Thursday, June 4, 2015

Review: The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker

Title: The Witch Hunter
Author: Virginia Boecker
Series: The Witch Hunter, Book One
Publisher: Orchard Books
Published Date: 4 June 2015
Buy: Amazon | The Book Depository

I received this book through NetGalley from Hachette Children's Books for review.

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.
(summary from Goodreads)


The Witch Hunter is a fun fantasy read with a hint of darkness that keeps it compelling.

The comparison that The Witch Hunter is Graceling meets Game of Thrones? Yeah, that may be stretching it a bit. To me, that sort of comparison raises expectations for The Witch Hunter to be a much darker read than it actually is, and I think some readers who are into that kind of deep and dark fantasy will ultimately be disappointed with this book. Which is a shame, because The Witch Hunter is great. Boecker has written a solid YA fantasy full of magic, action, friendship, romance and all sorts of creatures. The story moves along at breakneck speed so there's never a dull moment and this makes it a quick read. If it's your kind of thing, set a few hours aside to read The Witch Hunter because if you're like me, you'll devour it.

Boecker's world building is compelling. The time period suits this kind of fantasy, and Boecker brings it to life. Nothing says 16th Century like witch huntings, illicit magic, and burning people alive! The thing is, The Witch Hunter isn't the most original of storylines. There aren't hugely shocking twists and a lot of its themes are common - good versus evil, the necessity to prove magic is only as dark as the person wielding it, a character caught in the middle and trying to find her place in the world. But in saying such a thing, these are common because they work and for The Witch Hunter they supply the action and the emotion. Boecker writes kickass fight scenes and evokes fear in a heartpounding way. There's an excitement to this book, a need to find out what's going to happen that keeps you hooked. I said The Witch Hunter isn't as dark as its summary had me expecting, but there are definitely some darker elements to this book - allusions to rape, revenants that tear people limb from limb, necromancers - that I'm sure will be expanded on even more as the series continues.

I've described The Witch Hunter as a fun read and that's mostly because of the characters, especially many of the secondary characters. George is my favourite because he's oh so sassy. Add in Fifer, who's what my mother would call a 'real go getter'; Schuyler, a flirty revenant; and Hastings, a somewhat violent but protective ghost; and you've won me over. I also became fully invested in Elizabeth, who is vulnerable and smart. I find that often vulnerable characters are also portrayed as naive to the point of silliness, but not so with Elizabeth. Everything she's believed is turned on its head but she handles it. I really like how Elizabeth was able to accept the truth of things, even when it hurt, like in the case of Caleb and his actions. Nothing drives me crazier than a character refusing to believe what's shoved right in their faces, but Boecker has me wanting to cheer because Elizabeth is truly smart and strong. She wants to believe in the best of those she's loved and fought beside, but she refuses to be willfully blind, and to me? That's awesome. Also, I never really liked Caleb. There's just something about a guy who only sees how you've grown into a beautiful woman after finding out that another man has been attracted enough to rape you that doesn't sit well with me, ok? John, on the other hand, is a love interest I can support. He's a truly nice guy and I'm looking forward to seeing how the romance between him and Elizabeth grows. 

The Witch Hunter is a fast paced and intense fantasy that I could not put down. I'd been desperate to read it and I was not disappointed. Now when can I get my hands on the next book in the series?

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