Expected Publication: June 2nd, 2015 by Little Brown Books for Young Readers
*I received a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinions.
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 thing about The Witch Hunter is that I expected something dark and really intense. I expected a horrible and violent group of witch hunters, a terrified community, an action-packed plot. And that is not what I got. That's not necessarily a bad thing, it's just what I really wanted, so I was a little disappointed.
The Witch Hunter is really a much lighter fantasy that the synopsis led to me believe. Don't get me wrong, it's a very fun and quick book. But the "political unrest" on the levels of Game of Thrones absolutely did not happen. Instead, we have your typical ban on magic - which is, thankfully, explained for once, though not in depth enough - and a group of people who have been trained to hunt those who use magic. They unquestioningly follow Blackwell. Political intrigue and unrest? Not even close. Politics are barely involved, besides one man's thirst for the throne. And although it was important to the plot, we never really got to see it, I feel like. In Game of Thrones, the stakes are so high. We see countless men and women die because these people want the throne. In The Witch Hunter, I didn't fear for anyone's life. One person I didn't even care about may have died, but I highly doubt he did.
Honestly, I didn't really care all that much about what happened to the characters in this novel. Sure, Elizabeth is fun, strong, and clever. I didn't hate her. I just didn't feel 100% invested in her, you know? She didn't feel fully developed to me. She's caught with witch herbs, which is what starts all of this, and I really feel for her situation. But not for her.
"Nothing good comes to a girl after midnight."
Elizabeth finds a little crew in the witches, and they're definitely entertaining! While these characters also didn't feel fully developed to me, their interactions with each other were fun to read about as they tried to work together. George was probably my favorite; he was definitely the funniest. There is, of course, a romance that develops with John, but it's a romance that lacks chemistry. Lacks anything besides "Oh, that's kinda cute." Romance definitely DOES NOT take a front seat here, though, which was a refreshing change.
In addition, this book supposedly takes place in the 1500s. The dates are stated multiple times throughout the book. But that is absolutely not the vibe I got. They don't speak like that AT ALL. There's really nothing to indicate that this would take place in the 1500s besides the dates being stated. And the topic of witches and witch hunters, I suppose, but I would have rather the dates not been stated at all and I could just assume this was taking place in a fantasy world, you know.
"How did you survive?"
"Because I was afraid to do anything except live."
Don't get me wrong - I wouldn't have been able to get through this if the characters spoke like they did in the 1500s. But I don't get the point of stating that this is when it takes place and then not following through at all. I think I've seen the author say that it takes place in alternate reality England, but I still would have simply preferred for no date to be mentioned at all. That's super nitpicky of me, though.
Blackwell as a villain fell really short for me. I either like my villains totally morally conflicted or hardcore evil. He was neither. He was just . . . boring. There was nothing unique about him. Maybe if he had once been kind to Elizabeth, been a sort of father figure to her, I would have appreciated his betrayal more. But it was all just so bland.
Nicholas Perevil, our resident Dumbledore, is a character I'm interested in seeing more of. He's intriguing, but as he's sick, he doesn't get much time in this novel. He's an incredibly powerful wizard and I would love to see some internal conflict from him.
"It's only now I realize how deep that plague of ambition has spread inside him. Like a disease, it rules him now: his thoughts, his actions, the things he chooses to see, the things he chooses to ignore. And, like a disease, one day it will be the death of him."
In terms of the plot, I believe my biggest problem is that it's all focused on this one single event. And it wasn't a particularly exciting one. As I mentioned earlier, I never felt like the stakes were very high, and I think that's what contributed to my disinterest in the big goal - finding the cursed tablet to cure Nicholas. It's just a fairly linear plot, so to speak, and I wish some other stuff had been thrown in there to keep me interested.
Overall: As usual, this ended up sounding more negative than I intended. I enjoyed the dialogue and the fun characters. If you like light fantasies, then I would definitely suggest you check this one out. And if you don't, I would still suggest you check it out - as long as you understand that you're not getting into a dark and heavy novel but a much lighter and quicker one. 3 stars.
*Quotes subject to change