Review

Review: The Witch Hunter (The Witch Hunter #1) by Virginia Boecker

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3 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

I was really excited to read The Witch Hunter, the first book in a new series by Virginia Boecker. I just can’t resist tales of witches, wizards and magic, and alternate history really appeals to me. And whilst The Witch Hunter was a fun, fantasy romp, it was rather predictable and unfortunately included a rather insufferable main character.

The reader is told that Elizabeth is an amazing witch hunter, one of the youngest ever and a female witch hunter to boot. Yet throughout the book she never really proves herself. The story opens with Elizabeth messing up a hunt, when she is sent to capture necromancers. We are then told of how she recently made a lot of mistakes. The reason for this is soon revealed, but at no point did I feel she deserved her status as a talented witch hunter.

I also really was not impressed with how she practically took a disliking to every female character she came into contact with. She even imagined pulling the ex-girlfriend of her crush by the hair – I mean, really?! How old are you? So as well as being naive and clumsy, Elizabeth is also judgmental and a lot of the time I just wanted to push her off her high horse.

Also – love triangle. Well, sort of. Elizabeth pines after two guys – her childhood best friend who is quite frankly an utter arse, and a healer that she meets after being accused of being a witch. There was a lot of wondering about her feelings and trying to ignore them, and honestly I couldn’t care less about the love interests. I was much more interested in the magic, and why it was forbidden – which was never actually explained, now I come to think of it.

The first 15% or so of the book went by very quickly – but that was also where the majority of the story happened. It slowed down significantly after that, although it was still enjoyable and easy to read, if predictable in places. I really liked the pseudo-medieval alternate England setting – at least that’s what I assume it was, being set in ‘Anglia’ with ‘Gaul’ across the Channel. Or rather, I liked the idea of it, as the world-building did not feel very detailed. This is a ‘I had higher expectations’ three stars, but chances are I will end up reading the sequel – not for Elizabeth, but for the magic and alternate England.

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Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #24: Growing Up With Harry Potter

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday is my own feature, posted every other Friday. It’s pretty self-explanatory: I do a feature on something to do with the genre. Sometimes it will be a book recommendation, sometimes showcasing a book or series I’ve loved and other times it might be a discussion post. You’re more than welcome to join in with this feature, let me know if you make your own Fantasy Friday post!

Today I want to talk about: growing up with Harry Potter.

I am of the opinion that I am part of a very lucky generation, because I got to grow up alongside Harry Potter, watching him change from this young orphan, to a boy wizard, from a hormonal teenager to someone who saved the world. I was seven when the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was released, but I don’t think I started reading the series until a year later.

Harry Potter

At that point, I was a little younger than Harry and his friends, my eight to their eleven. However, with the breaks in between books as they got longer and longer, I soon caught up – and the films were perfectly timed. When I went to see the film of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, I was just about to turn eleven, and was eagerly awaiting my own Hogwarts letter. Still waiting for that, by the way…

It was truly magical (pun totally intended) being the same age as these fantastic characters, at this amazing school and being TOTALLY jealous of them. I could identify with so much of what the Golden Trio were going through (you know, encountering three-headed dogs, fighting off a Basilisk, the usual) which made it even more appealing. That year that Harry was super moody and hormonal because, despite being a wizard, he was also a teenager? That was me. I liked that Harry’s first kiss was super awkward and not this amazing life-changing moment that so many books portray it as, because it was realistic. For a series that was about a magical school where teenagers could learn to be witches and wizards, there were so many moments like that, so many realistic moments.

Mmm, so romantic. Yeah.

Mmm, so romantic. Yeah.

Harry Potter is definitely a series that changed my life and had a HUGE effect on my childhood and teenage years – like so many others, I have to thank J.K. Rowling for so much. They are books and films I know I can re-read or re-watch again and again, and I’ll always have those warm fuzzy feelings that come with them. The first shot of Diagon Alley will always be breathtaking, the first sight of Hogwarts makes me feel at home, the loss of Sirius, Dumbledore, Fred, Lupin, Tonks, Snape (ESPECIALLY Snape, ‘The Prince’s Tale’ gets me EVERY time) and so many other characters makes me cry, even though I know it’s coming.

