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The Witch Hunter

The Witch Hunter

4.2 11
by Virginia Boecker

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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


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.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Praise for The Witch Hunter:
A YALSA 2016 Teens Top Ten Nominee

* "An explosive cocktail of high-stakes adventure... The first-person, present-tense narration is rendered masterfully; coupled with the cinematic vividness of the descriptions, the whole makes for a page-turning delight."

PW (starred review)

"Debut author Boecker's first-person, present tense narrative creates a suspenseful mood by allowing readers to see Elizabeth's secrets, doubts, and fears...The book has plenty of action-sword fights, battles with monsters, black magic, and betrayal-but there is also camaraderie and romance...Fans of Kristin Cashore's Graceling (Houghton Harcourt, 2008) will see similarities in this story of a girl with deadly skills who begins to question using her services to benefit a brutal ruler. This action-packed tale will be a welcome addition to most YA fantasy collections."—SLJ

"In her debut novel (a sequel is planned), Boecker has created an alternate sixteenth-century world whose characters are as intriguing as the magical world they inhabit...Woven within the complex fantasy is a new understanding of friendship and a tenuous but sweet Romeo and Juliet-like love story that promises to blossom, along with the witchcraft, mystery, and bloodletting."—Booklist

"Elizabeth is a compelling heroine, surrounded by strong supporting characters. Particularly compelling is Elizabeth's uneasy alliance with Fifer as they race to find answers, uncovering dark secrets along the way...First-time novelist Boecker delivers a promising debut. This reviewer is hoping Elizabeth's future adventures prove equally engaging."—VOYA

"The world-building here is comprehensive but concise...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....It will satisfy fans of warrior girls who realize their own power."—The Bulletin

"Those who like their stories fast-paced will enjoy this mashup of historical and fantasy. Ghouls, ghosts, magic, and supernatural creatures all appear, lending humor and creepiness in equal measure."—School Library Connection

"[Filled] with everything a good fantasy book needs: swords, poison, black magic, and betrayal. Elizabeth Grey is a tough, feisty protagonist whose fearless heart takes more twists and turns than the narrow city alleys in which the story opens. A fun, corpse-ridden, blood-drenched debut."—April Tucholke, author of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

"Sassy and smart, this page-turning fantasy is full of action, wit, and magic. I ate it up in one sitting and demand more...now!"—Beth Revis, New York Times bestselling author of Across the Universe and The Body Electric

"Crisp writing, a fast pace with bloody action, and the all-important monster rats make this story of a bold but more-vulnerable-than-she-realizes witch hunter a strong fantasy debut."—Kate Elliott, author of Cold Magic and Court of Fives

"Elizabeth is an endearingly flawed heroine, and the other characters are just as nuanced and delightful. With an immersive world and fast-paced, addictive plot, The Witch Hunter is perfect for those looking for their next fantastical adventure."—Emily Lloyd-Jones, author of Illusive

