Author: Ruth Warburton (Twitter)
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
Publish Date: January 2, 2014
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
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.
There's nothing quite like a forbidden romance unless, of course, you're talking about a forbidden romance in which the stakes are much higher, much more dire and play along a life-or-death balance. The beautiful and haunting thing, however, is that Witch Finder takes ups the ante even more, giving us a new take on the age-old witch hunts and sending us into what is inevitably a dark and terrifying spiral of lies and deception. Ruth Warburton brings 1880 London alive in a manner that is dark, bleak and altogether tragic in its own right, luring us into a web of lies that can only result in heartbreak and destruction. However, we're captivated, and we can't look away.
Witch Finder was a maze of complexities for me as a reader. On one hand, I can truly appreciate the author's writing style. Ms. Warburton is a master of plot-weaving, carefully balancing the faster elements with the slower ones and lingering upon those moments that draw out the tension and leave us wanting more. However, it must be said that I don't feel the historical setting was nearly as illustrated as it could, or should have been to support such a story. In one of my favourite novels, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, the setting of the story was as significant as the characters within the story. That, in large part, is why the book felt so very real to me and worked so well in the end. With Witch Finder, however, it felt as though great, painstaking care was taking when developing the characters and personas of Luke, Rosa and the others, but setting took a noticeable back seat.
Like I said though, the characters are the highlights of Witch Finder for me, and though Rosa's naivete was a bit trying for me at times, I can't help but feel for her character and her situation. There was a delicate air of vulnerability around her that perfectly complemented the tortured aspects of Luke's persona. While Rosa struggles to deal with painful life at home, all the while balancing immense power, Luke battles to maintain his sanity and his mission to avenge his parents. I was incredibly worried that the author would force us into an insta-love scenario in which Luke immediately stopped hunting the witch he absolutely had to save in order to survive, but I was thrilled to see that Ms. Warburton avoided that trap with ease. You could sense the connection between the two, and the connection was there, but like a cat and mouse game, we're forced to endure the back and forth until the ultimate reveal, which definitely added an element of fun and intrigue to the novel.
All in all, I can't say that Witch Finder was the best book I've ever read, and I do wish we'd had a bit more magic peppered throughout the pages, but it was a solid story with overall solid characters. I'd definitely read on and continue the series gladly, as the ending is not at all what I wanted or expected to read. I give this novel a 3.5 out of 5, and I recommend it to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy fantasy novels.
I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.