Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Review: The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker

Book: The Witch Hunter
Author: Virginia Boecker
Series: The Witch Hunter #1
Publisher: Little, Brown Books
Pages: 362
Release: June 2, 2015

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.

Did I ever gobbled this book up! From the synopsis, I knew this was the book for me. And I was not disappointed!

The story centres around Elizabeth Grey, who is one of the King's best witch hunters (a secret profession so not to cause mass panic in the public) in the kingdom. But then Elizabeth is accused of being a witch herself, and sentenced to burn at the stake only to be rescued by the most infamous wizard and prize catch, Nicholas Perevil. Now that the world is completely turned against her for being accused of a witch, if Nicholas and his band of fellow magic users discover Elizabeth's true identity as a witch hunter, she's as good as dead.

What did I love about this book? More like what didn't I love about it! I am a sucker for secret identity books, and this book scratched that on two fronts: the first because Elizabeth hides herself as a lowly scullery maid to the public if they ask, and again since she has to hide it when she's saved by Nicholas. I can't help it--I love stories where the protagonist has to hide just how dangerous they are, and the sheer irony of people underestimating them. That final "fooled you!" moment is golden to me.

I really liked the cast of characters the author introduced, on both sides. The witch hunters, though we didn't get to know them too much, were each defined by a set trait: ambition, strength, viciousness, cunning, etc. Nicholas' band was similarly defined, but with roles that spoke of their personalities: witch, healer, court fool, etc. And Elizabeth was the anomaly in both worlds: unremarkable on the surface, but remarkable for her intellect, wit, and evolving sense of self.

One thing that I loved the shift in Elizabeth was how her priorities shifted from duty to doing what's right. This involved one heck of an identity crisis for her, and paired that with her own internal uncertainties, made for one enjoyable character to read about. As she grows, she learns to grow in her relationships with others, realizing that what she had isn't what she always thought she needed.

I also loved how Nicholas wasn't the love interest. Sure, he's the obvious choice, but by having someone else as it, you don't have the assumed overpowered-couple-that-take-on-the-world-together-and-thus-will-win. Instead, you have Elizabeth, who becomes grounded throughout the entirety of the book, with John, who is another grounded figure. Opposites in personalities, yes, but similar in essence and moral compass. It's nice, and I like it!

And of course, I can't forget about the best part: the magic. The magic! I think the author mixed conventional witch and wizard forms of magic well with newer, creative ideas. Potions and divinations, but also set parameters for lodestones and methods to cast or break curses. Very original!

All in all, this is a wonderful book. It had the right amount of character growth and intrigue offset by magic, deception, and action. I'm looking forward to reading the next one!

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