1. Bitter Night

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

Horngate Witches series by Diana Pharaoh Francis.

Genres and Sub-GenresEdit

Urban Fantasy

Series Description or Overview Edit

Ages ago, the Guardians of the earth created an army of creatures—faeries, banshee, chimeras, oni, lamia, kelpies, angels…the Uncanny and Divine things that populate myth and legends that most humans suppose never really existed. It was an army meant to contain the human population, to keep them from overrunning the earth…hungry parasites taking more than the host can provide. The army failed. The Guardians were too benevolent and did not prune back the weed of humanity as severely as needed. As a result, cold iron took a heavy toll on the creatures of the Uncanny and Divine.

Centuries later, the Guardians have decided to act before it is too late—before the magic dies entirely. This time, they are holding nothing back. Over centuries, the creatures of the Uncanny and Divine have grown less susceptible to iron, and they will no longer let mercy or pity get in the way of saving the earth and its magic. A war is beginning, one that will remake the earth and decimate much of humanity. It will move mountains and drain oceans. Magical beings will once again walk the earth, more powerful than ever before. A new army is rising, and the portents are here. Fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes…a collapsing bridge, a sinkhole swallowing a city block, a tidal wave to kill an island.

Witches will be at the heart of the war. They have kept the fires of magic burning for centuries. The Guardians call on them to lead the fight. But uniting the witches is no easy task. Many are enemies, while others see the rising tide of magic as a chance to build empires. Questions arise. Will anyone protect humanity? Who will survive when the wars end? The line in the sand between good and evil is smudged and crooked and right and wrong is impossible to know. But no one will be left on the sidelines; everyone will have to choose sides. And soon. ~ Horngate Witches—Maryse's Book Blog

Books in Series Edit

Horngate Witches series:

  1. Bitter Night (2009)
  2. Crimson Wind (2010)
  3. Shadow City (2011)
  4. Blood Winter (2012) ~ final book

Shorts, Anthologies and GuidesEdit

Free Short stories: Short Fiction | Diana Pharaoh Francis 

World Building Edit


Giselle's territory of Horngate located in the Rocky Mountains in Montana


  • Shadow City: a place of mysteries and magic
  • Julian: the town Giselle sent Max.
  • Horngate: situated in the unforgiving mountains west of Missoula, Montana, and spread across ten square miles of Rocky Mountain forest. Where Giselle's coven lives.
  • The Sagrado: at the top is the Conclave site.
  • San Diego, CA:
  • Winters, California:
  • Mount Shasta, California:

Supernatural ElementsEdit

Uncanny and Divine: Shadowblades, Sunspears, witches, mages, oni, angels, faeries, banshee, chimeras, lamia, kelpies, warriors, magical items, Armageddon, , , , ,

Glossary: Edit

  • Prime: one charged with guarding and commanding the rest of the Shadowblades (Max)
  • Anneau: knot of magic at the heart of a covenstead’s territorial power—for the territory in which a witch lives with their minions.
  • The Guardians: many legends say that had created most of the Uncanny and Divine races. It is said that they are cruel, petty, and terribly powerful.
  • Conclave: a gathering of witches, where mutual peace is held.
  • Hags: Divine creatures, Cailleach Bheur’a Blue Hag from the Scottish highlands.


  • Divine: one of two races—can cast spells and perform magic—includes witches
    • Witches: they each an anneau for their territory. Each witch derives power from his or her own unique source (e.g. the earth, human emotions)
  • Uncanny: one of two races—are created from magic but can't perform it
  • Uncanny Warriors Castes: have been sworn and bound magically with compulsion spells that require them to protect their witches at any cost
    • Shadowblades: deadly warrior— work only at night because they are burned or melted by light (particularly sunlight and moonlight)
    • Sunspears: work during the day because they deteriorate in the dark


In this world, the supernaturals are made up of two races: the Divine and the Uncanny. The Divine can cast spells and perform magic, while the Uncanny are created from magic but can't perform it. Witches are among the Divine, and they each hold an anneau (knot of magic) for the territory (aka covenstead) in which they live with their minions. Each witch derives power from his or her own unique source (e.g. from the earth, from the emotions of mortals).

Uncanny warriors: The witches are protected by two castes of Uncanny warriors: the Shadowblades, who work only at night because they are burned or melted by light (particularly sunlight and moonlight), and the Sunspears, who work during the day because they deteriorate in the dark. Both groups of warriors have been sworn and bound magically with compulsion spells that require them to protect their witches at any cost. Their only release from their bonds is death; they are immortal (no aging), but they can be killed. Some warriors enter into their profession willingly, but others are tricked or coerced. When a mortal becomes a Shadowblade or a Sunspear, he or she attains self-healing powers and super-human strength, speed, and endurance. Some warriors have additional talents, depending on their witch's power and their own genetic make-up.

