I read books, I write about books, I would probably marry a book if I could find one who liked me enough. Three words to describe me mature, irresponsible, contradictory, unreliable...oh...that's four...
Ever since a visit to Salem some years back (and to be honest from long before then) the whole story of the witch trials has fascinated me. It's a story of persecution, mass hysteria and of superstition and it's also a story of paranoia and betrayal. Think about this - most of the men who denounced and tortured the women accused of witchcraft knew those women personally, sometimes intimately. They murdered families they had lived beside for years. Sometimes they killed women who had nursed them. They did this not only because they believed in spells and curses and ancient evil. They did this because they were afraid.
Move forward in time a couple of hundred years and in space from New England to London and you find yourself in the world of Witchfinder. Frightened men still persecute witches, but do so in secret, no longer able to openly murder those they suspect of magic. And witches do exist in this world, but the fear that they inspire is mostly misplaced.
Enter the main characters: Luke, a young blacksmith is inducted into the Brotherhood by his uncle. His first task - to kill the witch chosen from a list by the stab of a pin. And the name he chooses at random? Rosamund Greenwood - beautiful, genteelly poor and latest in a long line of distinguished witches.
Well this is YA, so I probably don't need to tell you that Luke and Rosamund are not destined to remain just good friends, but what makes Witchfinder such a good read is that it isn't just a story about a girl finding love, it's a story about a boy overcoming his prejudices and fears. So much romance focuses on the feelings of women, much less comes at love from the male point of view. We like our romantic heroes unknowable and mysterious, from Darcy onwards. It's refreshing to read a story which gives the male half of the equation a voice. And as for the Witchhunter element - well maybe the reason the Salem story interested me so much is how it exposes something pretty deep rooted about the way *some* men think about women - sneaky, scary and not to be trusted. In a very literal way, Luke has to forget everything he's been told about witches/women and learn to trust his own instincts.
As for the setting - well the London of Oliver Twist is about as atmospheric as they come. Anyone (like me) who loves cobbled streets. sinister match factories and creaky old country houses is going to love Witchfinder.