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Review by Christina Jane.
The King Slayer by Virginia Boecker is a sequel to the book The Witch Hunter. Her new work follows directly on from The Witch Hunter’s narrative, with just a few months separating the storylines. The author spent four years in England and became fascinated with English medieval history which she returns to frequently throughout her work, particularly some of the barbaric practices of the past like the burning of witches in her first book.
The King Slayer benefits from its eye catching title. The name, of course, implies that a king is going to be slayed – but the question is which king? The first possible victim is King Malcolm, who we discover was a terrible ruler for many years, and who ended the lives of hundreds of innocent people. Another option is Blackwell who plans to usurp King Malcolm’s position, and who can and will kill anyone in his way to achieve his goal. Indeed, this was his intention in the first book but it didn’t happen. More twists arise when the reader considers who will be on the throne once even man is dead; the throne would presumably have to go to one of them but neither of them seem fit for the position.
Character progression is a big aspect of Boecker’s writing. One of the central protagonists, Elizabeth, started out as a witch hunter who worked for Blackwell and the king of Anglia, who despised witches and wanted nothing more than to see them wiped out. However, a betrayal by Blackwell leads her into a shared life with wizards, and an eventual romance.
John, Elizabeth’s love interest, was introduced in the first book as a shy, kind-hearted boy who wanted to help others through using magic. Though his character lacks the depth given to those around him, the change in how he is perceived by others is clear to the reader. Through his association with Elizabeth, he gains a part of Blackwell’s power, which eventually changes him for the worse. Instead of helping people he begins hurting them, even the people around him who he once loved. We do however, get a surprising moral resolve from John’s story. He is redeemed as he turns back to being good again, rediscovering his identity.
Pages are filled with plot twists and surprises, some good but even more are bad. The pace of the story was perfect; they could have made the final battle longer, and there were sections which didn’t seem to add to the overall narrative, but overall everything combines effectively and missing anything would reduce from the overall impact of the conclusion.
I loved the book and couldn’t recommend it highly enough. Having also enjoyed The Witch Hunter – I couldn’t put it down and finished the book within two days – I was glad to see Boecker return to familiar themes and characters. The King Slayer is a good mixture between fantasy and realism. The only bad thing I could say about this book is that the author is a sucker for happy endings.