Josh Reviews: Bitter Night by Diana Pharaoh Francis

Posted December 4, 2013 by Joshua Burns in Josh, Reviews, Urban Fantasy / 4 Comments

Josh Reviews: Bitter Night by Diana Pharaoh Francis
Bitter Night by Diana Pharaoh Francis
Series: Horngate Witches #1
Published by Pocket
Published on: October 27th 2009
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 387
Format: Paperback
Source: Borrowed
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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....



Bitter Night, beyond the tremendous amount of imagination it so effortlessly demonstrates, employs one of the more emotionally stirring narrative trajectories.    Max is on the path to freedom.

The true genius in the relating of this narrative is that freedom, to have any meaning at all, must struggle against obligation, and in so doing find the freedom within obligation.    Before I go any farther down this philosophical path, I will stop myself and treat the urban fantasy elements.

Unlike many heroines that I know of, especially those in a werewolf pack, Max is not technically Alpha.     Also before there is any further confusion, I will state that werewolves did not get a place in this book.     We are in straight witch lore and ancient gods.    But what rich witch lore it is!

Max commands the Shadowblades, a retinue of paranormally enhanced fighters who cannot bear much light of any kind, especially not of the sunny variety.    Hey, it’s kind of moon-related, if not a strictly werewolf read.     Anyways even a small patch of moonlight can give Max blisters.     This detail really tests my ability to suspend disbelief.    How is it possible for Max to avoid all sorts of light, including the light even the night gives off?

No matter.    This stretch of the imagination begins to grow on me.    As I was saying, Max and her warriors take care of night combat whereas Oz and his Sunspears keep watch during the day.    Keep watch over what?    The head witch, of course.    Giselle oversees this northwestern coven.

You may be thinking landscape would not play a role but it actually plays a powerful role here, effectively characterizing Giselle’s main rival, Selange.    Her oasis in the desert reinforces her decadent and ultimately false personality whereas Giselle, although drab on the outside, has a keen and piercing heart.

I haven’t even mentioned the fact that this narrative is told from two perspectives and how appreciative I am of the fact that finally when the author utilizes this structure the two perspectives are actually given a near equal amount of showtime.    It’s like on top of everything else the read is symmetrical and shows signs of geometrical perfection.

So Alexander, Max’s love interest, and she do a little tango with their narrative voices, both harping on the main message of this book:  loyalty is a tremendous weight that only the strongest amongst us can bear.    Meanwhile angels toss fire and wield razor sharp steel.    Does it get any better?

Books in this series:


Recommended: As a model of urban fantasy literature
Like this, like that: The Hoodoo series by Adrian Phoenix and the Mortal Path series by Dakota Banks



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Reviews UF/PR novels with an eye for weres of all kinds.

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4 responses to “Josh Reviews: Bitter Night by Diana Pharaoh Francis

  1. So glad you enjoyed it – this is one of my favorite UF series. The creativity is great and Max is one of my favorite female leads. Enjoy the rest 🙂