Publishers Weekly
★ 04/20/2015
Boecker’s confident debut takes the familiar elements of many strains of YA fantasy—epic setting, alternate history, wizardry, paranormal enforcers—and stirs them into an explosive cocktail of high-stakes adventure. The island of Anglia is ruled by the gimlet-eyed Inquisitor, Lord Blackwell, and his captive young king. The two collude in the sexual exploitation of Elizabeth Grey, a youthful witch hunter for Blackwell’s inquisition, and this departure from romantic tropes is the first clear sign that Boecker is out to make the formulas her own. Elizabeth copes by taking a leaf from her prey’s spell books—contraceptive herbs, with which she is caught and for which she is sentenced to death. Her unlikely saviors are a hidden contingent of magical practitioners who have been ordered by their seer to enlist her help. None of the players know exactly what is going on or to what end, adding further uncommon realism to the sorcerous premise. The first-person, present-tense narration is rendered masterfully; coupled with the cinematic vividness of the descriptions, the whole makes for a page-turning delight. Ages 15–up. Agent: Kathleen Ortiz, New Leaf Literary & Media. (June)
VOYA, June 2015 (Vol. 38, No. 2) - Matthew Weaver
Elizabeth Gray is a witch hunter for King Malcolm, able to track down the most powerful sorcerers in the kingdom and bring them to justice. When she is discovered to have witch herbs—to prevent the king from impregnating her—she is arrested and sentenced to being burned at the stake. Elizabeth is promptly rescued, however, by wizards aligned with notorious wizard Nicholas Perevil. He needs her to use her abilities to find the mythical Thirteenth Tablet to remove a curse that means certain death. Elizabeth works with Nicholas’s crew, including the distrustful aspiring witch, Fifer; the king’s fool, George; and dreamy healer, John. They must race to find the tablet while Elizabeth finds herself public enemy number one. While a tad too reactionary, Elizabeth is a compelling heroine, surrounded by strong supporting characters. Particularly compelling is Elizabeth’s uneasy alliance with Fifer as they race to find answers, uncovering dark secrets along the way. The fast-moving plot elevates the story beyond a medieval Hunger Games, complete with a would-be love triangle among John, Elizabeth, and the new chief inquisitor, Caleb—Elizabeth’s longtime friend and protector. The most conservative readers may fret over the witchcraft, but it is relatively inoffensive and the romance is quite tame. The climax falters, but barely, hindered by an apparent need to set the stage for inevitable sequels. First-time novelist Boecker delivers a promising debut. This reviewer is hoping Elizabeth’s future adventures prove equally engaging. Reviewer: Matthew Weaver; Ages 12 to 18.
Children's Literature - Jill Walton
Witches and witch hunters are not always what they seem. Good and evil is not always defined or recognizable within the captivating and unique twists of this well-developed fantasy debut that draws on English medieval history with magic for its rich material. Young adult readers will admire and have strong feelings for the ordeals of the heroine, teen Elizabeth, who wants to be on the side of good and believes she is. She also believes she is in love and she is willing to die for her all of her beliefs. The Reformist rebellion is underway and she is a witch hunter. Elizabeth attends the public burnings at the stake of witches and wizards that she has captured; she knows they have to die because they use magic and magic started the plague. However, the public does not always support the king’s rule and necromancers do not always submit to capture. Is it legal for a witch hunter to use magic? The writer’s excellent descriptions of landscapes and dwellings and her strong development of characters makes one hope there is more magic to come from her pen. Reviewer: Jill Walton; Ages 12 up.
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—In this fantasy adventure set in an alternative medieval England, witchcraft of any kind is illegal, even though magic practitioners were welcomed in the past. Employed by the Inquisitor, Lord Blackwell, 16-year-old Elizabeth, and her best friend, Caleb, hunt witches who will be burned at the stake. Elizabeth fully believes that all magic is evil and must be destroyed. But when Blackwell finds her with some herbs, Elizabeth is declared a witch herself and is sentenced to die. She is rescued by an unlikely ally, the notorious wizard Nicholas Perevil, who wants her to fulfill a prophecy to save him from a deadly curse. The teen is skeptical of the witches, pirates, healers, and other Reformists who accompany Perevil and is afraid of what will happen when they discover she is a witch hunter. However, she gradually becomes suspicious of Blackwell's motives and must finally decide where her loyalties lie. Debut author Boecker's first-person, present tense narrative creates a suspenseful mood by allowing readers to see Elizabeth's secrets, doubts, and fears. Secondary characters are well realized and integral to the plot. The book has plenty of action—sword fights, battles with monsters, black magic, and betrayal—but there is also camaraderie and romance. The ending leaves room for a sequel. Fans of Kristin Cashore's Graceling (Houghton Harcourt, 2008) will see similarities in this story of a girl with deadly skills who begins to question using her services to benefit a brutal ruler. VERDICT This action-packed tale will be a welcome addition to most YA fantasy collections.—Martha Simpson, Stratford Library Association, CT
Kirkus Reviews
What does a dedicated witch hunter do when her magic-hating mentor turns on her?Since her parents' deaths in the plague that killed so many, 16-year-old Elizabeth has dedicated most of her short life to fighting witches, necromancers, and revenants for the Inquisitor. In Anglia (a mildly anachronistic analogue of 16th-century England), the teen king Malcolm defers to his uncle, Lord Blackwell, leader of the witch hunters. Though she's been distracted lately, Elizabeth is a stellar witch hunter, amazing at retrieving villains for public burning. She has a secret, though: Elizabeth has been victimized by a sexual crime, and her attempts to prevent pregnancy with herbal birth control are tantamount to witchcraft. Her only salvation lies with the very witches she's been hunting. The country's most wanted criminal, Reformist leader Nicholas Perevil, wants Elizabeth as his ally. Perevil and his circle of appealing adolescent cronies don't trust Elizabeth, but they need her. The repeated rapes that Elizabeth endures occur before the book begins and amount to little more than a plot device. The story would make a perfect teen drama on the CW; it's chock-full of teenagers who practice magic, wield knives, wear vaguely period dress, engage in bantering conversation, and don't develop much more deeply than that. Perhaps the sequel will prove to be more nuanced. Shallow but serviceable fantasy. (Fantasy. 12-16)

Product Details

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range:
15 - 18 Years

Meet the Author

Virginia Boecker recently spent four years in London obsessing over English medieval history. She now lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and spends her days writing, reading, running, and chasing around her two children and a dog named George. In addition to English kings, nine-day queens, and Protestant princesses, her other obsessions include The Smiths, art museums, champagne, and Chapstick.

