“Very good series. Wish I'd read them in order! Looking forward to the next one.”Heather Mc wrote this review Tuesday, July 26, 2011. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“What an outstanding start to a series. There have not been many books that I have read that have left me with a look of pure, stupefied awe on my face over its sheer awesomeness. But this is definitely one of them. I've actually just finished reading it for the second time and thought I'd come back and add to my review since first time around I could only manage a few lines of small words due to the whole stupefaction thing.
So what was so good about it? Well, first of all let me let you into my personal list of must-haves for any book to be deemed a "favourite": Action, fast pacing, a grin-worthy hint of romance, humour, a high magic/fantasy content, and I'm also a sucker for a kick-ass chick and/or a bad-ass dude. Someone I can cheer on and really root for and go "Yeah! Smash his face in!" (Because I'm a little vicious like that). And this book just had it all. In abundance.
It was deliciously easy to read as well. Written in third person, although Max is the main character you get nearly as much time in the head of one of the other characters which provides a great balance giving you an almost panoramic view of events. Francis handles these changes with aplomb. When Max is doing something that you'd probably be better watching than experiencing first hand (and believe me, Max does some pretty wince inducing stuff), you swap to the other POV. It was fantastic in that sense.
The other thing that bowled me over was its unique characters and never before seen supernatural beings. Francis is/has been a fantasy writer prior to this series, and it shows here in her refusal to go down the typical vampire/werewolf/shapeshifter route. Instead, she brings us something fresh and new to sink our eager little fangs into. Shadowblades and Sunspears. Both are immortal- well, maybe more like long-lived- and both are created by strong elemental witches to be used as their protection. Think of them as guardians of the witches' coven- day shift and night shift, as one can't survive the sun and the other can't survive the night.
Max, our leading lady, and the Shadowblade Prime, is one of the toughest, if slightly suicidal, characters I've ever encountered. She's also housing a monumental amount of rage and resentment at the start of our story which is interesting to witness and see her work through. There was quite a lot of character growth in this story and more to come, I suspect. The secondary characters were equally vivid, and there's one in particular that makes me want to jump up and down in fan-girl glee. *Clappy hands, clappy hands*
I recommend this for all Urban Fantasy fans. If you like Kate Daniels, Dorina Basarab, Chicagoland Vamps, Elemental Assassin series, this series is a must!”
“Wow, I really enjoyed this book, Talk about action packed and fast paced.
This book mainly follows Max who is a shadowblade, and one very tough lady, (so tough that she could give kate daniels a run for her money, if not most other alpha types!). I can't really say much about the book without giving too much away, but it's has a great plot, lots of twists and turns and just a little hint of a possible romance thrown in for good measure.
A must read for any avid Urban Fantasy fanatic.”
“Thirty years ago, she thought a hangover was the worst that could happen when she went out with her college roommate for a girls night out. She was so very, very wrong. Enslaved and stripped of her humanity, she was turned into a being that is infinitely harder to kill but contained and constrained through magic, spelled by compulsion to protect and defend the young woman she thought was her friend. Max has been struggling against that enforced slavery ever since, even as she has risen to the position of Shadowblade Prime, leader of the night warriors and counterpoint to the Sunspears, who battle and protect her old college roommate, the witch Giselle, during the day.
Resentful and full of rage even now, and always waiting for an opportunity to slip her gilded leash and kill the witch who holds it, she is still Giselle's most powerful and effective weapon, first line of defense and offense. It isn't until beings of godlike power, the Guardians, declare war on humanity in an effort to bring back and balance the magic on earth, calling on witches and their warriors to be their army, that Max starts to realize that beyond the hatred she has for Giselle is a sense of responsibility and concern for her fellow Blades and Spears, and a sense of home in Giselle's territory, Horngate. The Guardians may be knocking on their door, but Giselle has no intention of answering, and for once, Max and her oldest enemy are of like minds. With a growing group of people she's just now realizing are friends, Max will stand against the Guardians in their attempt to decimate Horngate or bow Giselle to their will.
War is coming, but in all wars, there is always a first battle, and Max stands at the front of the line to fight it.
Diana Pharaoh Francis kicks off her action packed Horngate Witches series with a complex, complicated lead character and a wealth of unique and original world building and mythos. Max is a real treat. Her years since being forced into becoming a Shadowblade have honed her into a steely force of dangerous will, a female of death, and she skates the line of feral self destruction. She's sarcastic, wicked, wild, and has a dark sense of humor. She's ruled by a fierce code of honor and is dedicated to those in her charge. Her relationship with Giselle, however, is a fascinating dichotomy and, for me, one of the biggest draws of the book. I've not read anything quite like it before.