Protagonists Edit

Max: The heroine of the series is 'Max (formerly named Anne), who was tricked into servitude by her college roommate, Giselle, a powerful witch. Giselle took Max out drinking one night and got her to admit that it would be great to be strong and immortal. When Max woke up a month later, she was a Shadowblade under Giselle's control and destined never to see her human family again. Max took her name from the title character of the movie, Mad Max, because she felt a strong sense of identification with its fearless, headstrong protagonist. That was in 1979. During the early years, Max ran away time and time again, but she was always pulled back to Giselle by the compulsion spell. Each time Max returned, Giselle tortured her and bound her even more tightly.

The end result is that Max hates Giselle with a passion and lives for the day that she can kill Giselle. An even more important result is that Max has become incredibly strong—both mentally and physically—and is able to embrace pain in a way that makes her even stronger. Her special Shadowblade talent is that she can break through any type of lock—even a lock on a magic spell. Giselle's territory is called Horngate and it's located in the Rocky Mountains in Montana. Max is Giselle's Prime Shadowblade, which means that she is in charge of all of Giselle's warriors, and they all worship her. Even though Max comes off as a tough, heartless bitch, she has that stereotypical heart of gold, and her warriors all know it. They fear Max's anger, but they admire her skills and know that she has their backs. ~ Fang-tastic Fiction: Diana Pharaoh Francis: HORNGATE WITCHES SERIES

Alexander: He is a totally hot hunk of Shadowblade. He is currently one of Giselle's Shadowblades, but he's only there because of Max. If he slips up at all, he'll either be kicked out or dead, probably the latter. He wants Max more than anything and he wants to do "more than just mess around" with her. He is going to make sure she survives long enough to get what he wants. ~ Shelfari

Sidekick Edit

Name: — What: — Sidekick-to: — About: — Book First Seen In:

Characters Chart Edit

Characters What About
Max Shadowblade leader, Prime, Giselle's Prime and leader of her Shadowblades; Shadowblade, prime, warrior, immortal, can only go out at night.
Alexander Shadowblade warrior Selange’s Prime (see above)
Giselle witch changed Max into a Shadowblade; some seeing powers; believes Max is going to save the entire coven stead;
Selange witch territory is around Julian; very powerful witch;
Hekau powerful Guardian
Oz Sunspear leader of Giselle's Sunspears
Scooter mysterious creature name Max gave to a mysterious creature that protects a hidden entrance in Horngate; a poweful creature of Divine magic;
Xaphan fire angel Hekau's messenger
Niko Giselle’s Shadowblade Max’s second-in-command
Jim hex witch circle level; friend of Max's;
Valery Caramaras smoke witch good friend to Alexander
Mercury Shadowblade Selange’s
Shadowblade Selange’s
Mercury Shadowblade Selange’s
Attila Shadowblade Selange’s
Thor Shadowblade Selange’s
Brynna Shadowblade Selange’s
Marcus Shadowblade Selange’s
Tyler Shadowblades one of Max's Shadowblades; works for the witch, Giselle
Kev Tatane faery Selange’s secretary; from the Easter Islands
Arthur Sunspear Prime Selange’s
Kamikani Sunspear Giselle’s
Lise Sunspear Giselle’s, Oz’s second-in-command
Akemi Shadowblade Giselle’s
Lance Sunspear Sealang’s
Magpie witch One of the anneau; tells prophecies; cook for Giselle’s Blades & Spears;
Derek Sunspear Giselle’s
Alton Giselle’s ally
Dorian Sunspear Prime Alton’s
Tris Max's sister
Tutresiel angel of the sword protects Horngate
Peter Max's dad

To expand the table, right-press or (Control-press on a Mac)—choose add row.

Diana Pharaoh Francis

Diana Pharaoh Francis

Author Edit

Diana Pharaoh Francis

Bio: Diana Pharaoh Francis is an American author and professor. She teaches literature and writing at the University of Montana-Western, and resides in Montana with her husband, son, daughter, and an oversized lapdog. ~ FF

CMW 2010 04 BITTERNIGHT 1000

Bitter Night, Horngate Witches #1—original art by Chad Michael Ward

Cover ArtistEdit

Artist: Chad Michael Ward — book 1–3 for certain, possibly #s 4–5 as well.

Publishing InformationEdit

  • Publisher: Pocket Books
  • Author Page:
  1. Bitter Night: Paperback, 387 pages, Pub Oct 27th 2009, ISBN: 1416598146
  2. Crimson Wind:
  3. Shadow City:
  4. Blood Winter:

Book Cover Blurbs Edit

BOOK ONE—Bitter Night (2009): SOMETIMES YOU CHOOSE YOUR BATTLES. AND SOMETIMES, THEY CHOOSE YOU... 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. ~ Bitter Night - FF

