Elizabeth Grey is a Witch Hunter, one of the best in Anglia. She can take out a room full of necromancers with a bag of salt and a sword and kill a man using only her thumb. In an alternative version of Tudor England, anyone found using magic is dicing with death because if Elizabeth or one of her witch hunter buddies finds you, you go straight to Fleet and from there to the stake.
However, when Elizabeth is caught in possession of magical herbs she’s burned. In the spy way, not the fire way, although that’s on the cards too. In Fleet and dying of a fever, she’s visited by Nicholas Peverill, a famous and dangerous wizard, who makes a deal with her: he’ll get her out of prison if she agrees to help him break a deadly curse.
I had literally no idea what to expect from this book when I started it, other than it might be, you know, about someone who hunts witches. It took me a couple of goes to get started, but once I’d got into it (and it really only took a few pages) it really grabbed me. The author’s done some really nice world-building: I loved that all the countries - Anglia, Iberia, Gaul - had Latin (I think) names and the anachronism of a mediaeval setting, but with modern speech and values. Hey, it’s an alternative history. The author can do whatever the hell she likes.
The plot wasn’t as twisty as it could have been and there were no huge surprises, but it still flowed well and the pace kept going throughout. I could have done with a bit more of an idea of why the general population were so against magic users, especially considering all the witches and wizards we meet are so nice! Was it just because it was the law, or was there something else? I got why Blackwell hated them, but was that enough to convince the whole country? Not sure.
Elizabeth was a fun MC - snarky and resourceful but still relatable - and I liked the journey she had to go on to reach her ultimate goal: how she developed as a character, and learned to think outside what she’d been brainwashed to believe. Her relationships with the other characters developed nicely too, especially with John (who I imagined as Jon Snow from Game of Thrones - yum!). There were lots of sighing and tortured glances but I was glad things seemed to resolve in the end.
This was a really interesting start to a new series and I’ll definitely be looking out for the sequels.