Witch Finder

Witch Finder (Witch Finder, #1)Title: Witch Finder
Author: Ruth Warburton
Genre:  Paranormal Romance, Fantasy, YA

Publisher:  Hachette Children’s Books
Release Date:  January 2, 2014
Format:  E-book
Acquired:  ARC from Netgalley.com
Pages:  374

Date Finished:  12/17/13
3.5 Stars

Goodreads Description
London. 1880. In the slums of Spitalfields apprentice blacksmith Luke is facing initiation into the Malleus Maleficorum, the fearsome brotherhood dedicated to hunting and killing witches.

Luke’s final test is to pick a name at random from the Book of Witches, a name he must track down and kill within a month, or face death himself. Luke knows that tonight will change his life forever. But when he picks out sixteen-year-old Rosa Greenwood, Luke has no idea that his task will be harder than he could ever imagine.

The basic plot of Witch Finder was pretty good.  Luke has been inducted into the Malleus Maleficorum (witch hunters) and has passed his first two tests.  The last test is his biggest challenge.  He has to randomly pick a witch from the Book of Witches and kill him or her.  He picks Rosa Greenwood, a sixteen year old witch from a prominent family.  Luke’s personal vendetta against witches started when a witch killed his parents, so Luke foresees no problems with his task.  It is just a sixteen year old little girl after all.

Unfortunately, Rosa is nothing like Luke expected.  He has been raised believing all witches are Godless, evil beings who deserve to die.  Rosa is sweet, caring and kind which makes killing her all the more difficult.  The rest of the book is about Luke’s struggle with his duty and feelings.  Oh, I forgot to mention if he doesn’t kill Rosa, the Malleus Maleficorum will kill him.  So, it’s kill or be killed.

Duty vs. Heart

I liked Luke.  He seemed very real to me.  His dilemma was not only relatable, but timeless.  The struggle between duty and heart has been around as long as people have been telling other people what to do.  I know this has been a huge struggle for enlisted men through the ages.  Do I follow orders or do what I feel is right?  It isn’t just the military though.  Most of us live our lives being told what to do by parents, bosses, spouses, churches, governments, etc.  So it is inevitable that we will face this question sooner or later.  Do I follow _____ (insert figure-head) or go where my heart leads?  Luke tackles this quandary head on, but he definitely struggles with it as he goes.

Rosa too faces the same dilemma, but due to completely different circumstances.  Rosa’s dad is dead, and during this time period, she has no choice but to bend to her brother’s desires.  She feels very responsible for her family and feels she must somehow contribute to their wellbeing.  Unfortunately for Rosa, her father’s death has left the family almost penniless and a slime-bag witch with money has taken a shine to her.  Therefore her family is forcing her to accept said slime-bag in order to save them from destitution.  Rosa faces the choice of duty vs. heart.  She knows if she marries the slime-bag, she will face a loveless and miserable life, but if she doesn’t, her family will face ruination.

Facing Down Bigotry

Whether the author intended to turn her novel into a social commentary I don’t know, but she succeeded nonetheless.  Luke’s hatred toward witches could mirror hatred toward any social group throughout history.  There are several witch stereotypes that Luke adheres to.  Witches are evil, they are Godless, they have no redeeming qualities, and they are only out to cause mayhem.  As Luke moves forward with his plan to kill Rosa, he is forced to face all of these stereotypes and more.  As Luke begins to really SEE Rosa and not just a witch, his hatred is slowly stripped away.

I believe people generally vilify what they don’t understand.  I also strongly believe that if those same people would suspend their fear and hatred for one second and get to know someone from the group they hate, they would probably realize they are more alike than not.  Whether you hate blacks or homosexuals or Muslims or Jews or whatever, your hatred has most likely been taught to you by someone.  Luke’s seed of hatred started from a wrong done to him, but was nourished by the people he surrounded himself with.

The author successfully makes Luke’s struggle palpable to the reader.  She also made it clear that hate is a choice.

Overview

I generally liked the book, but nothing really surprised me in it.  There were no “OMG” moments, so it was a little slow.  Luke and Rosa’s struggles with honor vs. heart is what kept me going.  I might not have finished if it wasn’t for that.

I also was not real impressed with Rosa.  She suffered from “battered woman syndrome” and was in a tough spot due to the time period, but she was also a witch.  I wanted her to just zap the crap out of her mom and snotty brother.  She just seemed so helpless even though she was a witch.  The author tried to explain this by saying her mom didn’t really let her have access to the family grimoire, but it seemed like a shoddy excuse to me.  She did get better by the end of the book, but by then my opinion had already been shaded.

There were some animal abuse/death scenes in this book that made my stomach turn.  I almost gave up on it, at one point, due to this issue.

I am torn about a rating.  I can’t decide whether to give it 3 stars or 4 stars, so I’m splitting the difference.  Witch Finder is the first in a new series.  I don’t see myself reading any of the others.  I didn’t hate it even though it had parts I didn’t care for, but it didn’t leave me wanting more either.

Special Thanks…

I’d like to give a shout out to Netgalley.com, Hachette and Ruth Warburton for giving me the opportunity to read and review this ARC.

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