Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Bookish Thoughts: The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker

I stand at the edge of the crowded square, watching the executioners light the pyres. ~ Opening of The Witch Hunter


The Witch Hunter (The Witch Hunter #1) by Virginia Boecker
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2015
Fantasy (YA); 368 pgs

I had so much fun reading Virginia Boecker's novel, The Witch Hunter. It isn't without its flaws, but, oh, how much I enjoyed it while I was reading it! Elizabeth Grey is the only female among the witch hunters, working for the kingdom. She has not had an easy time of it, having to prove herself every step of the way. Although, it did help having her best friend Caleb by her side, encouraging her.  

The witch hunters are an elite force, specifically trained to find and bring to justice those who practice magic, what is perceived to be the biggest threat to England.  Elizabeth knows the dangers of magic, her parents dying because of it. She feels very strongly that it is the root of evil and takes her job very seriously.

Set in sixteenth century England, the novel immediately captures the unrest of the times as events unfold in the opening of the novel. The king is not in good favor, and there is both fear and rebellion in the air. A person can be accused of witchcraft for caring herbs in one's pocket--and burned at the stake as a result. The Reformists, magic users and their friends, are determined to put an end to the tyranny and persecution they suffer. Leading their effort is Nicholas Perevil, one of the most powerful wizards alive.

It took me a while to warm up to Elizabeth. I liked that she presented as a capable and strong young woman, but I did not especially like her total acceptance of the politics around her. Given her family's history, I suppose I could credit that, but as the story unfolded, the reader learns she used to question the whys and what fors of what she was made to do. I can't help but wonder why that stopped as she got older. For someone in her position, a job that requires her to find magic users in hiding, I would have expected more of her in terms of not taking everything at face value. In many ways, Elizabeth makes the perfect pawn with her blind faith and loyalty, a weakness she will need to overcome over the course of the book.

When suddenly she finds herself accused of witchcraft and then among those who practice it, Elizabeth finds her world turned upside down. Her enemies cannot so easily become her friends. And yet . . . their kindness and actions as well as mounting evidence against the man she's sworn allegiance to force her to re-evaluate not only what she believes about the evil of magic and its users, but what she has done as a witch hunter. Elizabeth struggles to come to terms with what is happening to her and around her.

I really enjoyed getting to know the supporting characters, from Peter the Pirate (because pirates are so rare in books like this!) to George the Fool, Fifer (an apprentice witch), to John the healer. I loved how fiesty Fifer, is and I am dying to know more about her relationship with the Revenant, Shulyer. It's always nice to see strong female characters who can hold their own against male and female opponents alike--and that is definitely Fifer and Elizabeth. I was really curious about George and his background which we get so little of. He doesn't seem to be a magic user, but he is a valuable asset to the Reformist movement. And John, who at times seemed a little too perfect, but makes for the perfect love interest in a book like this. There were a lot of long looks and not a lot of action in terms of romance in the novel, but that never bothered me, especially how little the two knew each other.

*Minor Spoiler Alert* If I had to nitpick, I do wish the book was a little heavier in terms of some of the serious issues it broaches. One of them being the issue of rape (which was off page and historical in terms of the story). Perhaps because this is a young adult novel, the subject was not delved into more deeply in terms of the impact it had on Elizabeth, but in this day and age, as much as our youth are exposed to the subject, I think it only could have only added more to the novel and Elizabeth's character as a whole.*End of Minor Spoiler Alert* 

I also wouldn't have minded more historical background in terms of the time period--it's very light on the history and heavier on the fantasy. Which isn't a bad thing, and did not hurt my enjoyment of the book as I was reading. I enjoyed The Witch Hunter quite a bit, getting to know the characters, seeing how everything would play out with the various characters. While many of the plot twists I guessed early on, I found this book hard to put down. I am eagerly awaiting the next book by the author.

To learn more about author Virginia Boecker and her work, please visit the author's website

Source: I received an e-copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for an honest review.


© 2015, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

14 comments:

  1. Sounds interesting and so are the characters. I'm glad you enjoyed reading it, Wendy.

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    1. Melody - I thought so! While this may not be a book that I carry with me memory wise for a long period of time, I did enjoy it.

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  2. A cover that looks very familiar and yet neither the synopsis nor your review ring any bells. Oh well, perhaps one I've seen in the library/a shop and haven't investigated any further.

    Sounds like a promising read and yet like yourself I'd have probably opted for less fantasy and more history.

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    1. Tracy - It does seem like a familiar cover, doesn't it? It could be a stock cover that comes up in variations from time to time.

      I shouldn't have been surprised it wasn't more tied to history--it is an alternate history after all. I think it was more my expectation than anything else that was my downfall. Still, I enjoyed the book anyway, and so it couldn't have been a major problem for me, right?

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  3. I would not have picked this one up for myself but it has a very good premise! Glad you enjoyed it, despite some of the issues it had.

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    1. Athira - It was a really fun read. I love books about witches and so this one particularly interested me for that reason.

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  4. I've been waiting on this one for awhile, glad you seemed to like it overall:D Did this feel YA to you or was it more adultish?

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    1. Lanie - I hope you enjoy it. I am glad I read it, and I do want to read the author's next book. I've been reading mixed reviews about this one, but mostly positive. It definitely has more of a YA feel to it, I think.

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  5. I don't think this sounds like something I would normally pick up, but you definitely make it sound tempting. I think I'll give it a space on my immense wish list. Thanks for the great review!

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    1. Megan - I hope you enjoy it if you do read it. It wasn't perfect (I didn't think), but I enjoyed it. :-)

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  6. I would read this! I'm stepping out of my comfort zone recently to add to the richness of my reading experience as a whole. Yes, sounds good!

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    1. Rita - I hope you like it if you give it a try, Rita!

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  7. I wish the novel had turned out to be a little heavier on the historical background, but I'm still interested in reading it. I typically enjoy YA novels. It's interesting that it doesn't directly address rape, though maybe it would get challenged/banned if it did (like Julie of the Wolves has been for an attempted rape scene).

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    1. A.M.B. - I actually wondered if the author stayed away from addressing the rape more directly and in depth because it was a YA novel--not that that's stopped other authors from doing so. I hadn't thought of the idea of the author not wanting to be challenged or banned. That's definitely a possibility.

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