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Aug13

The Witch Hunter Trilogy by K.S. Marsden (Book Review)

THE SHADOW RISES

 

(Normally I don’t like to add these little disclaimers but I have to make an exception for this review because the author has helped me by participating in beta reads and reviewing my work. I am now here to return the favor. So yes, I have received this book for free but this does not influence my honest opinion of how I felt reading it.)

 

When I first heard about the Shadow Rises, it was actually through having K.S. Marsden participate in my beta read for my book series The Silver Ninja. We exchanged messages and I saw, “Book 1 The Shadow Rises coming soon.” Out of sheer curiosity, I followed the links and was greeted with a fascinating premise. Witches are real and the witch-hunters (MMC) need to stop them. Oh, and the covers to her books are really awesome.

 

I was originally hesitant to request a copy to review this book because Marsden had already reviewed my work and I am brutally honest with my opinions which some people don’t receive well.

 

Thankfully after I finished reading book one of the Witch-Hunter series, I am pleased to say that there will be no one-star reviews here. It was an immensely enjoyable read. HOWEVER! I will say that though this book is wonderful, there were some technical issues that prevented me from giving it a full five star rating. Call me psychic, but I know the author will improve these issues with each new release.

 

So let’s start with the bad and work our way to the good, yeah?

 

First off, Hunter, James, Sophie, and the Shadow Witch are the main characters we follow in this series. They’re fun, they have personality, they made me laugh, they’re extremely likeable, but something wasn’t quite right. I felt that they were hollow. Weird huh? The problem is and this is something that plagues the entire book, is that there’s not enough world and character building.

 

Since the chapters are so short and the plot moves so quickly, we don’t really get time to get to know these characters. I never really got to -know- Hunter or James. I was expecting stories from the MMC, pranks they pulled together, something that gave these characters history and depth that was more than just James never listens to me. I couldn’t visualize them in my head or see what they looked like with the exception of Sophie.

 

Of all the characters, Sophie was my favorite. Maybe I like a cold bitch or maybe she was just well thought out. Sophie has what many female protagonists lack in these books and that’s agency. She wants what she wants and she will do anything to get it, even if it means pissing off James and frustrating the hell out of Hunter. She’s an excellent character.

 

Her awesomeness unfortunately takes away from the romance that develops between her and Hunter. For some reason I just wasn’t convinced that the two were falling or had fallen in love. It was missing those little tender moments where they held hands or his arm draped across her shoulder. Just something that showed a love that was growing between the two.

 

Though I wasn’t sold on the relationship or the crazy worldwide event that happens in this book. I am convinced that Marsden has some serious writing chops. Her descriptions of magic were spectacular and made an entirely fictional force feel real and believable. The words she used to describe spells gave them weight and power and really conjured images of powerful bolts of magic being flung by the evil witches.

 

Where the book started to stumble a little bit was when a catastrophic world wide event takes place. Supposedly, the world falls into disarray after this event but the descriptions used didn’t really convey that. Instead of seeing looters scavenging through stores, cars turned over and on fire, blacked out city lights, we’re told “the world fell into chaos.”

 

I wanted more. More detail, more world building (which is weird because I usually hate too much world building), more character depth, more showing and not telling. These are the flaws that hold this book back but don’t let that discourage you from reading. The Shadow Rises is a real gem that shows a talented indie author in the making.

 

So now let’s get to the good parts!

 

Where it lacked in depth, it made up for in story. Every end of a chapter had a wonderful hook that made it difficult for me to put down. I wanted to keep reading to find out what happened next but I would often fall asleep on my bed forgetting that I was trying to finish the next chapter. Since the pacing is so fast and the chapters so short, it’s easy to think that you can read just one more chapter before bed.

 

Again, the characters, the wonderful characters. You really come to love and enjoy these people which is why I had wanted more of their history. They were so interesting and so charming and so memorable that I loved reading about them. The plot left me guessing at every turn and when Marsden revealed a plot twist ace up her sleeve, my jaw dropped. I was literally staring at the text going, “No way. NO WAY! Did she really just go there?”

 

AND THAT’S WHEN THE BOOK ENDED! UGH!

 

Is there magic? Yes.

Is there action? Yes.

Is there a bit of romance? Yes.

 

Essentially, what the book does well it does remarkably well which allows me to overlook the handful of typos and prose that needed a bit more punch added to it.

 

If you like great characters and a plot that keeps you hooked until the very end, then I can definitely recommend you pick up The Shadow Rises. I cannot wait to see what book two has in store for me!

 

THE SHADOW REIGNS

 

The Shadow Reigns is the sequel to book 1 The Shadow Rises in K.S. Marsden’s the witch hunter trilogy. Originally, K.S. sent me the digital copy of books 1, 2, and 3 so that I could read them and review them. Unfortunately, without a kindle or tablet, it was impossible for me to read these books in a timely fashion. So, rather than never finish I decided to buy both books so I can read and write the review this author deserves.

 

She did not disappoint.

