I’ve been hearing a lot about Diana Pharaoh Francis’ Bitter Night, the first book in her new Horngate Witches series, and at first I wasn’t sure what to think about it. Now that I have had my hands on a copy, oh yeah, I cannot wait until the second novel comes out.
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….
I think what stands out the most for me is the fact that this isn’t another urban fantasy about vampires or shapeshifters, but something else with witch thrown in. Witches are the powerhouses here, but they surround themselves with Shadowblades and Sunspears who can be just as powerful in their own right.
What makes this series different, in my opinion, is that the Shadowblades and Sunspears work closely together, but they really can’t fight together. A Shadowblade has an intense sensitivity to sunlight, even to the light reflected by the moon; whereas a Sunspear has an intense sensitivity to darkness. These two warriors are created, or turned, by the witch, so while the witch has ensured that she has powerful guards, the idea of magic costing something is also there. I mean, unless the two groups are fighting something inside a mall or a warehouse, one of them is going to have a huge disadvantage.
The whole idea of the warriors being turned is actually the crux of the matter between our heroine, Max, and her witch, Giselle. At one time, Max and Giselle were best friends, but then Giselle gets Max drunk and asks her if she wants immortal life (aka to be a Shadowblade). Let’s just say that when you don’t realize such options exist, the answer wouldn’t be the same as if you knew the option exists. Does that make sense? Suffice it to say that Max isn’t exactly grateful to Giselle for her new life and the resulting chemistry between these two is spectacular.
As for the plot, I kind of like the idea. Bitter Night is all about these supreme beings who are getting fed up with humanity and want magic to take a more predominant role, but not everyone is excited about it. Angels are very much going to be apart of this series and I’m really looking forward to their appearance. I know angels have been showing up more and more, but they are not the main character or character type and their interactions with the witches are going to be interesting to say the least. Also, I haven’t seen another novel mention the Red Caps since LK Hamilton’s Meredith Gentry series, so it’s nice to see something different than the normal crew.
Overall, I really enjoyed Bitter Night. It kept me completely enthralled in the story and I had a really had time putting it down. The plot flowed beautifully; the characters were development amazingly well; their was a romantic element, but it didn’t overshadow anything and nothing was really resolved. That is one aspect that I can’t wait to see developed in the next novel. After all is said and done, this is definitely one that will be added to my keeper shelf and there hasn’t really been a lot of those lately.