Monday, June 29, 2015

The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker

The Basics:
The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Book 1 in the Witch Hunter series
YA, Fantasy
Published June 2, 2015
Source: Received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Amazon Kobo Goodreads 

Why I picked up this book:

It seemed to be everywhere, so I though I'd hop on the hype train early for once.


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.

My Thoughts:

Oh boy. The Witch Hunter is very solidly in the YA genre. Though there's a plot arc that involves the fate of the kingdom--will the bad guy get the throne, will the good(?) guy survive, and so on--the real focus is on Elizabeth's personal character arc. 

Elizabeth is a witch hunter, one of the king's best we're told, though mostly we see a lot of her struggling and relying on other characters to save the day. She's got a best friend whom she's been lusting after (keep in mind she's sixteen though), a shiny new love interest who doesn't know that she's secretly one of the 'big bads' in his worldview, and feisty new friend who'd like to kill her but can't because Elizabeth is the 'chosen one', as it were. 

I . . . have mixed feelings about this one. I read it quickly, and the pacing was good, but there are some serious question marks around some of the worldbuilding and plotting. Elizabeth's willingness to turn to magic when she's forced into an uncomfortable position seems counter to her anti-magic sensibilities. Maybe it's part of being a teen - she's starting to realize the utility in some magic, despite still professing to reject it at face value.

There's also this weird tension between the ban on magic, which is relatively new in this world, and the continued, widespread use of it. There seems to be an awful lot of magic that's simply inherent to the world for the ban to be anything other than destined to fail.

Meanwhile, the kind-of a love triangle - I actually didn't re-read the blurb right before I read, so when Elizabeth meets a stack of new people, I wondered who among them would be her new love interest. It did become clear pretty quickly, but honestly, it could have gone any which way.

What I did like about the book is that I think it does a good job of hitting a few important YA truths. There's a good message about looking beneath the surface before you judge someone or something, about applying critical thinking skills to the belief system that you've been raised to--an often vital part of growing up--and so on. Lots of good coming-of-age, looking at the world and the people in it with a more critical and more empathetic eye.

The pacing of this one is, as I said, also pretty good. No matter the problems I had with the worldbuilding and elements of the plot, the story ticks along, carrying the reader through with a balance of action and reflection. 

Bottom line:

The Witch Hunter won't be for every reader. I think anyone who reads purely for enjoyment--possibly young readers?--is going to enjoy this book the most. It's got holes, but I still had fun reading it.

3.5 stars
For fans of YA fantasy, love triangles, medieval + magic settings

But don't just take my word for it! I grabbed a few links to other blog reviews of The Witch Hunter:


  1. I bought this for a friend's kid summer reading. She loves love triangles so I was like---check LOL :)

    1. It definitely hits that box! I do like that it's not quite the usual - oh this girl is like catnip for the menfolk and they all want to be with her - love triangle.