Book Review: Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
I’ve been meaning to start the Hex Hall series by Rachel Hawkins for the better part of the last year. It’s another witchy book series and you can’t have too many witchy books, in my opinion. Of course, if I had known the first book ended on such a cliff hanger I would have made sure to have the second book already on hand so I could start it right away. As it is, I’ll have to wait for my library system to shuffle a copy to me in a day or two. (The big Spencer road library closed in the autumn to move everything to the new library built right behind it. As such, I’ve been forced to use the McClay branch, which, while closer, never has the books I’m looking for actually present.) This book counts as part of the Witches and Witchcraft challenge and the 1st in a series challenge.
Sophie is a witch. After a love spell goes wrong, she’s sent to Hecate Hall, a type of juvenile detention center for the magical world. Sophie discovers that, despite her human mother’s efforts, she knows very little about the world of the Prodigium. She is an outcast among outcasts. With a futile crush on the hot guy and enemies with the popular girl, Sophie has no idea how she is going to survive the next two years at Hex Hall. Then her fellow students start being attacked and her only friend, who just happens to be a vampire, ends up at the top of the suspect list.
The main female character, Sophie, is your pretty standard heroine. Or so I thought. There is a twist about Sophie and her family that keeps her from being a cookie-cutter teenage witch. Of course, there is still the impossible situation to overcome and Sophie ends up being more powerful than her wildest dreams. Come now, there has to be at least some clichés in a witchy book. But the twist is interesting and keeps Sophie from being like all the other teenage witch characters out there. Then we have the usual host of teenage school drama characters. The hot boy narrowly escaped being a cardboard cutout character by possibly being a bad guy. The evil popular girl, while still being an idiot, has some depth behind her. The quirky best friend ends up being a vampire and may or may not be killing people. In all, it’s a fine host of characters and nobody was so annoying that I wanted to strangle them. Not wanting to kill the fictional characters I’m reading about is a good sign for a book.
The tone of Hex Hall was a bit childish to me. I was reading a juvenile book at the same time that had a more mature tone than this book. The writing is simplistic and the author refuses to curse in the book. Hawkins even attempts to be funny about the not cursing and just comes off as awkward. I’m a complete believer in proper voice and reading this book is sort of like watching teens censure themselves because mommy is within earshot. Teens curse, the author obviously means us to know that the character just cursed, so stop being annoying and just put the curse word in. Not that there is cursing in the juvenile book, but the writing is more complex and detailed. Hex Hall also could have used another look by the editor. There were a couple misspelled words, a few missing words, and one sentence where all the spaces had magically disappeared. These types of things get noticed in a published book and reflect negatively on the author and the publisher.
Being a witchy book, most of the conflict comes from somebody being stupid and I knew that this was going to be the case for Hex Hall since Anna muttered the words “Without four, we won’t be strong enough to hold it” within the first 100 pages. (Do you know how many conversations I’ve had that started with the words “So, I think I’ve done something stupid” in the magical context? Too fucking many!) Magic and stupid always equals demon but exactly who the demon turns out to be is a twist. The story takes a spin and you end up facing the wrong way by the time the dust settles and nobody is who you think they are.
When I started Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins I was expecting a witchy book with all the usual clichés and until the last third of the book that was what I got. Then the author dropped the bomb and we were suddenly dealing with a completely different situation than we thought we were. Yay, demons! (shakes pom-poms) Hell spawn are always so much fun. The excellent twist elevated Hex Hall another few points in my opinion and jumped the book from being just okay to pretty good. The second book in the series, Demonglass, is already out and the third book, Spell Bound is scheduled for publication March 2012.