I received this book via Netgalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of this review.The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker
Series: The Witch Hunter, #1
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on 2015-06-02
Length: 368 pages
Reviewing eARC from 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.
The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker is not at all what I expected it to be and yet it was everything and more than what I anticipated! Set during the time of witch trials and burnings in England, this book takes on an alternative history where magic is real and the witches are being hunted by trained hunters. Elizabeth Grey is one of these hunters. Trained from early adolescence, Elizabeth thinks that what she is doing is right, it has a purpose, and she is protecting those who can’t protect themselves from the evil witches. Until the tides turn on her and she is caught with illegal “magical” herbs, then she is sentenced to burn. Her best friend leaves her in prison to burn and who comes to her rescue but the wizard she’s been hunting.
Elizabeth is a hard character to like yet she’s very relatable. She’s an orphan, who was rescued by an older boy who then secures them both jobs at the castle, so of course there’s a bit of hero-worship/school girl crush going on. Her being an orphan though doesn’t define her. She’s trained to be a witch hunter, she hates magic but then again she’s only seen the darker side of it, and she’s fiercely loyal. She’ll go anywhere and do anything that Caleb (boy who saved her) asked her to do, including the scary training to be a witch hunter.
Then the herbs show up. Okay I can honestly say I wasn’t expecting this twist so soon in the story. (I promise this isn’t a spoiler as it’s revealed in the second chapter, however I’ll put it in spoilers tags just to be safe) View Spoiler »Contraceptive herbs are found on Elizabeth after she returns to her rooms. I wasn’t expecting this because of the hero-worship she has going with Caleb. It’s obvious she loves him, why would she need contraceptive herbs and WHY would there be a guard at her room at midnight to escort her to the king’s chambers?! I think we all know what’s going on there… « Hide Spoiler So Elizabeth is thrown into jail by the very man who trained her and sentenced to burn, Caleb is no where to be found, and then the wizard shows up to save the day at the last minute. This twist of fate sets the plot for the entire story!
I like Nicholas. He is like this grandfatherly wizard who trusts Elizabeth despite what he knows about her. He takes her in, heals her, and treats her better and with more respect than she ever had at the castle, yet she doesn’t trust him and can you blame her?! He is everything she’s been trained to hate, but there is nothing in his character to hate. In addition to him there’s the other people in hiding with him: Peter the pirate, John the healer, George the king’s fool, and Fifer the prodigy. Each of these characters I loved. They grow on you and they are genuinely good people, not much to hate. You can see where Elizabeth gets frustrated.
Oh Caleb! I wanted to like you for Elizabeth’s sake but I just didn’t. He is arrogant, treats her like his little sister, and just doesn’t see her (do you know what I mean?) He sees her but doesn’t get her. He doesn’t understand why she would have herbs, it just doesn’t dawn on him the reason and then he makes promises he doesn’t keep. He is her family in a sense, but also he crushes her as only those close to you can.
And let’s not forget Blackwell, Elizabeth’s boss, the king’s uncle, the head of the witch hunters. This man is shady and I didn’t like him from Elizabeth’s first encounter with him in the book (her arrest). He claims to live by a set of rules and follow those rules to the letter, but don’t all heretics? Let’s just say he makes a great foe to Elizabeth and her newfound “friends.”
This book is all about redefining preconceived notions, things that maybe you were taught, and for Elizabeth this is no easy task. In addition to having to relearn what she thought she knew, she has to hide what she is: a witch hunter. These good people would kill her if given the chance and can you blame them? They’ve watched their families be tortured and burned at the stake. Of course they’d kill her! Or at least this is what she thinks.
Overall I enjoyed this book. It hooked me from the first line:
I stand at the edge of the crowded square, watching the executioners light the pyres…
Ummm….more please 😀 The writing, the intrigue, the suspense, and the wildly unpredictable turns in the novel kept me turning the pages late into the night. In fact I finished this book in less than 24 hours, forgoing sleep to do so. It’s one of the better reads I’ve had in a while! If you enjoy young adult fantasy, alternate histories, and lots of surprises this book is for you.
Oh and one more thing…the synopsis compares the book to Game of Thrones…..just NO!!! Don’t even go there! It is NOT like GoT. I can’t speak for Graceling because I’ve never read it but GoT it is not.