Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
Author Links: Website | Goodreads | Facebook
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.
Witch Finder was another one of those that took me a while to get into it, but once the story got going it turned out to be pretty good.
It opens with Luke being initiated into a group of witch hunters, and drawing Rosa's name as his first kill. But there's a catch... If he doesn't complete his mission, then he will be the one that the brotherhood hunts down and kills. It sounds like these guys are hard-core assholes, but as the book goes on, you can see that they are probably just misguided. Especially Luke's uncle, who really loves and cares for Luke. As for Luke, he was a child when he witnessed a witch kill his parents, and he and his uncle have been fighting them ever since. Luke has the rare ability to see their magical aura, and has been working with the brotherhood for years to identify witches for assassination. Now that he's old enough, he's ready to become a full-fledged member of the Malleus Maleficorum.
Rosa is a 16 year old witch who comes from one of the most powerful families in London. Now that her loving father is dead, she's been left to the mercy of her cruel brother and social-climbing mother. Even though she's a powerful witch, she can't do much to stop the abuse they both heap on her. They have plans to marry her off to a powerful sociopathic warlock. He's wanted Rosa for years, but growing up with him has given Rosa a glimpse into his evil nature. The thought of being married to him terrifies her, but she's not sure what she can do to stop it.
Meanwhile, the brotherhood sets up a position in Rosa's house for Luke, and he prepares himself for the task of ridding the world of an evil creature. What he finds when he meets Rosa, however, confuses his notions of right and wrong. Over and over again, Luke witnesses Rosa's kindness to himself and others. At first, he's able to convince himself that it's some sort of trickery, but after a while he's not so sure. She even goes so far as to claim that (what she assumes was) a mistake he made with her saddle was her fault. And since he can see her magic, he can also see her use of it to cover up the bruises that her family gives her to keep her compliant. The last thing he wants is to feel pity for her, but he can't seem to stop himself.
I thought it was interesting that the author didn't pull out the insta-love and have him immediately stop trying to kill her. Because even though he wrestles with his conscience, his attempts on her life continue. I really almost couldn't believe that such a likable character could be so dense, and I found myself mentally screaming at him to Cut That Shit Out! more than once. In that sense, the author rocked this story. Because on one hand you just fall in love with Rosa, and on the other you really feel for Luke. I mean, she has no idea that someone is out to get her! And on top of that, her family life is so fucked up, that you can't imagine she needs anything else to make it worse. But Luke has all of that childhood trauma to deal with, and let's not forget that pesky death sentence waiting for him if he fails. Well done!
Like I mentioned, this one took me a while to truly get into, but the last half of the book was really good. It's a series that I'm definitely looking forward to continuing in the future. Besides, look at that cover! Beautiful!