Seeing my beloved book characters on the big screen, at times going through what I felt I was going through, was so wonderful. Here was a series that understood what it was to grow up, and it was growing up right alongside me. As the wonderful J.K. Rowling once said:

“Whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.”

Sirius

Recap

My Trip to Hogwarts, Part Two

Last week I shared the first part of my trip to Hogwarts, aka the Warner Bros Studio Tour. Now, as promised, it’s time for part two! Firstly these images which didn’t want to work last time:

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The pendulum was pretty hypnotic… and remember this??

It’s the Riddle gravestone, as featured in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. After spending forever in the first area of the tour, we came to the outside bit – which of course meant Privet Drive, the Knight Bus and BUTTERBEER!

Butterbeer

It was surprisingly tasty – it reminded me of Iron-Bru a little bit.

Privet Drive and the Potters’ house in Godric’s Hollow.

The next section of the tour was to do with ‘movie wizardry’ – anything to do with special effects, animatronics, CGI etc. For example, this selection of goblin heads and mandrake plants…

It was smaller than the first area, but there was once again just so much stuff that you wouldn’t notice on screen. It’s insane how much effort and dedication the people who worked on the films put in, considering that most of their work would barely be noticed. It just goes to show how truly passionate and enthusiastic everyone working on the Harry Potter films was.

Baby Thestral!; you go around the corner and ARAGOG IS HANGING ABOVE YOUR HEAD AAHH

Then it was onto the next part of the tour, another part in which I could have just stayed all day… Diagon Alley. When you watch the films you really don’t see enough of this place. There is so much stuff in EVERY shop window, and once again the set designers and prop creators and everyone else went above and beyond to create this amazing set.

Gringotts; a shop I don’t even remember seeing once in the films but they made the shopfront and filled up the window anyway. Amazing!

Ollivander’s wand shop; Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment with Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes in the background.

Florian Fortescue’s to the left, including the table on the roof; Eeylops Owl Emporium, my dream shop.

I WANTED TO GO INTO FLOURISH & BOTT’S SO BADLY; Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes! I never even noticed that the man had a body before…

Fred or George, or both?; this was so cool, the ‘sick’ actually came out of her mouth (that sounds really weird out of context…)

Quality Quidditch Supplies, I don’t like the look of that Beater stick in the bottom left of the window…; loving the mannequins in Madam Malkins.

You too could own a Pygmy Puff or Kneazle!

Then it was onto the last area: concept art and scale models. If you’ve not looked at any Harry Potter concept art, then I strongly advise you to do so; there’s such an amazing array of different styles and interpretations, all of it absolutely stunning.

The architect that designed Hogwarts (does anyone remember seeing this statue in the films??); a paper Burrow!

Now, this next bit – which was also the final part of the tour – made me feel really emotional. It was beautifully set up – you walked into this dimly lit room, and there was a HUGE scale model of Hogwarts, with the main themes from the films playing in the background. It was pretty much the highlight of the experience for me, and brought on this massive rush of nostalgia. I wanted to shed a few tears there and then for this series that has, and always will have, so much meaning for me.

Can I buy a replica of this scale model please? Thanks.

The absolute last part of the tour (before the shop, of course) was the interior of Ollivanders – but each wand box had been individually labelled with the names of the cast and crew. It must have taken forever! It was, combined with the amazing tear-inducing Hogwarts scale model, a perfect way to finish the tour.

As for the shop… well we had every intention of going in and stocking up on some Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans, and maybe another souvenir or two. These plans were scuppered when we saw the price of them – £.7.95 a packet. Um. No. Everything in the shop was hideously expensive, which I suppose shouldn’t have been a surprise, so we actually didn’t buy anything… maybe next time, as we’ll be more prepared. The only disappointing part of an amazing day!

And that’s it for my account of the tour! Have you visited the Warner Bros Studio Tour? Which was your favourite bit? If you haven’t, what would you like to see?

Recap

My Trip to Hogwarts, Part One

Warning: this will be an image heavy post!

