*exhales* First off, NO. I had to get that out of the way. I tried really hard to like Witch Finder. I went in with the lowest expectations possible, because several of my reader friends were reading it just before I did and warned me that it didn't look that good. A pity, because I still absolutely adore the cover. But, as it was a review copy, I went ahead and read it anyway. For the most part, I was not amused.
I received this review copy rather late and was in a bit of a reading slump, so to still have my review up reasonably on time, I read most of it in one sitting. A good thing too, because if I had put it down more than once, I can't promise that I would have picked it back up again. Reading it in one sitting also helped to engross me in the story, so much so that I was quite enjoying the middle part of it and debated whether it was worth 3 stars. But overall... no.
So Witch Finder promises us the story of a witch, Rosa, and a witch hunter, Luke, who is assigned to kill her as an initiation into a brotherhood of witch hunters. The plot, however, is stretched terribly thin. The beginning and end were rather boring and strayed into the realm of, "Huh? What?" Luke is on a mission to kill Rosa. You'd think there'd be more suspicion, plotting, etc., but no. He makes a couple attempts and quickly realizes he cares too much for Rosa, she's too much of an ordinary girl, for him to kill her. But where is the plot aside from that? I kept reading, trying to find it, but there was just no driving force to the story. A new plot arc is introduced in the last quarter of the book, and it was just really disjointed.
The world for that matter also made no sense to me. While it is our world in 1880, magic is in the world, and in the first couple chapters it's said that this is common knowledge. That fact is hardly used at all in the book. Sure, the witches are in hiding, and there's this secret brotherhood trying to kill them all, but ordinary people seem like they don't know witches exist, when according to the earlier chapters they should. And where do politics come in? There's some political body mentioned a few times, but no laws about witchcraft or anything. It was just so much missed potential. *sigh* The magic that is used in the book is also hardly noteworthy. Since Rosa has to be discrete about her magic around the house (given the normal human servants), the only spells we ever really see in this book are for things like starting a fire, mending some clothes, and making stains disappear. I mean really.
But for what it's worth, I did enjoy the romance between Luke and Rosa. It's the reason why I really enjoyed the middle of the book. I guess the way that Luke struggled with his fear of becoming a killer and his growing feelings for her did manage to touch my ice cold heart somehow. It wasn't instalove, really, although they do hop quickly to "I love you". That, however, I more or less accepted as part of the time period and of the dire circumstances they kept tumbling into. So I appreciated the romance, and it was probably the highlight of the book.
My largest issue with this book is the rampant and blatant sexism and female oppression. You might say, "Well, duh, Debby, it's set in 1880." Yes, I know, this is set in our world more or less (plus a tiny bit of magic) and that was basically the scene in the 19th century. Female oppression was a thing. It happened, certainly. But does that mean I want to read about it? Not exactly. Does that mean it should be blatantly shoved in my face like this? No. You're putting magic in this world, couldn't you have chilled a tiny bit on the living standards for females? Even if it's realistic, this crossed the line into serious uncomfortable territory.
So Rosa is from a family with good standing who recently lost all their fortune. Basically, their last hope is for Rosa to get married to a rich husband. They have their eye on Sebastian, another witch and long time family friend. Alexis, Rosa's brother, from the very start of the book commands Rosa around to do precisely as he says and more or less orders her to seduce Sebastian. Her mother basically does the same. Alexis is a prick and her mother actually slaps her for disobeying her. But Sebastian... oh, Sebastian, it turns out, is the hugest dick to ever grace this planet. On pretty much their first "date", he whips his dog to death for being disobediant. Rosa, after this, understandably is freaked the fuck out by him. She can hardly contain her fear. Her family tells her to get over it, because it was "just a dog". He then quickly, for whatever reason, decides that yes, he wants to marry Rosa. (Honestly I still can't understand this, because all throughout the book they mention that almost everyone knows that their family is broke, so why on earth would he want to marry her anyway? They don't have a good banter or talk much before he proposes anyway.) Then, he slips this ring on her finger that he magically tightens until she can never take it off. He starts referring to her as "his" and commanding her around.
Every second, she pretty much confesses that she's scared to death of this man. So after she gets engaged, she sneaks off to get some air and finds Luke. Luke has saved her life, and long story short, they kiss. Sebastian catches them, and BEATS HER TO A BLOODY PULP. He yells at her, screams that he'll kill her. This man is a raging psychopath. Words cannot describe the rage.
Do they break up after this? No. He doesn't leave her, even as he yells that he will not tolerate infidelity, and the reasoning is... he loves her? At least, that's what he keeps saying for the rest of the book. I'm still asking why. She has no fortune, which is public knowledge. She has reasonable looks. But he's wealthy as fuck. He surely could have found someone better. And then he could have gotten the fuck out of this book.
Like, did this happen, was it realistic in 1880? I'm sure to an extent it is. But that doesn't mean I want it in my books. Honestly, the book should come with a warning label, because there is some MAJOR abuse going on, not just from Sebastian, but also from Rosa's mother and brother. This was not at ALL what I was expecting from this book. It seriously made me uncomfortable, and every time I think about it since, I just have a hot flash of rage. No. Just no.
The ending also takes a major cop out. Not only does the villain stupidly reveal his plans to obviously let the two main characters escape safely, but how they escape happens in a toss up ~fade to black~. Thanks to Christina, I've found the apt term for this: Too Stupid To Die. If my earlier rage about female oppression wasn't enough, by this time I was just yelling, "FUCK THIS SHIT," but it was too late to DNF the book.
I can't. I just can't. Just no. I tried so hard with this book, and for a while it had me fooled, but that's only because the romance played off my emotions. At most I would maybe have considered giving it 3 stars at some point, but I just can't. While I thought it was an interesting and possibly accurate depiction of the time period, the late 19th century, it's a depiction that just makes me rage. Hence the long review. I just cannot with this book. Can. Not. No.
No one. Definitely no feminists. Stay away.
*ARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley. Thank you! This does not affect the rating or content of this review. Clearly.