Monday, 1 June 2015

The Witch Hunter (The Witch Hunter #1) by Virginia Boecker

Description from Goodreads

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.

I was hooked by "the political intrigue and unrest of Game of Thrones", as I'm one of the millions of fans of the epic A Song of Ice and Fire series. Now in hindsight, I can't believe I actually fell for that. As much as I tried to see the reference, there wasn't anything similar between those two novels expect for the medieval setting (and to be honest, the world-building of The Witch Hunter wasn't really anything special). I suppose my high expectations can be blamed for my huge disappointment, but there also were things that did not work for me at all such as the main character, a certain awkwardness of the romantic relationships, and the general feeling of genericness the book left behind.

The thing that escapes me is that how come Elizabeth Grey, one of the most capable witch hunters of the kingdom, is so painfully naïve and frankly, a bit simple. Elizabeth has been trained among the elites to purge the society from darkness the magic has brought upon them, since she was very young. Naturally, this makes the reader assume she isn't only physically trained but can also engage in intelligent thinking in order to protect the kingdom. On top of this, Elizabeth has witnessed and experienced practically a countless number of controversial events while hunting witches, so, at least I, presumed her to be intelligent and able to take into account various perspectives as making her decisions. Unfortunately, Elizabeth displays a limited amount of critical thinking - she sees everything black and white. For instance, when she is saved by Perevil and there are all the neon signs telling her that he is the good guy, what does Elizabeth do? Plot a betrayal and an escape. While those plans could be justifiable if Perevil didn't show anything but kindness and trustworthiness, Elizabeth appears to be unable to evaluate situations critically. And this was one of the many reasons why she annoyed me. I just felt like her actions weren't realistic, in addition to the fact that she showed a degree of selfishness and lack of empathy e.g. towards her victims during witch hunting.

One of my pet peeves in any literature piece is a poorly constructed/hurried romance. While it may be fun to write about fluttering butterflies in her stomach and gazing into each others' eyes adoringly, it doesn't equal to a good romance writing. I've read too many YA novels with romances that appear to imitate one another with the nearly identical first-meetings and first-kisses descriptions, and it is almost driving me crazy. Call me nuts, but I do believe that there still are unique and compelling ways to build up romantic scenes as well as relationships. In my opinion, The Witch Hunter wasn't original or even mediocre in its romance as it felt superficial and in a way as a mean to carry the plot further. While romance as a carrying element of a novel is okay with me in theory, I want the romance then to be authentic, thrilling, or have originality that evokes something else in me than a gag reflex! I'm sorry for my harsh words, but that's just the way I feel. While I found Caleb and John (the love interests) to be relatively interesting characters, their potential was wasted on the "my stomach twists when I think about being curled up in his arms". I love a good romance novel, don't get me wrong. But I'm tired of reading a book after another that appear to use the exact same template for romantic relationships.

The first half of The Witch Hunter didn't add any items to my 'likes' column. Luckily though, the book did get better and more fast-paced as the plot progressed, and the occasional humorous dialogue helped me not to hate the debut novel by Boecker. One of my favourite the things was the relationship between Elizabeth and Fifer (a frenemy) and how it evolved into a completely different direction that I first assumed. I want to think that The Witch Hunter didn't reach its full potential, because it is the first published work by the author, and therefore maybe the novel (for me) wasn't what struck as special. In fact, as sad as it is, after three weeks finishing the book, I was struggling to remember what had exactly happened. And that's not a good sign, even if you read a lot. A medieval/fantasy setting is a quite challenging task to write about as there are so many things to think and to be consistent about in order to maintain the suspense of disbelief, in addition to create likeable and thrilling plot to support the novel as a whole.

Even though The Witch Hunter wasn't for me, it may be an excellent summer read for somebody else. After all, these are just my opinions. I was looking for a book that would thrill me with 'political intrigue' (which was non-existent) and 'unrest' (which appeared to a synonym for Elizabeth's naivety), but my expectations weren't met at all. A shame.

No comments:

Post a Comment

You can't see me, but I'm totally doing my happy dance as I read your comment!