Sunday 1 May 2016

HEX by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Whoever is born here, is doomed to stay until death. Whoever comes to stay, never leaves. 

 Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a seventeenth-century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Blind and silenced, she walks the streets and enters homes at will. She stands next to children's beds for nights on end. So accustomed to her have the townsfolk become that they often forget she's there. Or what a threat she poses. Because if the stitches are ever cut open, the story goes, the whole town will die. 

The curse must not be allowed to spread. The elders of Black Spring have used high-tech surveillance to quarantine the town. Frustrated with being kept in lockdown, the town's teenagers decide to break the strict regulations and go viral with the haunting. But, in so doing, they send the town spiraling into a dark nightmare.

I received an ARC of this book and was very excited about reading it because I love horror, and I'm always on the lookout for super scary stories.

The town of Black Spring appears to be a lovely place with beautiful views and a dark mythology that attracts visitors. Yet, it's very different to other towns. For starters, a 300-year-old witch randomly appears wherever/whenever she wants. And the residents don't mind. The creepy Black Rock Witch is dirty, chained and has her eyes and mouth sewn shut. She's a curse the town lives with every day. A team called HEX keep an eye on her via some very high-tech surveillance and always know where she is. Plus all the residents are sworn to secrecy and are severely punished if they break the strict rules.

Anyone who moves to Black Spring does so for life. There's no leaving after settling in, because as soon as they try to leave they have the compelling desire to kill themselves.

Yeah, this isn't the best place to raise children. And when some of the teenage kids decide they've had enough of the witch's curse and mess with tradition, bad things start to happen...


Like I said above, I love scary stories and according to the many glowing reviews that's exactly what this book offered. It started out pretty well. I was so intrigued at the beginning that I ignored the clunky writing and the weird phrases. I wanted to know more about this witch, and see where the story would lead. But the writing style just didn't grab me. I don't know if something was lost in translation, but I mostly struggled through the narrative.

As compelling and creepy as the witch appeared to be, I gradually lost interest. Found my initial intrigue slipping away with every new page I read, and really disliked every single character. Not to mention that the middle dragged on so much that by the time I reached the 'shock factor' portion of the story, I just didn't care.

Seriously, all the characters in this book were awful. I disliked everyone, so it made it really hard to care about anything that was going on. And don't get me started on just how politically incorrect some of the narrative--both in thought and speech--came across. Plus I didn't buy the total disconnection that parents seemed to have towards their kids. Or the very open and shameless favouring parents showed over their kids. And the dialogue? Oh man. Who actually speaks like any of these people? o_O

BUT for me, the most disappointing thing of all was that I wasn't scared. At all. Creepy atmosphere: check. Spooky location: check. Super ominous witch: check. But none of these things were coherently strung together to be effective.


It's a shame, really.

Hex started out well enough, and I honestly did get caught up in the building tension and the creepy imagery, but it failed to keep me interested. The way it was written constantly threw me off, the characters never felt real, and after a while I just didn't care about anything/anyone. I found this book very average, and absolutely hated that ending.

I think Katherine van Wyler, the mute, blind witch was the only character with anything real to offer to this story. Actually, maybe if her POV was added to the second half of the book, it would have added a lot more to the overall story.

HEX, April 2016, ISBN 9781444793208, Hodder & Stoughton

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