“The Witch Finder” is a dystopian post-apocalyptic story where the America we once knew, and the world as a whole, has been practically destroyed when fragments of the moon crashed to earth, triggering a nuclear war. In the aftermath, the survivors went back to tribe-like societies, forgetting their history in order to survive. By the time the book starts, we are close to a thousand years after the apocalypse and are in the south of America where magic is real, and The Church has become God instead of the other way around. That’s where Malachi and his crew come in. They hunt down not only magic users (witches, that all tend to be women) but also heretics and people who go against The Church in a “free thinker” sort of vein. Malachi is not likeable to start, he’s not meant to be, as the whole story focuses on his transformation from staunch believer in The Church to a free thinker himself. I just don’t think his transformation was as complete as I would have liked.
I won’t go into details about the transformation that Malachi undergoes, but even close to the end, I had a hard time believing he had truly given up The Church and started to change his ideology versus just wanting to get back at the person responsible for his most brutal wounds (physical and emotional). For me, personally, it meant that I never truly liked him as a main character and yearned for a stronger “ah-ha!” moment from him that went beyond just revenge. But the author does a great job in showing just how difficult it is to overcome religious trauma and brainwashing, so in that way, Malachi’s struggles were very real. That aside, the story’s pacing was excellent and moved along extremely well with just the right amount of world building interspersed throughout giving the whole book a sort of mystery-thriller feel to it as well. In fact, besides Malachi, my only other qualm was around how rushed Teska felt as a character as well as her relationship with Malachi.
Like most dystopian and post-apocalyptic stories, this fantasy was extremely dark. It’s full of brutal medieval torture and can be particularly triggering if you are dealing with your own religious trauma, so just know that going in. it fit very well with the plot and vibe of the book, and was well done, but I know those things aren’t for everyone. This book sets up an excellent foundation for the rest of the books in the series, I just wish I liked Malachi more and Teska had been given more time—hence the 4 stars. But if you’re a fan of dystopian stories with a touch of dark, epic fantasy, give “The Witch Finder” a try! And thanks to the author for the copy!
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