TITLE: The Witch Hunter
AUTHOR: Virginia Boecker
GENRE & AUDIENCE: YA Fantasy
PUB. INFO: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, June 2nd 2015
**note: I received an electronic copy of this book via Netgalley from the publisher in exchange for honest feedback.
The magic and suspense of Graceling meet the political intrigue and unrest of Game of Thrones in this riveting fantasy debut.
Your greatest enemy isn't what you fight, but what you fear.
Elizabeth Grey is one of the king's best witch hunters, devoted to rooting out witchcraft and doling out justice. But when she's accused of being a witch herself, Elizabeth is arrested and sentenced to burn at the stake.
Salvation comes from a man she thought was her enemy. Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful and dangerous wizard in the kingdom, offers her a deal: he will save her from execution if she can break the deadly curse that's been laid upon him.
But Nicholas and his followers know nothing of Elizabeth's witch hunting past--if they find out, the stake will be the least of her worries. And as she's thrust into the magical world of witches, ghosts, pirates, and one all-too-handsome healer, Elizabeth is forced to redefine her ideas of right and wrong, of friends and enemies, and of love and hate.
Virginia Boecker weaves a riveting tale of magic, betrayal, and sacrifice in this unforgettable fantasy debut.
The title of this one grabbed me right away. Reformation-era England? Witches? Hunters hunting them? Count me in.
The story follows Elizabeth, a young woman hunting practicers of outlawed magic in an alternate England in the sixteenth century. After a devastating betrayal she must work with one of the most notorious outlaws of all—a wizard rumored to have started a deadly plague—or endeavor to survive on her own with a substantially troublesome bounty on her head.
FIRST CHAPTER FOCUS
I might have been a little disappointed with the other aspects of the book, but this was, I thought, an excellent lesson in how to start a first chapter off in a fantastically informative and engaging fashion.
- Setting the stage. The story begins with an excellent set-up. We learn instantly that not only is magic against the law, but that there are extremely terrible consequences for breaking that law.
- Characters. We meet the primary players, and very quickly have a grasp on who they are. We learn right off the bat that Elizabeth is a bit reckless and overconfident in her abilities.
- Action. Lots of it! It would have been very difficult not to keep reading, especially with the way in which that chapter came to an end. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but boy did it have my attention!
I wanted a little more of the historical stuff out of this book. The dialogue between the characters came across as extremely modern. I figured this might have been because the book is written with the YA audience in mind, but it still made it seem very much like a “generic” and “medieval” fantasy setting despite the fact that the book takes place in a very specific time and location. What was more, I was absolutely astounded that there was no mention of religion in regards to how magic was outlawed—I think I remember only two or three weak references. This might be nitpicking, but I couldn’t help but wonder—where was the Church in this conflict? I shouldn’t have expected so many historical details. Maybe this was my bad!
At first I felt the plot was very fresh and exciting—but the hard-headedness of the main character, Elizabeth, became a tad overwhelming. I saw one of the major reveals coming from a mile away—several miles in fact—so when the time came, it fell pretty flat. There was also a startling disturbing aspect of the plot that seemed to just disappear—I couldn’t believe that it was just abandoned, or that the main character could so easily brush it away. But again, perhaps I nitpick.
Some of the more interesting secondary characters spiced up the plot—one of my favorites were the revenant, and Caleb.
The book read quickly, and easily, and I didn’t feel myself tripped up over any awkward phrases or dialogue.
I would recommend this to readers who like a dose of witchy magic in their fantasy.