 

The Shadow Rises is a big improvement over the first book but also takes a few steps back in terms of pacing and character agency. I could see just from the first paragraph alone that Marsden practiced her craft and improved on creating visuals rather than telling about them. Her prose is light and enjoyable and distinctly British. So for you American readers out there, THOSE ARE NOT TYPOS!

 

Let’s talk about pacing first because I felt that this book moved a little slow. Though I liked the direction the book was going in, I couldn’t help but feel that most of this book had trouble finding its rhythm. The intro and middle is a slog because our hero, Hunter Astley spends most of his time milling about his mansion and recuperating from his injuries in the previous book.

 

This also led into the problem of character agency because both the MMC (Witch hunting group) and the British Military are all housed at Astley manor. Why is this an issue? Well because instead of hunting down the witch threat, they are just sitting on their asses (or arses if you prefer)!

 

This was very similar to a problem I had with the previous book. The reasoning and logic behind the military action didn’t feel very believable. Military’s are known for their go-get em attitude regardless of nation and when teamed up with an organization that HUNTS witches, it would make more sense for them to attack the Shadow Witch rather than wait for her to make an appearance.

 

I understand that the events from book 1 made it more difficult to hunt the witches but they would hunt them with sticks and stones if they had to. Instead they were passive as if locked down by the plot or the need to make the main characters more important. Unfortunately, because this is such a short book it felt like the reason the beginning of this book was so slow was because there wasn’t enough content to justify an entire novel. It’s a novella disguised as a novel.

 

However, once the magic showed up, then things got interesting again. Describing magic is what Marsden does well and when you read her descriptions you feel that the spells have a logic that make them seem real. From waves of energy rolling off the shoulders, to how magic is perceived when pushing through a magical wall, the description of magic is as vivid as the spells they’re describing.

 

A quick aside: to me the magic always seemed purple. Anyone else get that vibe? I like that I can ask that question.

 

Though her descriptions of magic were amazing, there were some bits in the action scenes that left me super confused. In one section of the book there is a bit where a military character dies. I wasn’t sure where they were in the world, what they were doing, and even after re-reading the section I couldn’t visualize what was happening in the scene. To this day I’m still not sure why or how the character died and I think that section needed a bit more polish.

 

Thankfully, this is the only notable section of the book where I got confused. Everything else fell into place like it should have and as a nice little bonus, Marsden added some character development that was sorely lacking in the first book. Hunter’s mom stole a few scenes by being a horrible human being and a stubborn old mule but entertaining nonetheless. James continued to have great comebacks and witty remarks that left me chuckling and a few new characters helped make a trip to the pub into a fun little diversion to get to know everyone and even watch some romance develop.

 

Sadly, this leaves Hunter to be the wallflower of the group. The cocky, arrogant witch hunter that believed he could defeat the world had become more quiet this time around. He wasn’t somber or anything like that but you could tell that his personality shrunk inward. This makes sense from a story perspective and it really made me root for him to get his old charm back.

 

Oh wait, there’s one more character I failed to mention because she went MIA for 99% of the book. WHERE . . . WAS . . . SOPHIE!?!?!?! Oh my gosh, I was so bummed that Sophie wasn’t featured as prominently in this book! I needed more Sophie in my life because she was such a cool and fun character and yet she was gone! Man, what a disappointment!

 

Finally and most importantly. I felt like there wasn’t enough conflict in this book. The stakes weren’t high enough and in terms of content, nothing much happened. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed reading the book but I almost felt like this whole thing could have been put into the beginning of book three.

 

But hold on, though I don’t think book 2 is the strongest entry in the trilogy it is absolutely one of the most emotionally gripping. Beware, spoilers ahead.

 

(No but seriously, skip the spoiler section if you want to read the trilogy. The best part about these books is the fact that they keep you guessing.)

 

**SPOILERS**

<spoiler>Probably the reason why Marsden didn’t have a lot of conflict in her book is because . . . SHE FREAKING KILLS JAMES!!!!!! AND ALL OF HUNTER’S FRIENDS WHAT!?!?!?!?!? Oh and James was falling in love and his life is cut short! This was a genuine tragedy that broke my heart.</spoiler>

**SPOILERS**

 

The ending of this book was so powerful that I wanted to cry. I was way too attached to what I was reading and I just couldn’t believe what had happened. The stakes went so high up and left on such a powerful note that I literally sat there, staring at the book, wondering, <i>Did she really just do that to me?</i>

 

Though the book is admittedly light, it sure ended with a bang. The bang was so great that I had to read the third and final book right away.

 

THE SHADOW FALLS

 

The Shadow Falls by K.S. Marsden is the third and final book in the Witch Hunter trilogy. I’ve read the Shadow Rises, The Shadow Reigns, and now we’re finally to the conclusion of this great and fun series.

 

As always, Marsden seems to improve with each book and now Hunter is finally back into taking matters into his own hands. He goes to find the Benandanti in Italy in order to further his mysterious talent in casting anti magic spells. Considering what Hunter’s been through to get to this point, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. Spoilers are coming up so skip em if you’re planning to read.

