Monday, 22 June 2015

Book Review: Witch Hunter

Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker
4 Stars
Verdict
: Brilliant opening followed by lots of long conversations, a few odd moments peppered with action, and then an epic end. Review done. 

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.




~*~

The first three chapters and the last section were my favourite. I think it’s well worth a read if you like the sound of this: a witch hunter who questions her allegiance when she’s thrown in jail and learns of a prophecy that means she is the only one who can save magic.

There’s nothing too special about Elizabeth Grey, our main character. We’re told she’s a good witch hunter, but only shown how she messes up a lot, which set the tone for the book. Elizabeth seems broken, unable to think for herself for the most part. She’s been cohered into a profession she never wanted, has her heart set on a guy who has been her whole world, and now has a prophecy to fall in line for – one that seems to predict her death.

The author knows how to write relationships in a way that tugged at my emotions, creating interesting side plots rather than overwhelming the story with romance. I never felt particularly fond of either of the love interests, but I liked how Elizabeth started to pull away from her roots. The transformation was very emotional in parts.

There was a very long early-middle section. It contains lots of tedious conversations and a bundle of new characters that weren’t used much. At this point, I was struggling to picture half of it, and there wasn’t much motivation to read to the end. There wasn’t a sense of tension or stakes.

I wasn’t expecting it to pick back up, but it started to gather pace and slowly enticed me back into its clutches. Although I could see most of the twists coming, they played out a little differently to what I was expecting, and that made it hard to put down.

A lot of things could have been done better. Firstly, there were possibly too many characters. Fifer seemed like a complete cliché, although I still found that she spiced up the story. I loved George the jester when we first met him, but he doesn’t really have a part to play in the book, and I even forgot he was even around. I can’t remember some of the other minor characters. If they become important in book two, then perhaps they should have been introduced later.

The twist concerning the herbs felt like the first person narrator was keeping a secret from the reader or added as an afterthought. Also, the idea of pirates and ghosts sounds awesome, but in reality, they were never really used. I get the feeling that this book could have been absolutely amazing, but it didn’t quite get there.

Prophecies can be a little tiresome in my opinion. We all know they’re two faced, and they’re always purposely vague – forcing the main character to follow their gibberish whim without another motive. This was no different, although I did think the writer made a good job of it.

There was a lot I enjoyed about this book, and it ended on a high note too. I think I’d like to at least take a peek of the next in the series.

Source: Netgalley.com

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Book Review: Such A Secret Place

Such A Secret Place by Cortney Pearson
3 Stars
Verdict: Brilliant but inconsistent fantasy concept. 

Raids splatter across the news--Arcaian soldiers are stealing magic left and right, using it against the people they steal it from.

When sixteen-year-old Ambry Csille's brother gets taken in one of these raids, her utter fear and panic should be enough to invoke tears in any normal world. But for Ambry, tears are a thing of the past.

Because of a spell, people can no longer feel emotion; not enough to cry, and definitely not enough to defend themselves against the tyrannical soldiers stealing her people’s magic. A rare vial of enchanted tears chooses Ambry to reverse the spell, and soon she finds herself the target not only of the Arcaians, but of battle-scarred Talon Haraway, who wants the tears for his own reasons.

All Ambry wants is to rescue her brother, but when her tears get stolen, Ambry determines to work with Talon to get them back. Any day the Arcaians could drink her tears. Any day they’ll succeed at draining her people's magic completely, and all hope will be gone—not only for her brother, but for her world.

~*~


Sink or swim is an apt description of this book. The opening chapters were mainly exposition which made it hard for me to get into. Lots of terms were mentioned, some explained better than others. I still have many questions about the world, and I felt like not enough of it was shown.

I decided to cling to some driftwood and go with the flow. After all, this is by no means a bad book. The creativity of the concepts knocked my socks off, from stealing magic to the emotional blunted society. The romance is gradual and feels natural, and there are plenty of action snippets throughout.

I still found the poor author never gripped my interest. One of the main issues was show don’t tell, and a few of the told concepts felt very inconsistent making it hard to follow at times.

Ambry doesn’t have magic... Then what is she doing at school where they seem to be learning about magic? We’re told she gets extra time during tests because she’s powerless, but what are these tests? Extra time won’t help you fill up a canister with magic (which is the only thing we’re shown).

No emotion was also a fascinating concept... except characters did have emotion. Rather sporadically though. I thought I understood the rules, but I’m pretty sure the author breaks them a couple of times throughout the book, and then changes the rules towards the end. Some characters clearly have emotion and magic, and I couldn’t help but wonder why the main character never at least questioned this a little more.

Descriptions were usually clever but minimal, powerful in places and lacking in others. From time to time, I ended up with a very flat idea of where the characters were. The author had some good lines up their sleeve and a bit of wit, but I can’t help but think it was often misplaced. A witty line isn’t a good substitute for description, and if you have to drag out a scene to add in humour, it gets tedious.

When I start editing a book as I read, I just know it’s not quite as polished as it could be.

Logic was also obscure. For example, if I hypothetically caught someone who had a bounty of 100K, I wouldn’t just steal their necklace and let them go, no matter how valuable the necklace is.

Other times, the scene would rapidly change with little warning. Action scenes were good and plenty, although it wasn’t always clear what was going on. Towards the middle of the book, I felt like there was too much emphasis on long fights, without much tension behind them. Some parts were much, much stronger than others.

Overall, it just seemed a bit rushed. Such a secret place has five star potential, but not quite there yet, at least, not for me.

Source: NetGalley.com, from a lovely author