The King Slayer
Author: Virginia Boecker
Release: June 14th 2016
Genre: Fantasy, Witches, YA
#2 in the Witch Hunter duology
Series: The Witch Hunter (#1)
An action-packed and suspenseful sequel to The Witch Hunter, perfect for fans of Graceling and the Grisha Trilogy.
"I think, in time, you'll either be my greatest mistake or my greatest victory."
Former witch hunter Elizabeth Grey is hiding within the magically protected village of Harrow, evading the price put on her head by Lord Blackwell, the usurper king of Anglia. Their last encounter left Blackwell ruined, but his thirst for power grows stronger every day. He's readying for a war against those who would resist his rule--namely Elizabeth and the witches and wizards she now calls her allies.
Having lost her stigma, a magical source of protection and healing, Elizabeth's strength is tested both physically and emotionally. War always means sacrifice, and as the lines between good and evil blur once more, Elizabeth must decide just how far she'll go to save those she loves.
Okay, one major spoiler-y complaint I have to get off my chest immediately:
I really have a huge problem with how differently the narrative treated Caleb and Malcolm. Malcolm, who raped a child, knowing full well he did so but not wanting to see it because of his own immature naivete, was pardoned? He was redeemed, continuously, portrayed as not-so-bad-after-all, like he's a pretty decent guy if he wants to be? Whereas Caleb, whose wrongs were nowhere near as bad as rape, and who did end up helping them in the end (much more than Malcom, even) didn't get a chance at true redemption, didn't get Elizabeth's forgiveness? But Malcolm, her torturer, her rapist, did? Are you fucking kidding me. NO WAY.
Other than that, I did enjoy the novel. Sure, that thing I mentioned up there is pretty big mind you, and it's a very large thorn in my side that keeps me from giving this any more than three stars, but I'll still admit that it's fast-paced and thrilling and keeps you on your toes.
The plot is scintillating, written in a way that is compelling and makes the pages fly by like it's nothing. It takes twists and turns you don't expect and that are well crafted, and even though some are completely obvious, that isn't necessarily a bad thing — in my opinion, novels shouldn't be too unpredictable, either. Boecker really manages the pace with a finesse few other (debut) authors can match, the book never has slow nor boring passages, it's really hard to put it away. And neither is it moving too fast or too quick, all in all, a very good balance was struck.
The characters are all well-written and unique in their own ways, and I really liked the way that Elizabeth finally got to be, well, her own person, so to say. Her constant wavering indecision really irritated me in the first novel, but in this sequel, she finally gets to discover who she is and who she wants to be. The whole struggle of who she is without her witch hunter personality nor her stigma was very compelling and interesting to read about, and her arc resolved really satisfactorily. And then John's struggle with the stigma's impending darkness was also extremely intriguing and multifaceted, which is due to Boecker's excellent portrayal of it. I applaud her. Also, Fifer and Elizabeth's friendship is the best, even though I would have loved to see much more of it. However, I can't complain, because I still got my bromance need fulfilled in one of my new favorite bromances, Elizabeth and Schuyler. I loved that he played a much more prominent role in this novel, although again, I wished there had been a lot more characterization for him as well. The focus was definitely on Elizabeth and John (again), but we do get to see at least some more sides to Schuyler, which I was very happy about.
I also finally liked the relationship between Elizabeth and John? I mean, I didn't dislike them in the first novel, but I just never saw the chemistry and felt more or less very neutral towards them. But this sequel definitely manages to capture that spark that's between them and I can't say I minded. I even kind of ship them now, to be honest.
All in all, like I said, that thing right there really bothered me all throughout the novel and I just couldn't ignore it, as much as I tried to. But nevertheless, I also can't lie and say that I didn't enjoy just about everything apart from that. It wasn't mind-blowingly awesome, but definitely worth the time it takes to read it. Both of these books are, and I'm almost a little sad that it's not a trilogy.