Book Review – The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker. Released June 2, 2015 by Little, Brown and Company.
I am a sucker for Young Adult Fantasy Fiction, so when Little, Brown handed me a copy, I couldn’t wait to read it. I don’t remember where I heard about the book before, whether it was from Book Club or a book recommendation from Amazon or Barnes & Noble, I knew I wanted to read it because it’s right up my alley.
First off, I love stories about witches. This is what intrigued me about the book:
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.
That is what captured my attention. I didn’t read anything beyond those two sentences, but it was enough to get me to want the book and read the book from start to finish.
What is this book like? Consider it the female version of the Spook series “The Last Apprentice” by Joseph Delaney meets Xena: Warrior Princess meets Pirates of the Caribbean meets Disney’s “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” meets Jon Snow. I only mention Jon Snow (Kit Harington) because that’s who I would have cast as John the healer in the movie version of this book.
This book starts off with the two witch hunters, Elizabeth and her friend, Caleb’s, search for a few warlocks/necromancers who are practicing dark magic and attempting to bring an old magician back to life again. They’re required to capture, not kill these wizards. They bring them back to be tried before they are burned at the stake, because all forms of magic are outlawed in the land.
After accidentally killing a wizard in the book’s introductory hunt, she and Caleb head to the local pub where she discovers that Caleb is going off to party with some palace girl. She stays behind and decides to drink her woes away with glass after glass of ale (which actually ends up being absinthe).
While at the pub, she runs across a pirate and the king’s fool. They capture her and try to get her to talk. But she’s so out of it, she’s no help to them. She lies about who she is (a witch hunter), pushing it off as if she is just some kitchen maid. They let her go.
On her way back to her room, she finds a guard outside of her door. He’s been sent there under the King’s orders. She knows why he’s there, but she doesn’t want to go with him. She stumbles and out of her pocket falls some special herbs that are used in terminating pregnancies. The King’s guard sees it and accuses her of practicing witchcraft. He arrests her and takes her straight to the Inquisitor, Lord Blackwell, Duke of Norwich, the man she works for.
Despite being one of his witch hunters, Blackwell sentences her to death by burning at the stake. Caleb swears he will get her out of prison. He promises he’ll come back for her.
He never does.
As she is on the verge of dying, rotting away in a prison cell, an unlikely individual walks into the prison to save her. The most wanted wizard in all of the land, Nicholas Perevil, springs her from her prison…and thus begins her new adventure.
I really enjoyed this book. When it got to the end, I was happy it was over with (because you should see all of the books I need to review). But as the days went by as I was preparing the review in my head, I kept thinking…you know, I’m not done with this story yet. I want to know what happens to Elizabeth next. The way it ended, I expect to see another book after this. The story just doesn’t feel like it’s over yet. It feels like we could get a few more books out of this tale and develop these characters stories more.
This is Virginia Boecker’s debut novel. While at times, I thought it was a little crazy she added so many different elements like pirates, wizards, witches, revenants, nymphs and scary looking creatures you never want to meet in a dark alley, she actually masterfully pulled all of these vastly differing characters in and weaved an intricate tale where all of their stories worked well together…including the pirates.
Think about it…how weird would it be if J.K. Rowling threw a pirate into the Harry Potter books? That’s what Boecker did. You think it’s dumb at the start, but as you go along on their journey you realize just how important having a pirate is in this tale…and then you can’t imagine the story without the pirate or the revenants. They are all instrumental in helping a witch hunter find herself.
The characters were developed so well along the way, you can’t help but fall in love with the friends Elizabeth makes along the way. You even feel sympathy for the evil wizard himself. After all, there’s a reason to the madness and need for power. In a way, for Lord Blackwell, it’s the only way he believes he can save their kind.
Elizabeth’s tale is about one of growing up. She grows up believing a certain way, but when taken out of that element and forced to see the world in a new light, she is forced to come to a reconciliation of what she was taught to believe was right, and discovering for herself what is right in her heart.
A couple of my favorite quotes from the book:
- He’s asking me the question I’ve always asked myself. How an unremarkable girl like me could live through unimaginable danger like that. I didn’t know then, not really, and I’m not sure now. I offer up my best guess anyway.“Because I was afraid to do anything else except live.”
- “You can’t undo your past. You know that as well as I. But you also can’t foresee the future. Not even Veda’s prophecy can do that. What you want to do next, who you want to be, where you want to belong, that’s entirely up to you. As I always say, nothing is written in stone.”
For those who love YA Fantasy, I recommend reading “The Witch Hunter.” This is the kind of series that can only get better after each book…and yes, according to Virginia Boecker’s Twitter, there’s a Book 2! You’ll fall in love with the characters. Imagine John (the Healer) as Kit Harington (Game of Thrones’ Jon Snow)…trust me when I say you’ll fall head over heels in love with his character.
You can find out more about the book and it’s author from her website. You can also follow her on Twitter @virgboecker.
You can purchase the book at Amazon.com by clicking on the link: The Witch Hunter
Disclaimers: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive monetary compensation. I received a free copy of this book from Little, Brown in exchange for writing a review on the blog. All content and opinions are my own.