Pleased to share this wonderful review from The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books.
The Witch HunterBy Virginia BoeckerJune 2015/ $18/ Ages 15 & UpISBN 978-0-316-32700-8Ebook ISBN 978-0-316-32718-3
Magic is outlawed in Boecker’s version of sixteenth-century England, and sixteen-year-old Elizabeth Grey is the best of the king’s witch hunters, tracking down wizards and witches to bring them to the Inquisitor, Lord Blackwell, for justice. Blackwell is somewhat of a father figure to Elizabeth but he is also absolutely merciless, and when Elizabeth is caught with forbidden herbs used to terminate her pregnancy (the result of Elizabeth’s being called to the king’s bed), he sends her to the dungeons to await her execution. Elizabeth is rescued by Nicholas Perevil, an aging but powerful wizard and enemy to the king and Blackwell. Suffering under a potent curse, Nicholas asks Elizabeth to join some of his closest allies in rooting out the responsible wizard in exchange for Nicholas’ protection against Blackwell and his ilk. The world-building here is comprehensive but concise, with Elizabeth’s narration effectively conveying the rules of this world without belaboring the point. Thrilling action scenes combine with a twisting plot to spur readers forward.
Perhaps most compelling, however, is Elizabeth’s character arc, which moves her from a girl so beholden to the men in her life that she hands her body over both physically and sexually, to an autonomous young adult making decisions for herself, outside of Blackwell’s and even Nicholas’ influence. Her romance with John, a healer capable of both strength and sensitivity, is one of equals, and he makes for a refreshing change from the conventional brooding bad boy or charming rogue. This will undoubtedly draw comparisons to Cashore’s Graceling (BCCB 1/09), and while it lacks that title’s nuance, it will satisfy fans of warrior girls who realize their own power.