Once close friends, Max now openly loathes Giselle and often tells the witch of her intention to kill her. Giselle has tortured Max and done unspeakable things to her, yet she's not exactly a despot, and her territory is full of people who serve and protect her willingly. And as much as Max dislikes Giselle, she acknowledges her inherent strength and willingness to protect her people. It is a complicated, sometimes odd relationship with a wealth of development potential.
The plot is also nicely layered, with a conflict and its subsequent fall out between witches Giselle and a real nasty piece of work, Selange, as one of the major plot threads. It worked nicely as both a lead in and a compliment to the wider, apparent series arc of the battle against the Guardians.
The pace is break-neck, and the action fierce and brutal. Francis' characters can and do take a lot of punishment. There is not an overwhelming depth to the world yet, and Francis tends to describe more than explain, so there's a lot left unknown, but that didn't lessen my enjoyment of the read.
I had a couple of issues that did, though. While I really enjoyed Max, I had a problem with Alexander. I liked him well enough, I just didn't think he was as strong a character as he should have been given his position. It weakened the parts of the story in which he was featured. There was an odd old world feel to his speech and actions, which was fine, I guess, but it didn't always blend well with Max's more contemporary nature. And I'm not sure I totally bought into the building blocks of the romantic relationship between him and Max. It read more like I was being told that there was a romantic connection than experiencing it evolve naturally through the story.
I also had an issue with the sometimes overwhelming amount of description. I wish there had been a more even distribution between description and explanation. Knowing which road the characters were taking on the trip from here to there and getting a clear picture of all manner of landmarks and scenery encountered isn't as important to me as having a greater understanding of the world at large and the people who inhabit it. Secondary character development in particular suffered because of it. In that regard, the narrative occasionally bogged down but still left many, many questions unanswered.
Even with those issues, though, I'm excited about this series. Max is a great character and her relationship with Giselle was fantastic reading. I'm perfectly okay with SOME unanswered questions as the series unfolds, and will wait to see how the world continues to develop in future books, but I do hope that Alexander is written with a bit more strength if he's going to continue to be a romantic interest of Max's. I love that the female is the leader in their relationship, it's a nice role reversal, but there needs to be some tweaking for me to really get on board with it. Generally speaking, though, this is a good, strong urban fantasy series and despite a few issues, it offers up non-stop action and a heroine who won't quit.
Reviewed for One Good Book Deserves Another.
“Looking forward to the sequel. Several of the characters interest me, which is rare.”Mrs. M wrote this review Thursday, September 30, 2010. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“This book suprised me I thought I was in for the usual story but the cover picture had me fooled. Yes there is some romantic undertones but I thought the story was fast paced and original for it's take on witches and angels.”Setsuko wrote this review Wednesday, April 7, 2010. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Max is a shadowblade for witch Giselle. She's not really happy about that fact and wants first dibs on killing Giselle. All that anger helps keep Max going when she really should be dead. Max also has a strong sense of right and wrong and caring for her people. This helps Alexander when he is released as Shadowblade Prime to Selange an Max offers him a new life.
Strong world building and characters you can get behind and root for. Looking forward to finding out what comes next in this world.”
“Better than expected. Worth a read.”Mari wrote this review Tuesday, January 19, 2010. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Great book! Love the heroine! Loved the opening. It was like I was watching an action movie. Can't wait for the next book.”rainlily wrote this review Friday, November 20, 2009. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“The first book of the "Horngate Witches" series, Bitter Night is full of bloody, gruesome, and high flying adventure. I can almost say, this isn't for those with weak constitutions. Some of the injuries Shadowblades and Sunspears endure are pretty gruesome and the author is very sadistic.. in a good way! LOL. For the first book right out the gate of this series, I have to say, not bad. Not bad at all. I definitely wouldn't say fantastic or anything but not bad. There were a few nuances with the changing in viewpoints I thought was odd and there was some inconsistency with the shifting of the viewpoint that caused me to backtrack a little bit to reconfirm who's view it was. Sometimes first books in a new series can be slow with attempting to build the characters, the scenery, back stories and so forth, Bitter Night definitely didn't lull. I could easily have read this in half the time it took me if I didn't have to eat, take a shower, feed the kid, shower her, put her on the potty, ya know.. all those responsibilities and believe me, breaking away was hard for me to do.
I really like Max's character. I felt we didn't get enough of the other Sunspears and Shadowblades to decide if I liked them or not. Akemi, Oz and Niko seemed cool. I am on the fence about Alexander, he was borderline weak and kind of grated my nerves. I don't see he and Max in a romantic relationship. I can't wait to find out what's next with the Horngate, the witches, the angels, and the war..
Sooo.. Diana Pharoah Francis, when's book two coming out? :D