I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
Release date (UK): 4th June 2015
This book isn’t perfect; the writing is a little repetitive in places and some of the terminology used to convey romance is a little cringe worthy “I feel a sickness then, one that’s got nothing to do with the sea.” But, it doesn’t matter. An involving and fast-moving plot, the historical setting and the element of magic makes for some truly captivating, escapist reading.
Set in an alternate 16th century England where magic is highly illegal following a plague, the witch hunter in question here is Elizabeth Grey. One of the King’s best, she spends her days hunting down witches, wizards and necromancers until suddenly she finds herself arrested for being a witch herself. Trapped in prison awaiting her execution, she expects her oldest friend Caleb to come to rescue her but is surprised when instead she gets one of the most powerful and feared wizards in the realm show up at her cell, Nicholas Perevil.
From there, Elizabeth is plunged into a new, unfamiliar world where everything she has believed in is turned on its head. In order to avoid being burnt at the stake, she agrees to embark on a mission to help break the curse which was laid upon Nicholas years before. Having been trained all her life to hunt and demolish magic, she suddenly finds herself surrounded by it, and learns that it may have even saved her life. As the story develops, everything Elizabeth has learnt during her life growing up in the palace is thrown into question, and she is forced to choose her own path.
There are many things I loved about this book. The plot moves incredibly fast, and it’s packed full of twists and turns, colourful characters and brilliantly imagined magic. I particularly enjoyed the magic tree and concept of a witch’s ladder which felt like an ingenious little tool you’d be likely to find in the likes of Harry Potter. There’s even a Winter Solstice witch’s party, attended by an array of bewitching creatures; “Witches, of course. Wizards. Revenants, hags, demons…mostly the nondangerous variety, but not always. Ghosts. We try to keep them out, but, you know, that can be hard.” The writer has an incredible imagination, and it shows through in her vivid depiction of magic and the complex plot.
However, in other areas the world-building left quite a lot to the imagination. The blurb of this book attempts to compare it to Game Of Thrones but Game Of Thrones this is not; the complexity of the politics and the history of the place is a little lacking, I would have loved to have known more. Although, on the bright side, I did love that it was set in England – I think it’s the first mainstream young adult fantasy novel I’ve read which is.
The final portion of the book is intense, but the last few chapters do feel a little rushed. I have no idea what’s coming next, but I do know that there’s more to come and I’m looking forward to reading it.