Customer Reviews for

Bitter Night (Horngate Witches Series #1)

Average Rating 4.5
( 75 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 75 Customer Reviews
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  • Posted October 28, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Fantastic urban fantasy at its best!

    You've read the synopsis. I won't take up your time when you could just be reading this book for yourself. AND YOU SHOULD! But, only if you like fantastically crafted characters, action and adventure. The main character, Max, is a complex heroine and Francis does a superb job of keeping that complexity from becoming whiney or old. Max is fresh, fun and feisty-tough, proud and lethal.
    The plot is fresh as well, and the action is driven by plot as well as by character. It contains enough action to be exciting, enough of a hint of romance to be interesting, and a new flavor for urban fantasy readers to savor. If you haven't read urban fantasy before, this would be the perfect start! Francis is a great writer and if you are looking to read something new, exciting and "outside the box" this is it! Can't wait for more from Francis!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 12, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Excellent Start to a New Urban Fantasy!

    Max is a Shadowblade Prime. Shadowblades and Sunspears are magically bound to witches and turned into something more than human; which makes them able to run faster, put a halt to the ageing process, heal quickly and exhibit incredible strengths and heightened senses. Shadowblade's one weakness is they can not be touched by the sun's rays or even the moon's light or they start too burned to ash. Sunspear's one weakness is they are to be in the light at all times and they need the sun. Max belongs to a witch named Gizelle who owns the Horngate coven. Gizelle and Max were friends in collage, or so Max thought. One night Gizelle tricked Max into consenting to be eternally bound to her and making Max her Shadowblade Prime. Gizelle, having a touch of the "sight", foresaw that Max will one day become a crucial instrument in an oncoming war between the Guardians of earth and their angel slaves, against humanity. Killing Gizelle has been Max's harbored desire for over 30 years. Considering the impending war, Max must decide if revenge means more to her than helping to save the lives of her fellow shadowblades, her coven and humanity. I delayed reading this book because I though it was going to be another bubble-gum urban fantasy, with the heroine shallow and bratty and it's up to her to save the world. I could not have been further from the truth. This story was intelligent, action-packed, full of twists and turns, creative and exciting. Max is an honorable heroine who refuses to leave one of her own behind. She is smart, strong willed, thinks quickly on her feet, and most importantly, deadly. I highly recommend this book to dark urban fantasy readers and I am impatiently looking forward to the next book Crimson Wind due out 10/2010.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 21, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Gritty Urban Fantasy

    In Bitter Night, Diana Pharaoh Francis takes the reader into a fantasy world. But this is not a pleasant fantasy. This world is brutal and violent, where loyalty is given by compulsion spells that cannot be broken and everyone is out to best those around them.

    This world is controlled by witches. Each witch has their own coven, and within their coven, they have soldiers who protect them with their lives, if need be. The soldiers are of two types. Shadowblades work at night, and can not withstand the light, while Sunspears work during the day, with darkness deadly to them.

    Max is the leader of the witch Giselle's coven; the Prime Shadowblade. Giselle tricked her thirty years ago into giving up her human qualities to become an immortal being. The problem is that she didn't tell Max that she would be giving up her life, her family, everything she loved. Max hates Giselle, but cannot leave or disobey her orders.

    Now, in addition to the battles between witches, an even greater danger looms. The Guardians, lords of all, have decided to bring down ultimate war and cleanse the earth of all humans. To do so without destroying the earth, they need the obedience of the witches. Both Giselle and her arch-rival Solange resist the Guardians, and their angels of destruction.

    Can Max and her crew manage to survive this new threat? What kind of relationship will emerge between Max and Solange's Prime whom she defeated in battle and then recruited to her side? Will the Guardians be successful or will the witches emerge as the new ultimate authority?

    This book is the first in the Horngate Witches series. It is recommended for sci-fi and fantasy fans who don't mind extreme violence.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 10, 2010

    more from this reviewer


    WOW, i was expecting this book to be a bust but was completely taken by surprise when i started to read the book. The author gives the characters a freshness that has been missing in the paranormal genre for awhile.
    The story centers around Max, a Shadowblade(or human turned into magical bodyguard)and her struggle to deal with her master, the witch Giselle and the covenstead they created and protect. Along the way you get insights to the life Max had before she was thrust into her current one, along with her interactions that have HUGE possibilities.
    Bitter Night was a huge surprise, i expected the book would be monotonous to read but it only took me 6 hours at the most to finish because it's so captivating, you cant help but keep reading.


    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 7, 2010

    One of best books I have read in a long time

    Strap on you seatbelt and get ready to be taken for a wild ride. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. It's non-stop action from beginning to end.

    The Guardians are about to destroy the world and they are trying to get the witches to help. Max was a human who was tricked in to being a Shadowblade. A Shadowblade has a complusion to protect "their" witch at all cost.

    While Max can certainly kick butt, she also has a vulnerable side that Diana Pharaoh Francis balances quite nicely. I can't wait for the next book in this series.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 7, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Sharp, Sassy, Action-Packed Urban Fantasy

    *Bitter Night* is undoubtedly the most kick-ass book I've read all year. Considering that this year I've also read Patricia Briggs' *Bone Crossed* and *Hunting Ground* as well as Jim C. Hines' *The Stepsister Scheme* and *The Mermaid's Madness*, 'most kick-ass book of the year' is extremely high praise.