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The Witch Hunter 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Mae23 More than 1 year ago
I've been looking forward to reading this for quite some time but was a bit hesitant to buy it after reading some mixed reviews. In the end, curiosity won out and last night I caved. Boy, am I glad I have zero self control when it comes to books.  I can honestly say that I loved every aspect of this book. For starters, it's a historical fantasy and those are two of my favorite genres in one. I was drawn in from the very first page and was sad to see it end. The pacing was great, the writing/detail phenomenal and the characters were (almost) all likable.  This is certainly a must read. The only downside is having to wait so long for the next installment! Read it, you won't regret it :) 
SmalltownSR More than 1 year ago
Great story, I will definitely read the second book.
EverAfterEsther More than 1 year ago
I happened to read The Witch Hunter while playing through Dragon Age 2 for the first time. So maybe it shouldn't be as much of a surprise that this book reminded me of that game? Needless to say, I loved both of them. The Witch Hunter is fantasy YA with an emphasis on politics and political intrigue, which is one of my favourite things to read about. Although this usually ends up with a slower-paced book, it certainly doesn't take away from the excitement or how engaging a book is provided a reader can handle a slower pace. Reasons to Read: 1. The political intrigue: I loved how the world in the Witch Hunter was set up with conflict between mages and non-mages. It's understandable, if you think of how much power a mage would have and the advantages of having magic. So I'm grateful to see that there's a book series which took this into consideration and included this type of conflict in the plot. 2. Elizabeth's focus and determination: I also liked how Elizabeth focused on the task at hand and wasn't easily distracted. You could see how she would make a good witch-hunter, despite some poor choices at times. Most importantly, Elizabeth experiences significant character development throughout the story as everything she has known and taken for granted is tested. 3. Interesting system of magic: This was one of my favourite parts of the book but I loved how magic was presented. Not only was it far from perfect, and potentially dangerous, but readers can easily see how it complicates matters as well. It isn't as simple as most of us would imagine, and it creates problems for some of the characters, most notably Elizabeth after she's accused of being a witch. Some parts of the story were fairly predictable and I could have used a few more twists. After a while, I found the story progressed in a way that I was expecting and yet I was so engrossed in the book that it hardly mattered. I'm hoping to see a few more surprises as the series continues, though. There were so many things I loved about this book - the character dynamics and the world building included! It was a complex story that really appealed to my love of good fantasy stories. ARC received from HBG Canada for review; no other compensation was received.
AsDreamsAreMade More than 1 year ago
Original Review Link: http://asdreamsaremade.com/2015/06/book-tuesday-the-witch-hunter/ This book was…good. Elizabeth is one of the Kingdom’s finest witch hunters. Along with her friend Caleb it’s her mission to find any and all magic and eradicate it. The tables are turned when she is accused of being a witch herself and sentenced to burn at the stake. The man she thought was her number one enemy, Nicholas Perevil, now becomes her savior. She agrees to help him break the curse that’s been laid upon him, but her quest leads her to question her own beliefs and what she always thought was right and wrong. Like I said earlier, this book was good. It wasn’t bad, it wasn’t amazing, it was good. I think what didn’t really drive me over the edge with this one was the characters seemed a bit one dimensional. I mean, some of them were funny and witty, but, with the exception of Elizabeth, I don’t think we really get to the meat of them. I think if we had seen a bit more character development, I wouldn’t have felt so detached. The plot moved pretty fast, but it seemed a bit predictable at times. Especially regarding allegiances and motives. I mean we all saw where that was heading right??? Like I was saying earlier however, some of the characters would make decisions solely based on instinct and then change their minds later on in the book. It just seemed a bit convenient at times. I did enjoy Fifer and her no nonsense hoity-ness. George was amusing. John was just a good soul. They all seemed to be filling a stereotype though and I would have liked to have seen more. Also, was it just me, or did anybody else picture Blackwell as Septimus in Stardust? I know. Completely random, but their characters just seemed so similar to me for some reason! Ok back to the review! The world building was well done and I have a feeling we’ll see more history in the forthcoming installments. The ending left you feeling satisfied even if it did suffer from a bit of “tied-with-a-bow” syndrome. I will probably pick up the next installment, because I did enjoy this one; I was just hoping for a bit more than I got.
mfu11 More than 1 year ago
