Review: Bitter Night by Diana Pharaoh Francis

Bitter Night  details

  • Author: Diana Pharaoh Francis
  • Format: Paperback
  • Source: Own
  • Publisher: Pocket Books
  • Publication Date: October 27, 2009
  • Pages: 387
  • Sexual Content: kissing
  • Series: Horngate Witches
  • Book #: 1
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy

Blurb: 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…

Review of Bitter Night

When I did a sampling review of Bitter Night back in April, I didn’t give it a very good ‘hook rating.’ I had a hard time getting into this book.This is what I said about it then:

Bitter Night was a book I was really looking forward to sampling. I love most books that have to do with witches. I wasn’t disappointed on most levels. It’s just that the main character, Max, is such a hard-ass. I can sympathize with her since the torture she’s been through has made her the way she is. I can respect her because she goes out of her way to help people. I just don’t like her personality as a whole. I guess part of what gets me is that she talks about herself like she’s no longer human.

It’s not clear from what’s been written if she ever was, but I think she was turned into what she is now, not really ‘created’ like she says.

I’m already 130 pages into the book. It took quite a while for me to get into the story. It took much longer than some books to hook me, but I have to say I am now. I’ll finish this book up soon, hopefully.

Since it didn’t get my attention right away, I’m giving it 3.5 stars for the hook rating.

Now that I’ve had an opportunity to read the rest of the book, I can’t say my opinion of the beginning was changed much. The author finally explained how Max became a Shadowblade, so that’s a plus, but I still had a hard time liking her.

Max has a lot of positive characteristics–tough, loyal, and self-sacrificing–but she also has a lot of negative characteristics–stubborn, impulsive, cold, hateful. This makes her a realistic and well-rounded character, but not one who is particularly endearing. Alexander isn’t that likable, either. He’s kind of boring. Physically hot, but a personality dud.

The best aspect of Bitter Night was the action. Both Max and Alexander take repeated beatings. If they weren’t Shadowblades, they’d be dead a hundred times over. Maybe for me there was a little too much of this. For someone to amazingly survive something once or twice is okay, but to be destroyed over and over again and still stand is a little over the top.

The world-building was pretty good, but some things should have been explained in more detail. For example, I never fully understood who or what the Guardians who command the angels are.

The bottom line is I liked Bitter Night enough to keep reading the series. I was particularly intrigued by the promise Max made to ‘Scooter,’ the man/creature living in the secret path to Horngate. He says Max is his gift, but Max doesn’t know what he wants from her. She promises to give him whatever he wants (again, pretty impulsive) and the reader doesn’t know yet what she has agreed to because Giselle, the witch Max serves, doesn’t seem to know either. Just for this, I would read the next book to see what kind of trouble Max is going to get into.

I give this book a 4 star rating.