    But in addition to tons of fast-paced martial and magical action, *Bitter Night* has a whole cast of lovable, believable characters whom I cared deeply about; a plot packed with edge-of-your-seat surprises that kept me guessing and gripping the pages; a rich, vivid, and fascinating world believably woven into present-day California and Montana; and excellent, wry humor even in the darkest, scariest moments.

    Fans of Francis' earlier heroines, Reisil, Lucy, and Fairlie will not be disappointed with *Bitter Night's* sardonic, passionate, reckless, tough-as-nails Max. You'll also love Max if you are into Patricia Brigg's Mercy Thompson or Joss Whedon's Captain Malcolm Reynolds or Jayne Cobb.

    The only concessions I have to make about this book are minor and have to do with my own conservative tastes. First the nature of the story requires a fair amount of involvement with things of the occult. Second the language has its rough moments. Even from a conservative standpoint though, I felt like both of these things were extremely well done and never more than the story needed.

    Brilliant. Amazing. Excellent. A must read for fans of urban fantasy, action, and paranormal romance.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    the first Horngate Witches urban fantasy is a fabulous action packed tale

    Three decades ago Giselle the witch converted her college roommate Max into a slave. Giselle used a series of spells to torture and break Max; succeeding into making her an obedient weapon Shadowblade.

    Thirty years later Max leads thirteen other warriors enslaved to increasingly powerful Giselle; their job is to protect their witch ruler and her magical haven, Horngate. However, a witch's coven is summoned as the more powerful Guardians of Earth coveting the planet's magic declare war on those members of humanity that fail to pledge their allegiance to them. To save Horngate, Max has put aside her ire and become the prophesized savior who will need allies whom she distrusts; the worst being Giselle who she has loathed for thirty years ever since the odious witch conquered her will.

    From the opening caller ID to the climax, the first Horngate Witches urban fantasy is a fabulous action packed tale driven by the relationship between the two former college roommates. Max seethes with frustration and rage that has built up since 1979 when Giselle used compulsion spells to turn her into her obeying slave. Although Max has too many supernatural powers at her disposal, it is her acrimony that leaves her vulnerable to paranormal attacks in spite of her strengths; she knows she needs to move on and ally with her enemies including Giselle or watch the BITTER NIGHT turn a pandemic slaughter.

    Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 13, 2013

    This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due

    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.

    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!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2013


    Good world building, good story. Character development lacking for me.

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  • Posted September 25, 2012

    I had a hard time getting into it at first, but once I did, I wa

    I had a hard time getting into it at first, but once I did, I was HOOKED. You will not be disappointed by this series. Her characters and stories are fabulous and exciting. Don't hesitate. Buy it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2012

    Read it!

    Max is a fabulous heroine and her world is a scary, amazing place. Everything DPF writes is wonderful and worth the time & money. Enjoy!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2012

    great read

    I was caught from the first chapter and held to the last. Unfortunately I was done so fast and then had to wait for the next book, okay I only had to wait a few days, but hey.
    I would say if you like a strong female character this is a must.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2011

    LOVED IT!!!

    I am in love with this book. The world of sunspears and shadowblades is something completely new and imaginative. I think I read this book in maybe two days, I just couldn't put it down. There is so much action in this book that keeps you coming back for more. If you are looking for a new Urban Fanasty series to start I strongly reccomend this one. It has everything you are looking for and so so much more.

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  • Posted April 5, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Bitter Night is seriously hard core!

    It seems I have been reading a few end of the world books lately. This one has been on the shelf for a while now and was in need of some attention. I love the idea of the Shadowblades and the Sunspears. Also the concept behind what fuels their powers holds a bit of logic that is often not seen in supernatural books. Overall I think it led to enough of a tie to the natural to make it seem even more feasible. Not that I have a problem with the suspension of disbelief, mind you.

    In the beginning of the book I was thinking there was a chance that the soldiers of the witches would become as interchangeable as the clones in Clone Wars. The same clone soldier just with a different weapon slung on his shoulder. I was concerned there would be the one who as into cars, the one who was a movie buff - going down the line using a trait to identify each as being different when they were really the same cookie cutter. That was the furthest thing from the truth. The more time you spent with each of them, the more they came out of the thickened shells they had built up and you saw more personality. Even Giselle, Max's "witch-(something-starting-with-the-letter-b)" in the story had a depth to her that allowed you to empathize with her in the end.

    The plot itself was a strong one with enough turns and reveals in it to let you know that this book is only the beginning. It also sets up the seeds for several plot points in the coming sequels. It also shows the promise of evolution for the characters in those entries as well. Add this plot to the cliffhanger hooks throughout and the emotional attachment to the characters and you have a real page turner.

    In addition to the quality of the writing and the story, Max and her fellow soldiers can kick some serious... um... tail. If you are into bad-(you-know-what) super-soldiers and like the tough as nails woman that would put the likes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer to shame, then Max is your lady! She is strong, focused and used to things that would put down a normal Shadowblade. And your normal Shadowblade is used to things that would put down a normal human by far.

    My only complaint was that my style of reading (during morning coffee, at lunch, before bed) fits in with shorter chapters. Although really the size of the chapters in this book just kept me reading more instead of less chapters. I will shoot this book a definite 4.5 out of 5. I cannot wait to see the second installment from Horngate.

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    Posted March 21, 2011

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    Posted August 31, 2013

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    Posted December 14, 2010

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    Posted April 1, 2011

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