BOOK TWO—Crimson Wind (2010): THERE ARE GOOD GUYS. THERE ARE BAD GUYS. AND THEN THERE'S MAX... Max knows what trusting the wrong person can cost you. Her former friend Giselle, a powerful witch, enslaved Max years ago, turning her into a Shadowblade, a deadly warrior compelled to fight for Giselle. But there's more at stake now than Max's thirst for revenge. The Guardians, overseers of the magical world, have declared war on humanity and on any witches not standing with them. Max and Giselle have come to an uneasy truce in order to protect what's left of Horngate, their coven's home. Max would do anything for Horngate, even give herself over to a mysterious otherworldly creature in the nearby mountains in exchange for his help. But first, she intends to save the mortal family she left behind. And Alexander, the Shadowblade warrior who could be her closest ally or her deadliest enemy, is going with her. On a road trip into the unknown, Max and Alexander face wild magic, desperate enemies, and battles that bruise both body and soul. But the greatest challenge will come from unexpected revelations that test everything Max believes about who she is, and where her loyalties lie. ~ Crimson Wind #2 ~ Goodreads

BOOK THREE—Shadow City (2011): The world is falling apart. The magical apocalypse has come. Now is the time to guard the covenstead against both raiders and refugees. But Max has been stolen by a powerful demi-god who is determined to force her to find a way to use a magical power she never knew she had—even if it kills her. Meanwhile, back in Horngate, a Fury is birthing. When the creature breaks free of the fragile bonds that enclose her, her rage will scour the covenstead from the earth. Max finds herself in the Shadow City, a place of mysteries and magic, where she must battle for her freedom or become a slave to creatures of dreadful greed and power. Back in Horngate, Alexander must swallow his anger and pride if he hopes to defeat the Fury, a creature that no one has ever successfully fought before. In the end, it will be courage, friendship, faith and loyalty that win the day. Or else so one will live to see tomorrow. ~ Shadow City #3 ~ Goodreads

BOOK FOUR—Blood Winter (2012) ~ final book: NEW GAME. SAME RULES. SHE FIGHTS. THEY DIE. Max always does her job, no matter how brutal and bloody. That’s how it’s been ever since she was enslaved by a witch, turned into a supernatural warrior, and assigned to protect the coven of Horngate. But her job just got harder.... Waves of wild magic have returned much of the world to a time when fairy tales were real and danger now lurks behind every tree and bush. As winter descends and food, heat, and water are harder to come by, many have turned to Benjamin Sterling for protection. Leader of the Earth’s Last Stand cult, Sterling claims to be the Hand of God, but his power and charisma secretly come from a dark and terrible source. With devout followers eager to do his sadistic bidding, he has his eyes on Horngate and its magical inhabitants. To save those she loves, Max will knowingly walk into a trap. But when the cult strips Max’s soul bare for all to see, will even Alexander—her lover and her strength—remain? And if she were to lose him, what does it matter if she gains the whole world. ~ Blood Winter #4 ~ Goodreads

First Sentences Edit

  1. Bitter Night — Max's phone rang. It was set to a high-pitched tone that most humans couldn't hear.
  2. Crimson Wind — The dream was not a dream. It was a kidnapping.
  3. Shadow City — Alexander crouched on the ridgeline.
  4. Blood Winter — WHAT IS THIS STUFF?”

Quotes Edit

Goodreads | Diana Pharaoh Francis Quotes (Author of Bitter Night)

“Want to see what I can do with you?" Max asked softly. "Or are you the kind of witch-bitch who can dish it out like a lunch lady on crack, but your tits shrivel up when you get a taste of your own medicine?” ~ Max, bk-1
“Even you, huh? Wow. I must be a super-duper special snowflake, then.” ~ Max, talking to Alexander
“And, Max, I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but do not accidentally on purpose let anyone see you.” “Why would I do that?” Max replied all too innocently. “I couldn’t anyhow. You tied me up in compulsion spells. They would never let me do anything you didn’t want me to do, right?” Except there were ways around the spells. And Max had made herself an expert at them. “Besides, you know how I feel about you. Your wish is my fondest command.” ~ Giselle and Max, book 1
“Thirty years and you still can’t get past it.” “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. Which did you want me to get past? Being turned into a mutant freak by my best friend? Being enslaved by her? Or maybe all those hours of torture on your altar while you chained me tighter? Oh, yeah, I can see where you would think I could just forget all about that. After all, it’s only blood under the bridge, right? Hardly worth thinking about.” ~ Giselle and Max, book 1
“I haven’t adjusted well to being a Shadowblade. I have some anger issues.” “Really? I am shocked.” ~ Max and Alexander, book 1
“"I don't mess around with the men in the coven, especially my Shadowblades," she said with quiet finality. Flirting was one thing but anything more, it was a mistake of epic proportions. His eyes narrowed and he gave a slow shake of his head. "That is all right then. Because I want so much more than just to mess around."” ~ Max and Alexander, book 1

Bitter Night (Horngate Witches 1) ~ Shelfari

Read Alikes (similar elements) Edit

Awards Edit

Trivia Edit

Notes Edit

See Also Edit

Category links at bottom of page

Trivia & Notes Edit

~ ranked on Goodreads | Best Urban Fantasy Series (181 series)

External References Edit


Free Stories


World, Characters, etc:




Community, Fan Sites:

Gallery of Book Covers Edit

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