Standing knee-deep in water in the flooded medieval dungeon, I raise my pistol to my lips, kiss its polished barrel and pray hastily that our ambush works. I lean out of the cell, take aim down the tunnel and fire at the closest of the unsuspecting Dutch soldiers. He staggers back, holding his blasted chest.
My signal given, six English soldiers spring out of the adjacent cells that line the tunnel, level their muskets and pistols at the Dutchmen and blast away. Before the powdered flashes from our firearms have cleared, my fellow Hexenjager Armand races out from one of the cells and terars into the startled Dutch soldiers, his mortuary blade and sabre moving with blinding speed. Three of the Dutchmen drop dead, clutching at wounds they never saw delivered.
The Witch Hunter Chronicles are set in the 17th Century at a time when witches and devils added to the dangers of living. To counter these dangers, countries established groups of elite hunters to fight evil. The Devil’s Fire is instalment three in this series. Jakob and his fellow Hexenjager (witch hunters) are German and a search for Jakob’s father is postponed when they discover that demonic soldiers, the Sons of Cain, have stolen a medieval bible and are headed for London. It is clear that their plan must be foiled if the city, and humanity, is to be saved. The Hexenjager ally with a brother-order of English witch hunters, although each group is accustomed to working solo and slow to trust the other. Trust is essential if this race-against-the-clock mission is to succeed.
Jakob is the youngest member of the elite fighting order, the Hexenjager. The team also includes an Italian, Francesca, an almost-giant, von Frankenthal, and the almost narcissistic Armand. Armand is their leader, but each has particular skills to bring to their team. Jakob is still learning but his skills are fast improving and the team are moving from treating him as a child to considering him an equal. There is action aplenty and a seemingly inexhaustible supply of villains. This is an adventure grand style! Themes include the fight for good and evil, trust and friendship. Along the way, the reader is introduced to a fascinating history with which they may have been unfamiliar. This is episode three, and although there are references to previous adventures and hints of others to come, ‘The Devil’s Fire’ stands comfortably on its own. Recommended for early- to mid-secondary readers.
The Devil’s Fire (Witch Hunter Chronicles) by Stuart Daly
Random House 2012
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
Available from good bookstores or online.