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Bitter Night: A Horngate Witches Book Mass Market Paperback – October 27, 2009

4.3 out of 5 stars 66 customer reviews
Book 1 of 4 in the Horngate Witches Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Francis (Path of Fate) begins her high-energy, gritty new Horngate Witches series by introducing Max, a magical warrior forced to serve her ex-roommate, witch-bitch Giselle. When the ancient Guardians of Earth decide to destroy the mortal world and recover its magic, Max discovers that she has been prophesied to save both her coven home and all humanity, and she must put aside her anger at her servitude to soothe coven rivalries and lead her fellow Shadowblades against powers much bigger than themselves. Emotions run mercurial, flashy and unsubtle throughout, and Max's near-invulnerability, self-healing and possession of an unrestricted wishstone make her more of a superhero than a woman dealing with real internal conflicts. The tough, feel-good, grand-scale supernatural fights, however, will keep action fans coming back for book after book. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Ms. Francis sends urban fantasy on its head in this fast-paced, dynamic story. Loved it, could not put it down. Unusual and terrific."
—Patricia Briggs, #1 New York Times Bestselling author of Hunting Ground

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Product Details

  • Series: Horngate Witches
  • Mass Market Paperback: 387 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Books; Original edition (October 27, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416598146
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416598145
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.2 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,429,283 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
Like my favorite urban fantasy author Patricia Briggs (who just happened to have blurbed for this book), Diana Pharaoh Francis has a background as an established fantasy writer, and that background is certainly evident in Bitter Night.

"Max's phone rang. It was set to a high-pitched tone that most humans couldn't hear. But being human hadn't been Max's problem since 1979." -Bitter Night

First up, the good: Diana's fantasy background was a strength that she fully utilized in created the world of the Horngate Witches. Witches hold amazing power in Bitter Night. Shadowblades and Sunspears are human servants magically enhanced with superhuman abilities and senses. They are not that dissimilar from vampires: they can heal from most wounds, never grow old, and the sun (or moon depending on whether they are Sunspears or Shadowblades) is deadly to them. They even struggle with enlarged appetites (try 40 Big Macs at once).

Max (she adopted the name from the Mel Gibson character in The Road Warrior movies, though I think she is much more like Riggs from Lethal Weapon) is the Prime Shadowblade for the witch Giselle. Enslaved by the witch that made her, compelled to lay down her very life if necessary in order to keep Giselle safe, Max is not the grateful servant she's expected to be. Rather she is consumed with one thought: Revenge. It is the one hope that keeps her from walking out in to the sunlight that would kill her. When forces greater than even the witches threaten everything that Max has come to care about, she must learn to ally with her enemy and accept the role she must play as savior.

The cover art is what first attracted me to this book. And I love that Max is actually described like the cover depicts her.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I've been going through good book withdrawal lately, especially good urban fantasy books. So, armed with a truckload of good reviews and an interesting premise, I decided to give "Bitter Night" a try. Its success was marginal at best.

Max is a trained assassin. In fact, she is the head of an elite group of warriors called Shadowblades, who serve and protect powerful witches. She was tricked into service and is bitter and resentful about the whole thing. While out on a mission, she meets a rival blade, Alex who captures her interest. Her and Alex must band together (along with her other blades and even enemies) to neutralize the "Big Bad" that is coming their way.

Max started out strong as a character. I understood her resentment and felt her rage. But somewhere in the middle, she lost me. I found her actions to be reckless, childish and stupid. She constantly made the same types of mistakes. She would do things that a well-trained, effective, competent team leader would not. Part of me thought that Max had a death wish, but suicidal tendencies are not something that I look for in a heroine. The only saving grace for her was Alex.

Alex is a rival blade who has been around over 100 years. He has seen it all. Alex has been betrayed and abandoned by his witch and his band of Shadowblades before he hooks up with Max and her crew. I liked Alex. He was smart, capable and effective. The wild, recklessness that was ever present with Max, wasn't there with him. I respected this character in ways that I couldn't respect Max.

I won't bore you with a regurgitation of the mythology involved in this story. It wasn't that inspiring. It managed to be boring and somewhat confusing all at the same time.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
NO SPOILERS or plot summaries.

HIGH LEVEL: YES! Just that. YES! Yes, you should read this. Yes, you will like it. It was a seriously great read. Fast paced, high stakes, rich magical world with vivid, down to earth characters. I honestly wasn't sure after reading the first couple pages, but a few more pages in and I was HOOKED.

MYTHOS & STYLE: This is more of an Urban Fantasy than a romance, though there is a stronger element of romance than in many UFs. It was something of a blend of the two- a well-crafted blend. The magical world was cleverly written and diverse, ranging from witches to angels to hags. This could be considered a unique take on vampires- the Shadowblades and Sunspears. It was all very clever. Story is told from two perspectives- the female and male leads, which is interesting specifically because it isn't a true para-romance. It worked VERY well. The violence was fast and bloody and devastating. Not a faint hearted book.

CHARACTERS: Max, our heroine, is a strong lead. She makes a great central character- she has depth and flaws and enough anger to boil the words off the page. I felt her struggles from page one until the back cover. The supporting characters were all vibrant and full. Each of them sympathetic in their own way making up a great "band of brothers" type team. The "bad guys" were a little too stereotypical and lacked the same depth that the others had. Alexander, who was the male lead, was perhaps an even BETTER character than Max. He was something of a tragic hero- his 100+ year lifespan was very clear in how he was written. His loyalty, his strength, his struggles- wow. It was a real treat to watch Max & Alexander cautiously dance around each other.
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