francis opened a lot of opportunity up for the series when she sent Max on a quest to save her family and bring them back to Horngate. I was hoping and expecting there would be lots of familial conflict in Shadow City, especially since Max’s family knew all about Shadowblades and witch magic. Once Francis drew them into Max’s world, she did absolutely nothing with any of them. Max’s younger sister has a crush on Alexander, which could have brought some serious tension and mischievous fun into the book; however, Francis summarizes all of that drama for the reader and it doesn’t have the impact that it could have had. As I have noticed in previous books, Francis too heavily “tells” rather than “shows”, meaning she summarizes rather than putting the reader right into the action.

For the majority of Shadow City, Max is in Chadaré, where Scooter is originally from, and is attempting to help him relocate parts of himself that have been stolen by other nightmarish-type creatures. The chapters alternate between Max in Chadaré and Alexander and everyone else still at Horngate. I didn’t particularly care for this back and forth; I’d rather have stayed with Max the entire time since nothing of interest really happened at Horngate. Max’s chapters were the strongest, and many of them ended on cliffhangers when it shifted back over to Horngate.

Eventually Shadow City picks up the pace when Max comes back to Horngate to enlist the help of Alexander and anyone else willing to go against a bunch of creatures that never felt really defined or fleshed out to me. Giselle, Max’s “creator”, finally made a better impression on me; she’s been mostly in the background for this series, but she steps up and shows a different side of herself in Shadow City that I wasn’t expecting.

Shadow City should have been an emotional and heartbreaking read, especially since there were quite a few casualties. I think it was the author’s intention for readers to become sad and mourn for the fallen characters, but it had no emotional impact on me whatsoever. Even though I’ve read each book pretty close together, there are so many characters and I never really became attached to any of them. In similar situations in other urban fantasy series, I have been sad at the loss of a beloved character. I wish I had been able to connect to this author and series, but three books in, and I’m still not committed to seeing this through to the very last book. I will give Francis one last shot with Blood Winter, but if I still cannot connect, I’ll move on to another series.

*I received a copy of this book for review, but was not financially compensated in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based solely on my experiences while reading this novel.*


Jen currently lives in Utah with her family, and enjoys reading and writing in her spare time. She is active on popular book websites including,, and

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