I came across this book while looking for something new and scary to read. It looked and sounded good, and it apparently had only just come out in the US, so not many people were talking about it yet. I figured I’d give HEX a try.

And it definitely didn’t prove boring.

So, what’s it about? HEX is about the small town of Black Spring, New York, which is under the curse of an apparently immortal witch named Katherine van Wyler, who wanders around town with her eyes and mouth sewn shut (nightmares right there). Anyone who lives or moves to Black Springs is trapped there by the witch, with attempts to leave longer than a week or two leaving residents feeling depressed and suicidal. With every attempt in history to get rid of Katherine meeting with tragedy, the town has isolated itself from the rest of the world, with the HEX office controlling who moves into town and what Outsiders see when they visit, as well as monitoring the witch’s movements at all times using the latest and greatest in technology. Unbeknownst to HEX and the townsfolk, however, some teens in town are trying to study the witch with the hope of breaking the curse and leaving town. The results of that meddling cause a chain reaction leading to something no one in Black Spring will ever forget.

I thought that HEX had a lot going for it. For one, Heuvelt tells the story beautifully through the POVs of four of the townsfolk: Steve Grant, a doctor and father who tries to live in a rational world despite the fact that there’s a witch in his town; his eldest son Tyler, an idealistic youth and YouTube vlogger who leads his friends to study the witch; Robert Grim, HEX’s irritable leader (whose description in the book makes me think of Mitch Pileggi of X-Files fame); and Griselda Holst, a woman with a past who practically worships Katherine as much as she fears her. They’re all very well-written characters, and you really come to sympathize with each and every one (though occasionally I wondered if Griselda might use some therapy).

Heuvelt also knows how to tell a story, taking it in directions I didn’t think the story would go, and making the surprises genuine, even if some of them, in retrospect, could be seen coming. He also manages to create this atmosphere and dread that sticks with you and makes you want to know more, punctuating it with these moments involving the witch and her magic that really gets you.

I can’t really think of anything bad about this book. Nothing about it particularly struck me as bad or as needing improvement. I could nitpick that it may be a little too perfect, or that it could’ve dealt a bit more with the social media aspect of the story, but like I said, it’d be nitpicking.

The interesting thing about HEX is that the English version is really the second version: Heuvelt is a Dutch author, and HEX was originally published in Dutch with Dutch characters and a Dutch setting back in 2013. But in the acknowledgments section at the end of the book, Heuvelt explains that he was asked to make some changes for the America edition, and he ended up doing a sort of HEX 2.0, as he called it, rewriting the novel in English (apparently he’s fluent), giving it an American setting with American characters, and even a new ending.

So of course, one would wonder after reading the English version what the Dutch version is like. Well, Heuvelt won’t tell. His only advice is to “go bribe a Dutchman” (and oh darn, mine just happened to disappear in a flash of bright light). But even if you never find out what the Dutch version is like, you can be satisfied that the English version is pretty awesome as well.

All in all, I’m giving HEX a 4.3 out of 5. It’s creepy, has a great premise and characters, and is brilliantly written. I highly recommend it to anyone looking to read something new and different and scary and happens to see this on the shelves.

That’s all for now. Remember, today’s the last day to submit questions for a Q&A in honor of my five-year blogging anniversary (details here). You’ve got till midnight, and then I’m working on that post.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear!

  1. emilyramos says:

    Wow, props to the author for doing all that work for the English edition! And your review makes me want to pick up the book!

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