 

**SPOILERS**

<spoiler> All of Hunter’s friends are dead. The battle at the end of the second book pretty much wiped everyone out and also brought a heart breaking end to Hunter’s best friend, James. So to see him alone in this Italian countryside was very somber. </spoiler>

**SPOILERS**

 

The pacing was much improved over the second book. There’s no meandering about Astley manor just waiting for conflict to come to him. Hunter now actively seeks out knowledge in order to end the conflict once and for all. Simply by giving Hunter the agency he needed vastly improved the flow of the story and kept everything moving at a great pace.

 

Also, I mentioned this before but it really needs to be mentioned again. K.S. Marsden really impressed me with her mastery of character voice. You could remove all the dialogue tags from this book and I’m pretty sure I would be able to identify which character is which by how Marsden masterfully made each voice feel unique. I knew who James was, instantly knew who Kristen was, Hunter’s mother, Mel, every character felt distinct and different and they each had a personality to make them memorable.

 

I’m not gonna lie, I’m envious on how easy Marsden made it all seem.

 

However, I did have a bit of a nit picky moment when it came to the motive for the Shadow Witch’s hatred.

 

**SPOILERS**

<spoiler>(Disclaimer, this is not a prominent feature of the book so don’t let it turn you away.)

I was super disappointed by the usage of the rape card. It has become an all too common motive to trigger a woman’s anger.

Rape is a very strong and traumatic event. It can seriously wound someone’s mental health and leave them wary of strangers or worse. Unfortunately, considering that this book was all about magic and witchcraft and all those wonderful and mysterious things. I found myself wishing that a different motive could have been found. Maybe a witch hunter blocked a spell and caused an explosion that killed a loved one or something that could have been blamed on the MMC’s interference.</spoiler>

**SPOILERS**

 

Though I wasn’t a fan of the Shadow Witch’s motive, what left me a little bummed was that Hunter never got back to his normal self. He used to be a cocky ladies man who thought he was God’s gift to women. Instead, due to traumatic events from the 1st two books Hunter becomes a quiet, mopey dude who lost all his attitude. It’s understandable why Marsden wrote him this way, I was just rooting for him to find himself which we only get to see glimpses of.

 

Thankfully, Kristen Davies comes to the rescue by being loud, obnoxious, and very forward. Can you say new favorite character? Hell yes! I love, love, loved reading about Kristen Davies. Her scenes were amusing and she brought back a life and energy that was sorely missing from Hunter’s world. Oh and a quick aside. I don’t know what Hunter’s mom’s problem is but man she’s a nasty old witch (not the magical kind). Marsden really cut it close with making this character unlikeable but thankfully she never crosses the line. So the old battleaxe actually ends up being kind of funny.

 

Remember when I was complaining about lack of Sophie in the 2nd book? Well this time I was given a reprieve. Sophie does come back but not quite in the way I was hoping for. Rather than interacting with Hunter in real life, Sophie starts to appear in his dreams. You get glimpses of what life would have been like if Hunter and Sophie had gotten together. The dreams were so detailed that I started to wonder if this was a psychic prediction or if it was reality. It was actually pretty cool to have that kind of doubt.

 

Okay so, dangit I need to go into spoiler territory again.

 

**SPOILERS**

<spoiler>Sophie is the mother f’ing Shadow Witch! She schemed her way into the MMC, killed Hunter’s friends, then fell in love with Hunter and had his baby. I mean, the drama was ripe for the picking. Sophie is still in love with Hunter, doesn’t want to hurt him and yet . . . they’re sworn enemies.</spoiler>

**SPOILERS**

 

On the nitpicky side of things. I noticed that after Chapter 34 I started seeing a lot of typos. I’m not talking about color vs colour British spellings but rather typos that slipped under the editing radar. It only seemed to happen after 34, otherwise the book up to this chapter is solid and clean.

 

World building was also another thing that just never came across as believable. Everything felt rather vacant and abandoned without any hint of life or how life was like without technology. Though there were moments where they’d run into civilians on the street, it still didn’t quite come alive the same way her descriptions of magic did.

 

However, characters and plot twists and shocker moments, K.S. Marsden really hits the nail on the head with this series. The plot felt very unpredictable for me (which is rare) and I was constantly hoping that everything would work out for the best. I never truly knew if my theories were on point and thankfully they were not. It left me guessing the entire time and played with my emotions in the way a good book should always do.

 

This is a huge compliment because if you didn’t know, K.S. Marsden is an indie author. This is a great debut series from a new author and I hope that she finds more success in all of her future works.

 

So in case I didn’t make myself clear. You should absolutely read the Witch Hunter trilogy.

 

Wilmar Luna

Couldn't be a superhero in real life so he decided to write his own. When he's not creating empowered female characters he can be found watching films, reading books, and playing lots of video games.
Buy his books here: https://www.thesilverninja.com/purchase/
Wilmar Luna
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