Series: Horngate Witches #1
Published by Simon and Schuster on October 27, 2009
Genres: Urban Fantasy
SOMETIMES YOU CHOOSE YOUR BATTLES. AND SOMETIMES, THEY CHOOSE YOU...
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....
My Initial Reaction…
I picked Bitter Night as an Amazon Freebie, along with books #2 and #3 in the series, on a whim a while back. They sounded good enough and I can’t seem to resist free books. I’m so glad I couldn’t resist it, because this is the start to what has become one of my favorite Urban Fantasy series. It is unique, exciting, sexy, and full of action. What more could you ask for?
Besides the incredible world Francis created, Max is the main reason I adore this book. Max is the Shadowblade Prime in Giselle’s coven. A Shadowblade is a human turned into a supernatural creature with a sole purpose, defending the witch she was created to serve; for Max that’s Giselle. Except Max has other ideas – she is not thrilled about her supernatural strength, healing, or youth, since it came with forced service to Giselle, whom she had thought was her friend. Her anger boils below the surface constantly, adding another layer of complexity to her character. But despite her desire to kill Giselle, she’s great at what she does – so great that she’s Prime, leader of Giselle’s Shadowbladewarriors. It’s no accident that she’s the Prime; Max is one tough cookie!! She can handle ridiculous amounts of pain, all while kicking some serious ass. But she’s so much more than a fighting machine. Max is a warrior – in the old fashioned sense; she has honor and is protective of her people. She inspires loyalty to an amazing degree in all who surround her and you can’t help but love her, despite the solid wall she builds up around her. I loved getting to know Max and can’t wait to watch her grow throughout the series.
We’re also taken into the mind of Alexander, another Shadowblade Prime. He was as complex as Max, but in an entirely different way. For one, he’s much older having lived at least 100 years. Unlike Max, he willingly became a Shadowblade, but it hasn’t worked out too well for him either. He’s the balance to Max’s anger though – Alexander is resigned, playing the part of the tragic hero a bit. He too, though, is incredibly loyal and strong, but in different ways. His emotional struggle is no less than Max’s, yet so very different once again. They were the perfect balance to each other and I loved watching their cautious dance, as two of the world’s strongest predators sizing each other up all the while feeling an intense attraction to each other.
I loved the supporting characters as well. I suspect we’ll get to know them better in later books, but already they are exciting and well-written. They each have their distinct roles in this odd sort of family Giselle has put together and I can’t wait to see more of each of them.
This book seems to be the start of a refreshing, exciting, and fun series. Admittedly it took me a little bit to get into the first few chapters, but once I started to understand the supernatural world Francis has created, I was hooked. Unlike so many of the fantasy books out there, this book does not depend on vampires, werewolves or the like (not that I don’t like those traditional characters, but this is so refreshingly different). You have witches, so it’s not all different, but the key players are Shadowblades and Sunspears. Both are created by the head coven Witch (in this case Giselle) to have certain abilities to protect him/her. The Shadowblades are restricted to the night, as sunlight will kill them. The Sunspears are the opposite – the shade will kill them. Two groups of warriors, built with one purpose and yet still holding on to pieces of their humanity, makes for one interesting makeshift family.
These supernatural groups exist all over the world, without humans knowing any better. This delicate balance is off though, as magic dwindles on the earth, and the Guardians aren’t happy about it. When the guardians act though, they threaten the safety of Max’s home, her Shadowblades, and Giselle, and Max is forced to decide make difficult decisions about who she can trust, what she wants, and what matters most.
This one isn’t for the squeemish reader – the action is intense and very graphic – but if that doesn’t bother you, this is a must read. The world-building takes a little time to wrap your head around, but when you do, it will blow your mind. Urban Fantasy at its finest!
Get it on Amazon
But wait! There’s a giveaway!!
As part of my month-long celebration of things that go bump in the night, I’m participating in the Something Wicked Returns Giveaway Blog Hop! This review is one of many of my recommended Paranormal Reads this month and commenting on this post can earn you extra entries in the $25 Giveaway at the end of the month! Enter below and good luck!