Paperback 374 page
Historical Fiction/ Supernatural/ YA
E-ARC from Publisher for Review
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Goodreads- 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.
I read the reviews on Goodreads and see that many people weren't sold on this novel. I have a very different opinion. Drop all your expectations and just read it and see what you think. Borrow it from the library if you don't want to buy it. I was glued. I kept turning my Kindle back on between stops at one school and the next. If I knew I had five minutes, I turned it on just to get a little more of the story. Here's the breakdown.
Characters- Luke- Luke is newly inducted into the Malleus Maleficorum, tasked with killing the witch that he picks randomly with his eyes blindfolded. He has one month to do it. Revenge is the only thing on his mind. His mother and father were killed by a black witch when he was a small child. He doesn't know who did it, but he's been haunted by dreams of it ever since. His Uncle took him in and raised him as his own. He thinks nothing of giving his promise to kill 16 yr old Rosa Greenwood. One less witch. And he is dedicated, if nothing else.
Rosa- Rosa is drowning in sorrow. Her Papa died and she is still not over it. But her brother Alexis and mother seem to be moving on. But then they have to. The country house is rented out. They have had to let the witch servants go. Now they have only a few and they cannot do spells in front of them. The money is gone. Rosa cannot have a new ball gown for the season. But that is not what bothers her. Not at all.
Sebastian Knyvet- Sebastian. Powerful witch. Moody. I couldn't understand Sebastian's moods until the end of the novel and then it was clear. He comes from an old and powerful family of witches. They have a seat on the witches council. And he is courting Rosa. Well, not so much courting her as buying her through her mother and brother.
Setting- 1880's London from the upper class to the slums. I really got a feel for the divide between the upper class and the poor. The Thames was something to walk beside where Rosa lived, but it was described as yellow and frothy where Luke came from. The roads were wide enough for carriages to pass by each other in London where Rosa lived yet where Luke lived there was barely room for one to pass and certainly not enough for a person to pass as well. Needless to say jobs, health, food and dwellings declined from Rosa's to Luke's area of London.
The Story- The story is complex despite it's deceptively simple style. Rosa has no say in what is going on in her life. She is being used as payment for a better life for her brother Alexis who is cruel and spoiled and obviously his mother's favorite. Her mother is looking after her own interests. She is kind and trusting and frightened of marrying a ruthless enigmatic man like Sebastian. Sebastian has no qualms about using his witchcraft, force, or any other kind of power to make sure the world works just the way he wants. And Luke, is stuck in a world of witches, a world of beings he would sooner kill than look at. But his only task is to kill the one. The most innocent and kindest of them all. But, she is a witch, something he has to continually remind himself.
My take- Rosa is portrayed in the beginning as a powerless girl but by the end of the story she shows enormous growth. It isn't about being a witch or having spells or even money. Rosa realizes that she has power of her own. Luke is poor so there's less for him to lose from the start, except his life. That's the price he pays for not killing Rosa, but his taste for revenge is replaced by the same thing Rosa's powerlessness is and it changes his outlook on witches and the Malleus Maleficorum. Rosa's brother is abusive. Her mother is insensitive at the very least and manipulative for her own gain. Sebastian is a psychopath. And a very powerful witch. Not a good combination. It's obvious I think that Rosa and Luke fall for each other, a very forbidden and difficult romance. But then, these two characters think and act outside the norms of their society. Their attraction to each other isn't so hard to believe. The novel had a solid ending, but this is definitely the beginning of a series. I am very much looking forward to the next book. Bridges have been burned.
I recommend this novel to YA readers that love stories about forbidden romances, witches and historical novels. There is some violence in it against women, even if it is of a supernatural nature.
I received an e-ARC of this novel from the publisher for review purposes. My review was not influenced by this. The opinions in this review are my own.
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