When a plague took Elizabeth’s parents at a young age, she travelled to the castle with her only friend Caleb to find work. The two of them worked their way up to becoming Witch Hunters, facing severe tests of strength, skill, and survival. Elizabeth is one of the best Witch Hunters in service . . . until she’s accused of being a witch herself and sentenced to death. Elizabeth hates magic, believing that it was magic that caused the plague that killed her parents. But as Elizabeth unravels dark truths, she begins to question everything she’s ever known. Maybe she doesn’t hate magic, perhaps she just doesn’t understand it, perhaps she’s only ever been allowed to see its bad side. When faced with a choice between witch hunting and witches, the line between good and evil, right and wrong, starts to blur and only Elizabeth can decide how to move forward. Gosh, I LOVED this book. Elizabeth is so strong and so set on doing the right thing, whatever it takes — I adored her. The majority of the cast were just as easy to fall for and I was really rooting for them to succeed in their quest. The story moved fast, without a single dull moment, and built to an exciting finish that had me constantly wondering how things would play out, how things could possibly work out. The twists were brilliant. I loved this medieval world of magic and danger, rival sides both as strong and determined as one another, and a main character caught between the two. This was a real page-turner and I’m already looking forward to the next book. I’d recommend this one to fans of Cassandra Clare.
CJListro More than 1 year ago
Read more: http://www.sarcasmandlemons.com/2015/06/arc-review-witch-hunter-by-virginia.html in short The mixed reviews around the blogoverse made me a little nervous for The Witch Hunter, but I set those aside and dove in with an open mind. I'm pleased that I gave it a chance. The Witch Hunter is a fun, light fantasy without pretensions. It's charm comes from a spunky, utterly competent heroine, a sweet romance, and a madcap adventure sort of plot. Fans of the dark, gritty fantasy trend, with lots of angst and pathos, may be disappointed. The tone here is little more commercial and a little less deeply philosophical than, say, Throne of Glass. It also reads a little younger. However, take it for what it is and there's a great deal to enjoy: magic, pirates, ancient swords, ridiculously swoony healers, snarky demons, ghost butlers, and a fast-paced plot. I may not gush over it the way I have with other fantasies, but I really had a lot of fun with it.
Yzabel More than 1 year ago
(Note: I was given a copy through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.) Somewhat OK, but too full of holes (in terms of world-building) and too flat when it came to the characters. I had a hard time reconciling the setting to a parallel Tudor England (minus the Tudors), as some elements were similar, but others were too confusing to make much sense—including language, too modern at times. For instance, no witch hunter seemed to ever question the origin of their stigmas, how they came to be, when it was actually a pretty obvious question to ask (especially in a world that wasn't heavy on religion, so "it comes from God" wouldn't have made a satisfying answer). Elizabeth in general was of the too stupid to live variety. Supposedly strong, supposedly a well-trained prodigy witch hunter, but piling up mistake upon mistake, for a reason that felt a little too weak to be believable (the way she mentioned it, it didn't seem like she was going through hell, more that it was an inconvenience to her). The reason why she was caught was stupid, a mix of bad decisions (getting drunk because her friend who may or may not be her love interest was seeing someone else) and other bad decisions (what on Earth was she doing with those herbs in her pocket. The romance I'll put in the "inserted here for marketing reasons" category. Bland, not useful—becoming friends would have been enough—, a vague triangle that wasn't really one because it was fairly predictable, and Also, probably a minor quibble on my part, but this just happened to irk me: "Then I get an idea." I counted at least four occurrences of it, all as one sentence that was a paragraph of its own, and it just struck me as repetitive and annoying. There were interesting ideas and themes in the novel, and hooks that could've been so much more, when it came to politics and hypocrisy—laws defied by the ones making them, plotting in the shadows... However, I wouldn't put this on a Game of Thrones level as the blurb claims it is, and it was too muddled overall to make for a terrific plot. Some fantasy books take too long and are too slow-paced to carry their plots properly; here, it would've been a good thing, as it would've given more meat to the story, and more room for the world-building to unfold. Close to "it's OK", only I realise that I'm already not caring about it anymore barely half an hour after having finished it. I admit I just got to the end so that I could write my review and switch to another book.
Madison Library More than 1 year ago
