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Book CoverAsh’s review of by Bitter Night (Horngate Witches, Book 1) by Diana Pharaoh Francis
Urban fantasy published by Juno (Pocket) 27 Oct 09

Urban fantasy seems to be a dime a dozen these days so when I pick up a new to me author I try not to expect much. Thankfully, Bitter Night is pretty awesome. It could probably be considered more fantasy than urban, but that never bothered me. The world is easy to understand and the characters, even the nasty ones, are easy to enjoy. The Shadowblade warriors, the ones who cannot be in the sun, and the Sunspear warriors, the ones who cannot be in the dark, are an interesting addition the the urban fantasy genre.

Max is a Shadowblade Prime, meaning she is in charge of the group of warriors magically bound to protect the witch Giselle. Her only care is to try to rid herself of the witch, or so she thinks. Everything Max fights for is about to be tested. Max is one tough woman, while being horribly wounded, over and over again, she never once backs down.

The action is non stop and the story and it’s characters are unique and refreshing. Max is a character that I was instantly drawn to. She does what she has too, but she does it her way. She can be harsh, bitter, or mean and she doesn’t make apologies for it. She is who she is and I liked her for that. I was rooting for her to save the day, and come out on top. Actually, I loved most of the characters, and there is a nice variety of them without it becoming confusing.

Max seems to pick up new allies every where she goes, and each one adds to the story. One of those allies which is Alexander, whose POV we also get. Alexander was the Shadowblade Prime to another witch, and he becomes involved with Max and her fight. Through him we can see exactly why so many people are willing to die for Max. Transitioning from one character to another is something that Diana Pharaoh Francis does well. They flow seamlessly from one to the other. Seeing through both their eyes makes the story feel fuller and more alive.

The end is really just the beginning, and Max is finally starting to figure out where she is in the grand scheme of things. I see a lot of potential with this series and I’m looking forward to what happens next.

ash Grade: B+


Once, Max dreamed of a career, a home, a loving family. Now all she wants is freedom…and revenge. A witch named Giselle transformed Max into a warrior with extraordinary strength, speed, and endurance. Bound by spellcraft, Max has no choice but to fight as Giselle’s personal magic weapon — a Shadowblade — and she’s lethally good at it. But her skills are about to be put to the test as they never have before….

The ancient Guardians of the earth are preparing to unleash widespread destruction on the mortal world, and they want the witches to help them. If the witches refuse, their covens will be destroyed, including Horngate, the place Max has grudgingly come to think of as home. Max thinks she can find a way to help Horngate stand against the Guardians, but doing so will mean forging dangerous alliances — including one with a rival witch’s Shadowblade, who is as drawn to Max as she is to him — and standing with the witch she despises. Max will have to choose between the old life she still dreams of and the warrior she has become, and take her place on the side of right — if she survives long enough to figure out which side that is….

Read an excerpt.