Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Review: The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker

The Witch Hunter

Author: Virginia Boecker
Release: June 2nd 2015
Genre: Fantasy, Witches, YA
#1 in the Witch Hunter duology
Sequel: The King Slayer (#2)


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.


I kind of expected a little more from this, to be honest — maybe that is ultimately what "did it in," if you could call it that. I did enjoy it for the most part, but maybe if I'd known that it wasn't quite as serious as I'd thought it would be, I probably would have liked this novel a lot more.

Because, you see, that's my biggest criticism. I expected this novel to be a lot more whimsical than it was, that it would have higher stakes than it ultimately did and that its characters would be more ... decisive and serious. I get that George, as the intended comedic relief and literally the king's fool kind of steps out of that characteristic and is quite the funny figure, but other than that, the cast is just what you'd find in any normal, modern high school. 

A girl that just wants to defend her territory and her clique, the class clown as already mentioned above, the guy who's nice and wants to help everyone because it's his nature and he was raised that way, as well as the new girl that (metaphorically) just moved into town and doesn't know anyone yet. They were so ordinarily average and modern that I felt it really clashed with the medieval age setting the book takes place in, and thus extremely disrupted the flow and atmosphere of the story it's telling. Maybe if I'd known beforehand and had time to adjust accordingly before starting out, it might not have impacted me this much, but it did and I can't help being left a little speechless by this phenomenon.

Other than that, I did like most of the characters, though. I loved how Fifer was headstrong and determined to do anything to protect those she cared about against a newcomer that could prove to be very dangerous; however, as soon as she truly got to know Elizabeth and realized she wouldn't do anything, she dropped her hostile behavior and actually started to befriend Elizabeth instead. Honestly, I was surprised by this turn of events — I'd suspected that this would be yet another case in which the "other girl" would feel overly threatened in her position as alpha female and continue to bash and hate on the heroine all day, every day. That wasn't so, and I was pleasantly surprised. Elizabeth, well... I hated how much of an idiot she could be at times, and how daft. I swear to God, sometimes she came across as a simple proxy for the reader, which, granted, that is mostly the whole point of protagonists, especially in 1st person, but ... the way Elizabeth seems to have almost no personality, no opinions or anything, it just made her seem like a lost and kicked puppy. Which is indeed part of her characterization, but the amount of times this quote, in almost exactly this form, turned up, was ridiculous:
“Yes. No. I don't know." I realize then I don't know what I want to do. Or what I can do.”
I wanted to rip my own hair out at first, and then after about the fourth time I just wanted to shake Elizabeth and talk some sense into her. I so desperately wanted her to toughen up a little. Don't get me wrong, in battle, she is tough as nails and can dispatch anyone who gets in her way in seconds, which the book does show again and again, but in conversation? She's a nightmare.
“I'm fine,” John says. “But I am hungry. Are you?”
“I guess. Maybe. I don't know.”

I didn't really like John, though. He was simply too bland for my tastes, nothing personal. Even his name is boring.

The plot I did like again. It was a simple fetch quest, nothing too original here, but then, there's nothing wrong with a little simplicity every now and again, is there? The pacing of the novel was close to perfect, there was never a particular boring part that I wanted to skip or where I wanted to put the book away. It was entertaining, it gave me a solid story with a solid destination for where it's going to go and that's all I could ask for. 

In the end, I did like it. I just hoped it would be a bit more than it turned out to be at the end of the day. A little more epic, a little more fantastical, a little more... something. Something to make it stand out in the huge sea of books that are very similar to it. Something to make it unique. And it just didn't have that. Which isn't too big a deal, since mastering this is indeed very difficult, but I guess I am a little disappointed anyway. I'll still read the sequel, though.

One thing, though: Did I only imagine Elizabeth's rape at the hands of the king that was so blatantly and unceremoniously swept under the rug or...? I hope I only imagined it. Otherwise that'd be problematic.

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