The Witch Hunter reads like a cross between Harry Potter and a tale of Camelot, set in 16th century Britain. There is friendship, spells, magic, nymphs and wizards, burning at the stake, kings, evil plots, pirates, magical midwinter parties, swords and seers. Excited yet? Overall, I couldn’t help but grin as I read it – it’s just so much fun. Light and yet dark, magical and scary, romantic and adventurous. Elizabeth was raised as a witch hunter, trained to capture and arrest those performing or in the possession of magic in line with her kingdom’s anti-magic laws. As an orphan, her fellow witch hunters, Caleb especially, are all the family she has. But when she is found with witch’s herbs she is arrested and sentenced to burn at the stake. Abandoned by those to whom she was loyal, Elizabeth is shocked when she is rescued by none other than Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful and wanted wizard in the kingdom. Drawn into Nicholas’ world and protected by his small band of followers, Elizabeth begins to see there is more at stake than her life and there is more to her life than she has been led to believe. A beautiful writing style and wonderfully developed world ensconce you in the best mix of magical details. I loved Elizabeth’s bravery and vulnerability, she was both strong and genuine. The magical world she finds herself thrust into is at times wonderfully familiar and yet equally original and fresh. The story ends well (no major cliffhangers here) and yet I can’t wait to see where the story might go and to see the romance develop further. For all lovers of fantasy, especially that with a historical setting, The Witch Hunter is the book for you. The publishers provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
4.5 Stars First I want to get into the two things that are keeping me from giving The Witch Hunter a full five stars because it’s such an awesome fantasy and I’d really love to give it all the stars but something was nagging at me in the end during the showdown with the villain. Now the villain is a bad person but at the very end he/she seemed to act overly evil. It almost felt like they were being evil so that the story had a really heinous villain and an awesome showdown against him/her. I really hope the next book in the series shows more of his/her mentality and explains why they acted the way they acted. Specifically in regards to ***SPOILERS***  how he had no problem killing a girl who he spent years training. You’d think he’d get a little attached, at least enough to offer her the chance to come back and work for him especially considering he admitted she was one of his best hunters. Also I don’t understand why he didn’t kill King Malcolm as a child when he killed his father. I mean he would have become king and that was what he wanted right? Did he think it would have been suspicious if Malcolm died too? Or was he just satisfied being in control even if Malcolm was officially king? ***END OF SPOILERS*** The other thing keeping me from a full five stars was I a little disconnected from the story in the beginning even when exciting things were happening. I just wasn’t feeling the strong emotions I should have had considering what was happening. This went away after a while but for the first 100-150 pages my interest was just moderate. Then I got super into it and could hardly bear to put it down. But even when I wasn’t really feeling it I still enjoyed The Witch Hunter which is why I’ve only reduced half a star. Now for all the things I love about The Witch Hunter! There’s Elizabeth who unlike most heroines will actually kill someone when it’s her life of theirs. I just find it really refreshing when I’ve read a lot of books about girls who are amazing fighters and in some cases supposedly trained to kill but are almost never willing to kill someone even when the other person is trying to kill them. She’s genuinely tough but without being overly cruel or a shirking damsel. Elizabeth was just a great main character and I really enjoyed being in her head. I loved all the secondary characters and even some of the characters who where only around for one or two scenes. Every person seemed to have a specific voice or tone or some kind of thing that made their personality feel that it was distinctly theirs. Virginia Boecker has a real talent for making characters feel like a three-dimensional person and I feel like I understand everyone’s personality and motivations. One of my favorite characters is John the love interest.(although the romance in Witch Hunter is very minimal if that’s not your thing) He was so adorable and sweet! I just loved him to pieces! The magic elements in The Witch Hunter are really superb especially ***SPOILERS*** the magic tree and the creatures that Elizabeth fought like those giant rat things. The death curse and the magic knots were also really interesting to me. ***END OF SPOILERS*** I can’t wait for more of that magic in the sequel! The ending is fantastic, wrapping up parts of the plot but still leaving things to conquer in the next book. Exactly how I like series to start and I can tell it’s going to segue nicely.  I received a copy from the NOVL newsletter which in no way affected my review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
DTChantel More than 1 year ago
"The Witch Hunter" by Virginia Boecker is a wonderful fantasy that immediately draws you into the life of Elizabeth Grey, one of the king's witch hunters. Alongside Caleb, the only family she's ever really known, she does what she's been taught by the fearsome and enigmatic Blackwell. But nothing is what it seems in this magical realm and when circumstances beyond her control place Elizabeth on the opposing side of Blackwell's wrath, destiny steps in and leads her to a group of people and a new way of life, one that will take her through fiery trials and the darkest of fears, but will ultimately give her a new life filled with hope and a future. This is a breath-taking tale that will compel you to keep reading, giving rise to the question of whether the author has infused a little magic into the book itself.