Saturday, 2 July 2011
Review: Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
By: Simon & Schuster UK
In the wake of a love spell gone horribly wrong, Sophie Mercer, a sixteen-year-old witch, is shipped off to Hecate Hall, a boarding school for witches, shapeshifters and faeries. The traumas of mortal high school are nothing compared to the goings on at "Freak High."
It's bad enough that she has to deal with a trio of mean girls led by the glamorous Elodie, but it's even worse when she begins to fall for Elodie's gorgeous boyfriend, Archer Cross, and frankly terrifying that the trio are an extremely powerful coven of dark witches. But when Sophie begins to learn the disturbing truth about her father, she is forced to face demons both metaphorical and real, and come to terms with her own growing power as a witch.
Hex Hall is not going to win any prizes in the originality department. Especially not from me, as I just read about a smart-aleck teen girl who screws up and gets sent to a supernatural reform school a few books ago. So, stop me if you've heard any of this before: Boarding school for witches, firm but wise headteacher, mean girls who pick on our heroine, a crush on the popular boy, a love triangle. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?
Surprisingly, the been-there-read-that premise doesn't prevent Hex Hall from being a good read at all. Thanks to Rachel Hawkins' easy and accessible writing style, a likable heroine in Sophie and lots of good jokes, it was a thoroughly enjoyable use of my time.
I knew I was in once the dark witches were introduced. Bitchy teenage girls can be tiresome, but make them a coven of powerful witches and suddenly, they're awesome. I did feel that too many characters were brought in for one book and some weren't developed very much beyond their stereotypes. But Hex Hall has one character I've never seen before in Jenna, Sophie's roommate and a lesbian vampire. I adored Jenna to bits and their friendship brought out Sophie's best qualities.
What was truly shocking and elevated this book from dispensable fluff to a must-read, was the ending. I was fooled into thinking that the surprise revelation that occurs in the last 50 or so pages, was the climax of the story. While that was a nice twist, it doesn't compare to what happens after - that dropped my jaw. It also suggests a huge game-changer for this story and rather than being more of the same, the next book will take a completely different course. I take my hat off to Rachel Hawkins for doing that and am now looking forward to reading the next installment, as a little change from the norm is all that this series needs to be one of the best.
Rating: 4 stars