I received this book for free from Publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!! This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker
Series: The Witch Hunter #1
Published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers on June 2nd, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
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.
As a true reader of my generation, I’m still tempted any time witches and witchcraft are mentioned. The Witch Hunter popped up on my radar with quite a bit of buzz, but at the end of the day, this is a debut that failed to impress.
The Witch Hunter is a kind of historical fantasy. I say kind of, because it’s extremely hard to tell where this splits off from history. The story takes place in “Anglia”, which is obviously meant to be the UK, and “Gaul” is mentioned across the channel, for France… But other than that, and aside from the usual patriarchy, it doesn’t feel very historical. It doesn’t feel very British either. I know it’s a vague expectation for YA, but if a book takes place in the UK, I expect British-sounding dialogue. As it is, the dialogue was clunky and awkward, with some very American sections and other obviously attempted British-isms. All in all, I was rather underwhelmed by the writing and world building.
But okay, the story takes place in a world where witchcraft is real, and the main character is one of the King’s witch hunters, tasked with finding practitioners of magic and bringing them to justice. (Though, they’re not allowed to kill them, in one of the most bizarre rules I’ve ever read.) I will say that it was refreshing to see a main character who actually is not magical and starts off completely opposed to magic – convinced by the laws of her country that magic is evil and causes more harm than it helps. It was interesting to see Elizabeth’s internal struggle with that, though I did feel like she was quick to change sides when the actual antagonist is revealed without concrete proof.
Elizabeth quickly gets caught up in the rebellion with Nicholas Perevil, who saves her life in exchange for her saving his. She has to hide her identity as witch hunter from her new magic-supporting companions while embarking on her own mission to destroy the curse on Nicholas’s life, thereby fulfilling the prophecy. I know. Prophecy. Chosen one. It’s nothing new, but the story has enough action driving it along. People who read for plot will likely be extremely entertained, and even for me, though I wasn’t completely enthralled with the story, it wasn’t hard to keep reading. It has a certain addictive quality to it.
But at the end of the day, I read for more than plot. The characters here sadly didn’t make me fall for them. They weren’t awful, but they were pretty average. I felt like Elizabeth’s romance with John was pretty cliche. The mean girl antics from Fifer made me twitchy, but when they mellowed out and became friends I was actually pretty impressed. I liked the banter with George, but that friendship became icy pretty quickly and I dunno. I was intrigued by Caleb, though, because he seemed a bit dreamy at the start – but by the end I couldn’t understand his motivation at all. When the antagonist is revealed in all his glory, with all his plans exposed, it’s extremely weird to me that more people wouldn’t see through it.