Series: The Witch Hunter #1
Published by Little Brown Books For Young Readers on June 2nd, 2015
Genres: fantasy, young adult
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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.
Here I present another book that caught my attention when it hit NetGalley and everyone’s reading list. This one was a new find for me. I’ve wanted a great witch read after walking away from Salt & Storm feeling slightly disappointed.
Sadly, this novel concentrated on threadbare ideas and themes that can be found in every other YA novel on the shelf. With a premise and a start out of the gate that could have blossomed into a grand story, the book, instead, sticks to generic checklist themes.
There were some good parts of the story. First, the author knows her stuff, and her writing is actually very decent. I enjoyed her straightforward prose and imagery, combining history and myth to create the setting. As far as world building and planning, the book passes with flying colors.
However, it wasn’t enough to save the cast of cardboard characters and tired YA themes.
The cast could be rent-a-character stand-ins. Here is the all-too-familiar cast: The more-than-awesome heroine; the two love interests (both gorgeous), well-mannered male secondary players; the poorly-hidden twist bad guy, and the other female – the bitchy, rotten, beautiful one of the group that HAS to be unlikable to make the other lead female look better. Very cheap.
I really could have let the subpar characters pass if there was not the good/bad female equation in the mix. It is nice to read about enjoyable, fair characters in our stories. We would like to see the world filled with a few more people that we can trust to save the day, when everything else goes wrong. When the odds are against us, the knowledge that our value will save us from injustice is a reassuring thought. I understand this. I usually let it slide in a story. Escapism is one virtue of reading.
The characters can make or break a book for me. The male cast was overall enjoyable, even the antagonists. But the female dynamics left a VERY bad taste in my mouth. We have Fifer, the talented understudy that is beautiful and very close to Elizabeth’s love interest . Of course, pretty, talented, revered Fifer doesn’t like Elizabeth from the first moment (gasp!). I believe that the first interaction between the two was in the form of a nasty look from Fifer. It was never explained why Fifer started off disliking Elizabeth. It just was. Later on in the story, Fifer does confess that she doesn’t trust Elizabeth, but that just seems like an excuse for the lead to be antagonized for the sake of character building. Ugh.
I’m done with this idea that the other main female character is used to prop up the main girl hero. The whole idea of making one woman pretty and snotty to give the protagonist more desirable traits is a trope I tend to highly dislike. Oh! And don’t forget to add a close relationship with the MC’s love interest to make the other woman even more despicable. This is such an offensive, paper-thin ploy to add noble qualities to a character. View Spoiler »The author did take the female dynamics and developed it into an amiable fellowship by the end of the story, but only after Elizabeth saved the REAL WITCH, the one with powers and magic, from a handful of bad guys. The one with real magic, the talented understudy, that already knew how to use her wits, had to be saved to now push a friendship in there, to now make the girls BFFs forever. « Hide Spoiler
There was another lovely gem that castes an anti-female light on the plot. There is another girl interested in the main love interest, one that asks Elizabeth to pass along a message to MLI for her, totally unaware of Elizabeth’s own feelings. Elizabeth automatically turns her thoughts into violence and insults towards the other girl, simply for being interested in an UNATTACHED GUY. How is that fair to the other woman? She’s not doing anything wrong, but we have to see all girls as the enemy for Elizabeth to appear as the most special MC ever. This isn’t 1950. We should be over this trend. Fifer can distrust Elizabeth – that’s fine. But I don’t see her acting downright nasty towards her. There is a better way to construct this relationship.
The lack of thinking by the characters was the weakest part of the entire novel. For example, a character wearing recognizable clothing during the climax of the novel. This scheme required the team to work undercover. Um, did no one look at this issue and think, “Well, THIS could be a problem!” The “ah-ha” moment, revealing something important of the main bad guy, was so crystal clear from the start, that I had already thought that everyone else knew. I was surprised when the others were shocked by the development. The symbolic tree of life with the non-subtle clues about what you KNEW was going to occur by the end. Also, everyone keeps proclaiming Elizabeth as the best witch hunter, but we never really know why or how she is the best. That was never fleshed out as well. We are expected to just accept it.
The only shock came from the love triangle. And I use that term loosely. It was brave of the author to actually resolve the conflict between the three characters realistically, with some meaning and morality behind the resolution of the love triangle. This was a positive, wonderful development for Elizabeth, who started off as shy, scared and lacking in self confidence. She finds her courage and her heart during her journey, and I applaud her growth during the story. Also, it was nice to see a girl MC not obsessing over her looks. That was pleasant. The magic was realistic and the rules for the created world actually piqued my interest.
My expectations crashed and burned at the end. It took me forever to finish it because I started to lose the desire to go on about halfway through the book.
This novel isn’t totally terrible. I liked the writing, and the growth was believable and a positive message for others. There was just too much for this book to overcome, and too many old, recycled plots to help set this one apart from the other hundreds of churned-out books that are stacked in the bookstores. In the end, all smoke and mirrors, and the magic was lacking.
I received this book for free from Publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or my review.