“I stand at the edge of the crowded square, watching the executioners light the pyres.”
A Red Raven Reads Review of “The Witch Hunter” by Virginia Boecker
Elizabeth Grey, seventeen years old: short, blonde, cute—and a cold-blooded witch killer. What’s not to love about that already? We are immediately greeted by a witch burning, which leads to a deliciously grotesque battle with necromancers and their creation. But when Elizabeth makes a rare slip-up, the stone of adventure begins to roll—until we find Elizabeth herself accused of the very thing that she hunts, and the very thing that killed her parents when she was only nine: witchcraft. However, she is saved by one Nicholas Perevil, the most fearsome wizard in the world, and she is tasked with the one quest she may not be strong enough to take: saving his life. This story follows Elizabeth’s journey to find the truth in a world full of illusion and deceit; searching for humanity in an ocean of cruelty; and finding love, strength, and courage from the most unlikely place of all: within herself.
Elizabeth is a fantastic character. She’s interesting, spunky, sassy, but never “bitchy”—unless she needs to be. You can’t help but love Elizabeth and root for her success until the very end—and even after that. “The Witch Hunter” is wickedly paced, deftly plotted, phenomenally immersive, and it will leave you begging for more from debut author Virginia Boecker. I felt so wholly engulfed by the plot and characters that when I was forced to set the book down to eat or work, I still envisioned myself in Elizabeth’s world. The action scenes were superb to boot. Personally, I love a good bloody battle, and this book left me thoroughly sated. This book, for the two days it took me to read it (darn you personal commitments), was an addiction.
There were parts of the book that I felt were “unfinished,” in the sense that it needed elaboration or more development. For example, there were characters I only saw a few times that I think I should have seen more of to make more sense of the plot—but therein lies the problem with YA standalones; the publishers only give you so much room, and I think it was used wisely despite this complaint. I personally didn’t feel a fantastic sense of closure, but it’s hard to say whether it was an intentional device used by the author or not. Finally, while this is by no means a criticism, I totally need this to be a series. Like stat.
This book is a standout fantasy debut and I am thrilled that I picked it up. Its minor flaws are crushed by its superb wit, spunk, emotion, structure, and delightful imagery (gruesome and serene alike). It is an addiction that you will devour in one sitting, and you’ll only want more.
This book didn’t change my life, but damn was it ever incredible. It’s a little love story, a big thrill ride, a huge triumph against evil. It’s brilliant, even on an objective level. It’s nearly flawless and I cannot wait to read more from Virginia Boecker. I’ve been so torn between giving it a 4 and a 5, but I settled it on 4 only by comparison to books I’ve given 5 stars to. If you love fantasy, action, young adult, or even just great stories, I’d highly recommend giving this book a try. (Now. Go get it. Run.)