All through January and half of February, you may have seen me getting a little bit excited about visiting the Harry Potter Studio Tour on 19th February. Me and my best friend had been meaning to go for a while (well pretty much since they announced it, although we have been prepared for this since the age of nine or ten…), so I said I’d take her as a birthday present. After a LOT of trying to work out when we could both go (we work totally different hours), we finally settled on a date and booked it. Only to realise that it was half term week, arrgh! Meaning that the tour would be full of annoying little kids… And then the other problem – getting to Watford Junction without breaking the bank. Although we live only an hour and a half from central London by train, the prices were suddenly incredibly steep, not to mention the getting from London Paddington to Watford Junction itself. Thank goodness for the National Express, is all I can say.

Giant chess pieces outside the main entrance!

When the day came I had some fears – I thought the tour might be ruined by all the little kids running around, as we’d inadvertently booked during the school holidays, and just the thought of taking THREE coaches to get there left me feeling tired. But luckily, the tour was full of people from all age groups, which was really nice. People like us who’d obviously grown up with the series, younger fans and small children, older fans, families. Basically, everyone there was a huge nerd for the series and it felt like one big Harry Potter fan party, which was pretty awesome.

But now, onto the tour itself!

The main lobby is pretty cool – loads of photos of various characters around the walls, the shop entrance which is SO enticing, and the Ford Anglia! And a Starbucks, which seemed kind of… surreal. We got there a bit early for our slot so were tempted to go into the shop first, but one of the staff members advised us to line up first as we’d end up in the shop anyway – of course. And it was good advice, as the line moved pretty quickly.

The entrance lobby, featuring character photos and the Ford Anglia.

After queuing up, you enter a small room which features posters of the films from all over the world – it was fun trying to spot the different languages and countries. There, one of the guides explains the tour to you (and the rules – no touching of the exhibits, boo!), and then you go on to a little cinema where you watch a film about the creation of the studio tour. Which is in stages J and K, funnily enough! And then… into the Great Hall. I could’ve spent HOURS in that bit alone, but unfortunately that’s the only part where your time is limited. Here are some snaps I took of the Great Hall and various props and costumes within:

Hufflepuff uniforms; the Slytherin table; Slytherin uniforms; Gryffindor uniforms; Hagrid, Fang and Filch; Dumbledore and his owl lectern; wider shot of the Great Hall.

I barely heard what the tour guide was saying when I was in there, I was feeling pretty emotional and just soaking everything in. I’ve quite literally grown up with the Harry Potter series: I read the first book not too long after it came out, when I was eight or nine, and fell in love. The first film came out when I was eleven, meaning that I was the same age as Harry, Ron and Hermione with each film. It’s always been a series that I’ve absolutely loved and followed, the excitement of each book and then film was almost too much every time! So you can imagine how it felt, to be in this place that was so familiar from my childhood – to actually be there. Unfortunately, our time in the Great Hall came to an end, and we were moved on to the main area, which you can walk through at your leisure. Here are some of my favourite bits from the main hall:

The ice sculpture from the Yule Ball, from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Dumbledore’s office; tapestry from the Gryffindor common room.

The Potions classroom.

The Burrow, home of the Weasley family.

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Amazingly detailed Death Eater mask; the fountain from the Ministry of Magic.

All the Umbridges; AWESOME CASE OF THINGS THAT I WANT AND NEED IN MY LIFE.

Wizard money that you never actually see in the film but they made it anyway (how awesome is that?); book heaven.

I’M SO SORRY I CANNOT STOP WITH THE PHOTOS. It is really difficult narrowing down the things I want to show you all, I took almost 350 photos whilst we were there. I’ve decided to split this post into two parts, meaning I can show off MORE pictures and not have to worry quite as much about loading times. So this is it for now, next week I’ll post about the outside area onwards (which means Butterbeer!) Next week I’ll post the rest, and round up my feelings about the whole thing (SPOILER: IT WAS AMAZING.)

Have you been to the Harry Potter Studio Tour yourself, or would you like to go? What is your favourite thing about the series, or is there something you REALLY want to see from the films – be it a prop, costume or set?