Book Review | Bitter Night by Diana Pharaoh Francis

October 2, 2013 Blog Fun, Reviews 28

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Book Review | Bitter Night by Diana Pharaoh FrancisBitter Night by Diana Pharaoh Francis
Series: Horngate Witches #1
Published by Simon and Schuster on October 27, 2009
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 387
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased


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....

Get it on Amazon

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?

The Characters…

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.

The Story…

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.

Concluding Sentiments…

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!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Follow on Bloglovin


About Diana Pharaoh Francis

I was raised on a cattle ranch in Northern California (outside a town called Lincoln which is now part of an enormous sprawl). I taught myself to ride a horse at the age of six, as no one had the time to teach me—they were all busy learning how to irrigate, how to cajole an angry bull into another field, how to pull a calf… Afraid of heights, and absolutely sure I was going to die, I managed to scramble up on the back of a very patient and lazy strawberry roan destrier, and plod off into the sunset.

Thereafter, I spent much of my early life on horseback, or so far buried into a book that the rest of the world ceased to exist (much to the annoyance of my family—it took several attempts to get my attention). We all had very specific jobs on the ranch and mine was horses and cattle—out rounding up at dawn. And since I rode bareback, my standing request was to wake me up 5 minutes before everyone else headed for the barn—time enough to dress and eat my Wheaties, and no sleep time wasted on saddling.

After high school, I attended college after college, racking up a BA and MA in creative writing and a Ph.D. in literature and theory. My very patient and supportive husband traipsed across the Midwest and back to Montana for me (though my husband insists that he’s been running and hiding and I just keep finding him), where I now teach at the University of Montana-Western. We also a son Q-ball, who in our humbly unbiased opinions, is the most wonderful son ever produced, and a daughter, Princess Caesar, who is the most wonderful daughter ever produced.

I have a fascination for the Victorians, weather, geology, horses, plants and mythology, I like spicy food, chocolate and cheesecake, and I have an odd sense of humor. (Or so I’ve been told. Often.) Incidentally, the Pharaoh is in fact my real name, and oddly enough, is of British origin.

Some of my current favorite sf/f writers are Ilona Andrews, Carol Berg, C.E. Murphy, Patty Briggs, Lynn Flewelling, Rachel Caine, David Coe, and Anne Bishop.


Photo of Berls
About Berls
Berls has been a book lover her whole life. She reads pretty much every genre and is currently working hard at making her childhood dream of becoming an author come true. She loves sharing her thoughts about books, blogging, and just random fun stuff. She's a challenge and read-a-thon junkie, so it's no wonder that she loves co-hosting the COYER reading challenge. Leave a comment, Berls is always happy to chat!

28 Responses to “Book Review | Bitter Night by Diana Pharaoh Francis”

  1. Suz Reads

    I like Urban Fantasy but have never tried this series! I like that you said it has good characters and it fun and exciting! I love The Hollows series by Kim Harrison and this one sounds just as good! Thanks for sharing your comments!

  2. Cindi Clubbs

    I enjoy Urban Fantasy also so this looks great:) The two warring witch factions IS a bit different than the other urban fantasy books where every type of paranormal creature is included.

    • Berls

      I thought so too – I mean, not a vampire or werewolf in sight! That’s different. And then these paranormal creatures I’d never heard of before! If you enjoy UF I really recommend this series 🙂

  3. Mer

    I like the shadowblade concept! It sounds like it leads to some interesting dynamics between the characters.

    • Berls

      It was one of my favorite features of this series – and it does really create some interesting character relationships. I hope you get to check it out 🙂

  4. Erika Messer

    This one looks good – lord I have so many books I want to read I need 3 more lives to get them all done – with NOTHING else to do LOL! I really like how you wrote about the characters and plot, it helps SO much when choosing a book 🙂

    • Berls

      Thanks Erika! If you figure out how to cash in on those lives, please let me know – I could use a couple to get through all my must-reads too! Well, not to put pressure, but this one totally should move up your list LOL 😉

  5. BookLady

    Bitter Night sounds like a fascinating book. I love urban fantasy and have added this book to my TBR list. Great review. Thanks for sharing.

    • Berls

      Thanks! If you like UF I think you’ll really enjoy this one. It’s the perfect balance of magic, fantasy, and action, with a smidge of romance to balance it out.

  6. Erika R

    THe covers are crazy good.. and make you want to jump right in. 😉 Thank you for sharing and the giveaways!

    • Berls

      I do love the covers for this series! I think that’s the main reason I picked them (besides that they were free, that is). Good luck in the giveaway 🙂

  7. salena smith

    WOW! sounds like an awesome read. Can’t wait to read 🙂 Thanks so much for the chance to win this great giveaway! Good luck to all & Happy Reading! v-v

  8. Gabbie Pintac

    Sounds like this will be a really good read 🙂 I like books with strong kick ass characters so I’m looking forward to getting my hands on this one. Officially added to my tbr! Thanks for the great review!

    • Berls

      I’m glad you enjoyed the review! If you like kick ass characters this is definitely one for you – Max is hard core! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

  9. Maricris Patrimonio Dimla

    it’s great when a review is detailed like this..starting why you chose the book, the characters, the story and the feeling on what we can get when we read this book. Thank you for sharing your thought with this review! gonna add this to my TBR! ^_^

    • Berls

      Glad you enjoyed the review and hope you’ll enjoy the series as much as I have. DPF has become one of my favorite authors with this series!

    • Berls

      Dark would be a great word to use to describe it. The action is crazy awesome. Hope you get to check it out 🙂

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge

This blog uses premium CommentLuv which allows you to put your keywords with your name if you have had 0 approved comments. Use your real name and then @ your keywords (maximum of 9)