Witch Hunter by Willow Sears
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Story Rating: 4.5 out of 5 paddles
Sting Factor (kink): 3 out of 5
I’m not entirely sure what to make of this one, because I’m not entirely sure how seriously to take it. Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.
Hot on the tail of a series of disappearances, stripling reporter Mimi returns to the little English village of her birth, only to discover that a witch named Morgana, actually the mortal reincarnation of the goddess/priestess Paculla Annia, has reestablished her mystery cult on an estate off in the hills, where she and her sex-crazed cultists and abducted male slaves hold their bacchanalian orgies.
The witch’s Vader and the villain of the piece, Haydn Shady, is a seriously unstable homorepressed crazy-as-balls giant dude who thinks he is literally the Kurgan from the first Highlander movie, and he has been chosen by Morgana/Paculla Annia to be an object of worship for her modern-day bacchantes, who are all abductees taken from a weight-loss program, shipped to the United States for cosmetic surgery and asshole bleaching to make them look “perfect” and more like her, then brought back to be trained in the ways of the ancient rites so that they can run down human sacrifices in the fields of merry olde Englande and have lots of riotous orgies.
Well, to be fair, the running down human sacrifices part is really Shady’s idea of a good time, and that’s the fate he has in mind for Mimi once he discovers her snooping around. The witch Morgana wants her for a lover; she’s sort of overwhelmingly creepy about it, but at least it doesn’t involve human sacrifice. Now Morgana must face and deal with the monster she has created in Haydn Shady, and Mimi is caught at the center of it, barely able to understand what is happening to her.
If you think this sounds both utterly hilarious and completely insane, you would be correct. I think, but cannot be certain, that this was meant to be tongue-in-cheek humorous throughout (I hope so, because I don’t want to be insulting) but if so, the story takes itself seriously, and the intent is betrayed only in the absolutely superb comedic timing evident in the prose.
Intentional or not, it turns the book into something like a work of genius. About a third of the way in, my inner protestations that it was kind of awful vanished, and I realized I was reading something so profoundly, enthusiastically bizarre that it no longer mattered whether the awfulness was intentional. It was sublime. It reminded me of cult movie classic Lair of the White Worm in that way. Yes, I absolutely mean that as a compliment. There were points at which I was knuckling away genuine tears of mirth.
The book flits from kink to kink, never lingering long in one place, and never making such a focused study of any of them that it would be right to single any out as central. Humiliation, spanking, a little bit of forced exercise, lactation, anal sex, double penetration, grudging and insistently no-homo (sorry, dude, so homo) bicuriosity, fucking machines, masturbation, mind control. . . . I’m probably forgetting as many as I am listing. It takes a sort of shotgun approach to kinks, slinging perversity around like J-lube at a competitive fisting event, so that there’s guaranteed to be something here that you’re into, as well as something you aren’t. (I, having survived an eating disorder, was almost unable to persevere through the first third of the book, but that avenue was abandoned, and I am very, very glad I persisted, because it was at about that point it really got going. In a feat sadly unusual for fetish stories of the sort, it does manage to deal with forced weight loss without too horrendously demonizing or fetishizing certain types of body. I didn’t get the sense these were the author’s views, though because those are common opinions, they may well be. So, kudos on that. And also, you know, mild-moderate trigger warning if you have ED issues.)
Its only real flaw comes in being so intentionally/unintentionally/I-don’t-even-know-anymore hilarious that it was difficult – no, more or less impossible – to read most of it for purposes of wanking. The hotness was not enough to overcome my ongoing amusement.
There were a couple of notable exceptions: the scenes between Morgana and Mimi were all pretty hot, especially the last one; and the unsubtly threatening scene between Dominic and Shady was totally unexpectedly steamy but also probably my favorite, despite me not liking either of the characters as people.
The plot was well-constructed, the book was well-paced, the shifts between point of view were handled well and each voice was distinct. This is the work of someone who knows what they are doing on a structural level . . . and they chose to do this. Which, for reasons I find difficult to articulate, brings me near the brink of happy tears.
The frenzied, orgiastic climax was suitably bizarre, alarming, and insane; the resolution was handled very well, and I found it satisfying. Room is left for a sequel, and I do hope there will be one, but it all ties up neatly with a bow and will stand on its own.
The extraordinary thing is that there’s some respectable lunges made in the direction of historical accuracy here, and I found that both laudable and refreshing. I enjoy urban fantasy, modern witchcraft type stories, and I enjoy seeing how people reimagine gods and magic and so forth, but I do also like to see people take something that was real and use it.
As a fan of the first Highlander movie and the associated soundtrack – arguably the best soundtrack in the history of soundtracks – my greatest disappointment in the book is that the author did not take the opportunity to have her seriously crazed villain deliver the classic Kurgan line “Give me the prize!” just before plunging balls-deep into some hapless fat-bottomed cultist. It’s enough to make the baby Freddie Mercury cry. This could be remedied in a sequel.
Bottom line, you should probably read this. You will either not see what I’m talking about, take it seriously, and think it’s a rollicking good time, or you will see exactly what I’m getting at, laugh your ass off, and think it’s a rollicking good time. In the latter case, I recommend friends and booze.
Reviewed by Naamah