Witch Finder by Ruth Warburton, published by Hodder Children's Books on 2nd January 2014
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.
Sticking to a winning formula of witches and magic, 'Witch Finder', the first book in Ruth Warburton's new trilogy, was a wonderful read which quite literally swept me away. I finished it in one evening because it was impossible to put down. I loved the Winter series and so I enjoyed getting to see events unfold through the eyes of not only Rosa, a young witch, but also Luke, a witch finder who has sworn to kill her and become part of the Maleus Maleficarum.
What makes the story really interesting and gives it an unusual twist is that although Luke sets out with the intention of killing Rosa and finding the witch that murdered his parents, when he eventually meets her, he realises that she may have magic but she's also a person in her own right. She's kind and compassionate and beautiful and so all his strongly held convictions are shaken to the core. This doesn't mean that he immediately strays from his chosen path and he still attempts to take Rosa's life on numerous occasions but his feelings for her grow stronger as he begins to understand who she is. He has to struggle with his morals as he's torn between which course of action to take.
Unlike her previous books, Ruth Warburton has set 'Witch Finder' in 1880 which lends a historical slant to the story. We get to see how men have most of the power over women and how Rosa is caught between saving her family and marrying a man she doesn't love. I enjoyed seeing how people lived during this period and how different classes struggled with many of the problems that we still face today.
I loved this story which flowed so well that I quickly became immersed in the characters' lives. There are some unusual twists in the plot and I never found it predictable or slow. I kept getting to the end of each chapter and then wanted to keep on reading to find out what would happen next. I'm now extremely eager to get my hands on the next book in the trilogy, 'Witch Hunt' which is out later this year.