BITTER NIGHT (Horngate Witches #1) by Diana Pharaoh Francis
Book Blurb: 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….
Where do I begin! There is so much information compiled into this first Horngate Witch storyline and yet as a reader I did not feel overwhelmed. The storyline is written in third person POV from our heroine’s perspective. We are privy to Max’s emotional highs and lows including her feelings of betrayal at the hands of her one time best friend and college roommate. Following a night of mid-exam drinking, Max found herself on a witch’s altar and her life as she once knew it will never be the same. And thirty years later, Max is still fighting the urge to kill her best friend.
Diana Francis has written a world of Urban Fantasy characters that will both tug at your heart and rev up your anxiety level- a world of Shadowblades (the sun will kill them) and Sunspears (the darkness will kill them) each of whom is responsible for the protection of an elemental witch and his/her coven. But it just so happens that Max is the Prime Shadowblade and as the Prime it is her primary responsibility to protect her witch at all costs-even when she wants nothing to do but destroy the very life she has been compulsed to protect. An interesting conundrum for one of the most powerful and special Shadowblades the world of the magic and the Divine has ever seen.
The premise follows that the Guardians (a most powerful and omnipotent power) are angry at the world and want revenge against the humans who have forced ‘magic’ into hiding. Along the way, the Guardians have chosen to enlist the witches in their attempt but their refusal to help has started a war with the Divine and between each other. And there is only one person who holds the key and has the ability to stop the destruction-Max.
There is also a ‘building’ of a romance between Max and another Prime, but this Prime has had some difficulty with his witch and must pay the ultimate price for his betrayal in refusing to divulge what he knows. Like all Urban Fantasy storylines, the romance is virtually non-existent even though I had hoped knowing it would never come to fruition. Alexander and Max know that one day ‘it’ will happen between them, but first, the world must be saved, the Guardians must be stopped and a witch with vengeance on her mind is standing between Max and everyone else. I want romance but sadly UF is not about the romance.
There are several secondary storyline characters-witches, angels, Shadowblades and Sunspears-each with a different story to tell. Maybe one day Diana will have the time to develop a storyline (novella or two) to tell their side of the story.
BITTER NIGHT is a well-written, fast paced and fascinating storyline that kept me reading right up until the very end. There are some dark moments, especially when we learn what Max had to endure at the hands of her one-time friend. Max is a tough as nails heroine whose life has forever been changed by betrayal but when the need arises, she has a heart that will break and will cry tears of pain and loss. She is both surprised and humbled with the knowledge that not every Prime is as well respected and as loved as is she. I look forward to reading more from Diana Francis and the Horngate Witches.
1. Bitter Night
2. Crimson Wind
3. Shadow City
4. Blood Winter -Dec 2012
Reviewed by Sandy