Monday, May 11, 2015

Attempting a book when hormone levels are past high and at "homicidal"

This is generally a Bad Idea.  I read books that make me happy when I am having mood issues.  Or nice, soothing adventure novels with alien conspiracies, because those are wonderfully mind-numbing and amusing.  But woe betide the book that crosses me then.

The Witch Hunter, you're it.

Here's the funny thing about those chemicals: they make me completely irrational.  Or even more irrational that is my daily state.  So when I normally would have said to Netgalley, "No, I don't want to read that book," I said "GIVE ME, THAT I MAY TORTURE MYSELF."  And when I normally would have reasoned that having already read some politely scathing reviews of this book, I really shouldn't read it ... well, I went ahead and started it.  Warning: from here on out there be:

Spoilers
Rants
Crankiness
Lots of Monty Python references

If ye be courageous of heart, or just plain heedless of my ravings, proceed.



I made it 15% of the way into The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker before completely and utterly giving up.  Evidently, this is before even more inane and asinine things occur, according to my friends over at Goodreads who made the ultimate sacrifice and stuck it out.

On a slight tangent, I'm probably going to be using the popular and possibly grating "because + noun" construction in this review a lot.  Because I'm a descriptive linguist, this usage is perfectly acceptable to me (not in like, a resume or a proposal of marriage or anything like that, though.  I'm not a complete Neanderthal).  Actually, the blog All Things Linguistic has a really interesting discussion of the genesis of "because + noun."  Language is always changing to suit the needs of the speakers, so why not just embrace "because + noun" instead of railing against it because those young whippersnappers don't know how to talk?

I use the "because + noun" construction for two reasons;

  1. My actual reasons for feeling a certain way are rather complex and I don't have the time or the space to reiterate them all, so I just shorthand it.  A good example of this would be when I say that I love Loki because Tom Hiddleston.  
  2. I seriously have no idea why something is the way it is and have no decent way of explaining it, hence "because + noun."  This is most commonly expressed as "because reasons" but may be narrowed down a bit, i.e. "because Windows" or "because English."  
So, here we are, after I've (rather passionately) written about linguistic development when I was supposed to be reviewing The Witch Hunter.  But I promise you that it has some bearing on my review.

In the kingdom of Anglia, there were the Twelve Tablets.  The laws of the land.  Then, one day, not so very long ago, King Malcolm created the Thirteenth Tablet which criminalized witchcraft.  Up until that point, herbalists, hedge witches, straight-up witches, and the nastier kinds of wizards (think necromancy!) had existed in Anglia.  A powerful wizard, Nicholas Perevil, even served as the former king's advisor.  But, as we all know, witches are evil and always plot evil things against the non-magical people.  After a magically-created plague devastated Anglia, the new king created the Thirteenth Tablet and empowered his Witch Hunters to go forth and ... hunt ... witches.  

Now hold up just a second.  If you were a warlock (which a male witch--I don't know why the author persists on using "witch" for both sexes, but whatever) with TONS OF MAGICAL POWER, why on Earth would you choose a plague as the means of getting rid of your enemies.  Plagues, by their very nature, spread.  Did Nicholas want to rule a kingdom of nobody?  I mean, what if he was so good at plaguemaking that the plague just killed everyone?  I mean, it didn't, but, there are much better ways of seizing power.  Not that I've personally done it, mind, but I read a lot.  

So Perevil creates a magical plague because reasons, and ends up having the crown turn against him.  

It all feels like a very contrived way to have magic banned in world where magic is possible.  In short, this is the literary equivalent of "because reasons."  

Our Heroine is the amazing Witch Hunter Elizabeth, who is in love with her friend and partner, Caleb (shoot me now, will you?) and who's determined to root out all witches in Anglia.  Except she's also a giant hypocrite because sex.

Although she's not really described in the beginning of the book, evidently Elizabeth is super hot, or the king has run out of options, because ol' degenerate Malcolm has turned his eye to her.  The book uses the neat little euphemism that he "sends" for her.  No, no, no.  He rapes her.  Repeatedly.  In order to prevent pregnancy, Elizabeth buys some herbs, they're found on her person, and she's immediately branded a witch.  


Seriously, in this scene, everyone runs around yelling, "You're a witch!  You're a witch!" which made me long for the simpler days of pitchforks and geese and not this whole Thirteenth Tablet nonsense.


Elizabeth is taken to her boss, Lord Blackwell, to explain herself.  She tells him what the king was doing and he's like, too bad, so sad, herbs=witch, so have fun being executed!  

At the end of this chapter, our insipid heroine states: "I know--deep down, I know--I'm getting what I deserve."

I suppose I could sum that up in "because rape culture," but I'll try to explain a bit more.  

It is not okay for Elizabeth to think that birth control is evil.  It is not okay for her to think that taking precautions against being raped makes her deserving of death.  And it is not okay for that message to go across to other girls reading this book.  I don't care if it is supposed to be indicative of the intolerance in Anglian society or whatever.  Tamora Pierce's heroines used herbs and charms as birth control and it was portrayed as very normal and very positive.  Elizabeth does not "deserve" to die for trying to protect herself.

But it happens anyway, because reasons.

Between that and the silly love thing that has to get tossed in there (because YA! [this is not true, by the way.  I'm just being facetious]) and the fact that brass is the one metal that can restrict magic, because reasons ... my hormones got whipped up into a frothy mess of rage.  

I have no desire to finish this book, and even if you loved this, please consider the implications of Elizabeth's self-condemnation.  

Because rape is never, ever, ever, ever okay.  Not ever.  


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