Monday, December 19, 2011

Bitter Night (Horngate Witches, #1) by Diana Pharaoh Francis

What would you do to live forever? What would you give to stay eternally young? What would you do to have your senses heightened and your body strengthened to the point of being supernatural? What would you give up for all of those things combined? Think about it. Would you give up your free will and, in effect, become a slave to someone else's wishes? To be unable to say, "No"? Would you be willing to give up all your hopes and dreams? How about your family? Would you be willing to kill others?

Well, Max was asked if she'd like to live forever, never get old, and have supernaturally enhanced strength and senses only she never got the chance to really think about it or what she'd have to give up if she said yes. After a few too many drinks with her best friend, Giselle asked those questions. Not really taking them seriously and thinking her BF was just having some fun, she said, "Sure." Months later she woke up to find her life would never be the same.

Welcome to Max's world.

"In forging a coven, a witch created warriors to serve and protect her. Some took their power from the sun, the dark poisoning them. Some took their power from the shadows, the sun--even reflected from the moon--burning their flesh. Sunspears and Shadowblades." The day Giselle took away Max's free will she made her into a Shadowblade, but not just any Shadowblade, she made her Prime. A Prime Shadowblade or Prime Sunspear is in charge of the other individuals of her or his kind in the coven. The Shadowspears protect during the night while the Sunspears protect during the light. Max's world consists of  both Uncanny (the magic of those who could not cast spells or share their magic--like Max) and Divine (the magic of those who could cast spells and share their magic--like Giselle) magic.

In this book, Max is given an ominous prophecy by a Hag. "There will be war. It stands already on the threshold. Many, many will die. The world will be remade. Soon you will stand at a crossroads. You can choose fire or you can choose blood. Be warned either power will have a cost. Lives will be saved and lives will be lost." Now she'll have to protect her coven from magical outsiders because not only is war coming, but someone has decided Horngate will play a large part in the war and whoever controls it, might determine the outcome of the war. Be prepared for twists, turns, and a magical ride.

When I first started reading this book I assumed the main character was going to be a witch or a group of witches. I was pleasantly surprised to find the main character was Max, a Witch's servant. She's been wronged and feels it's her duty to protect others from meeting the same fate as her. She's honest to a fault, but in the magical world it's refreshing, and I think that is what lures so many into befriending her to the point of laying down their lives for her. That is the ironic thing about Max, she instills a sense of loyalty which Giselle, the head witch of the coven, seems to only gain through the use of compulsion spells. Besides her honesty she is also smart, strong, but the ultimate bad @ss when she needs to be.

Alexander, a Prime from another coven is another interesting character. While Max was illegally trespassing on another coven's land, Max's and Alexander's paths cross. While Max had the opportunity to kill him, she opted not to, and later the two form an unlikely friendship. During the book we get to hear Alexander's tale as to how he became a Shadowblade. It's much different from Max's tale.

The world Ms. Francis has created is fun and intriguing. The relationship formed between witches and their warriors is interesting and original. I also liked the dynamics of all the warriors to their Primes. While still tied to their witches whose bidding they must do, they still manage to form a camaraderie and loyalty amongst themselves. 

I gave this one 5 out 5 roses. I thought it was a nice mix of action and drama. I could empathize with the main character and enjoyed all the secondary characters as well.

Mountains around Missoula, Montana where Horngate supposedly resides:

Order of Series:

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