Bitter Night by Diana Pharaoh Francis

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:

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 was raised on a cattle ranch in Northern California (outside a town called Lincoln which is now part of an enormous sprawl). I taught myself to ride a horse at the age of six, as no one had the time to teach me—they were all busy learning how to irrigate, how to cajole an angry bull into another field, how to pull a calf… Afraid of heights, and absolutely sure I was going to die, I managed to scramble up on the back of a very patient and lazy strawberry roan destrier, and plod off into the sunset.

Thereafter, I spent much of my early life on horseback, or so far buried into a book that the rest of the world ceased to exist (much to the annoyance of my family—it took several attempts to get my attention). We all had very specific jobs on the ranch and mine was horses and cattle—out rounding up at dawn. And since I rode bareback, my standing request was to wake me up 5 minutes before everyone else headed for the barn—time enough to dress and eat my Wheaties, and no sleep time wasted on saddling.

After high school, I attended college after college, racking up a BA and MA in creative writing and a Ph.D. in literature and theory. My very patient and supportive husband traipsed across the Midwest and back to Montana for me (though my husband insists that he’s been running and hiding and I just keep finding him), where I now teach at the University of Montana-Western. We also a son Q-ball, who in our humbly unbiased opinions, is the most wonderful son ever produced, and a daughter, Princess Caesar, who is the most wonderful daughter ever produced.

I have a fascination for the Victorians, weather, geology, horses, plants and mythology, I like spicy food, chocolate and cheesecake, and I have an odd sense of humor. (Or so I’ve been told. Often.) Incidentally, the Pharaoh is in fact my real name, and oddly enough, is of British origin.

Some of my current favorite sf/f writers are Ilona Andrews, Carol Berg, C.E. Murphy, Patty Briggs, Lynn Flewelling, Rachel Caine, David Coe, and Anne Bishop.
(bio from Goodreads)

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