The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker

The Witch Hunter reads very much like the Y in YA – illogical, anachronistic, kind of silly in places, complete with love triangle and soppy romance. It’s the type of book in which all the characters (especially our heroine) will make rather poor decisions but luck always saves them. It was entertaining enough but I couldn’t help feeling disappointed at the lack of atmosphere or gravitas – these were thoroughly modern teens set in a world as defined and realistic as a high school stage play.

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Story: Elizabeth and her crush, Caleb, hunt wizards and witches for the crown. When Elizabeth is accused of being a witch herself, she is saved by a ragtag band of secret rebels – the Reformists. As she gains their trust, she will have to decide if she believes their prophecy that she will save them all. For Elizabeth should just kill them all, including handsome and sweet young doctor John, as she’s been taught.

For me, the book was so impossibly anachronistic that I really wish this had been a straight fantasy and not set during England’s reformation period. This is Henry VIII’s time period – and women are treated as equals, Masquerade ball gowns are sleeveless, skintight, and fit perfectly despite being made for someone else, and the perfect comeback to someone hitting on you is an exclaimed, “you wish!” The idea to turn the reformation on its head and make it about witchcraft rather than protestant/political power struggles should have been great – just not with the characters of the movie Clueless.

And that’s where the real problem with the book lies – the characters continually screw up. I found I didn’t have any respect (which led to a dearth of liking) for Elizabeth or her actions. We’re told she’s an amazing fighter and level headed – but every subsequent action after that disproves everything just told us! Naive, I can understand. But really, her actions and choices are idiotic for most of the story. Not at any time does she come off as resourceful, intelligent, or mature for her age. I kept getting a picture of a hamster running around in a cage, popping on and off a hamster wheel while squeaking ineffectually.

The love triangle is trite and new love interest rather bland. I never got a feel for him or what he was about other than all he thinks about is her. I kept wishing for more about him or at least for there to be more to him than just his crush on the heroine. The other side characters were similarly ill-defined.

The writing is easy to follow and it is a fairly quick read. I have read a lot worse this year but honestly I didn’t enjoy Witch Hunter as much as I had hoped. The lost potential of the historic milieu, lack of interesting characters, and simplicity of the storytelling left me udnerwhelmed.  Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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