Time to end our October #CJSReads list with a horror novel!
Thanks to Tor Books for the copies in exchange for our honest reviews.
HEX by Thomas Olde Heuvelt
This is one we’ve seen mixed reviews on, so I know we were all eager to jump in!
Chandra’s Thoughts: 3.5/5 stars
I usually write my review as soon as I turn that last page, but with this book I had to sit on it for the night and stew on it for a bit. I love the concept of the book. People trapped in a town with a witch doing her thing… popping up wherever she wants to.. on a set course most of the time. No one should bother her and definitely do NOT take the stitches off her mouth or eyes. Get a group of teens and we all know what’s going to happen… right?
The beginning of the book was great – a little eerie and what-the-hell-ish for a few chapters. It almost read like a reality show, which is something different and I’m not sure if I liked that or not. Then the middle got muddy. It took me a while to trudge through it as it felt a bit repetitive and some of the characters were just plain annoying. Hell, I suppose it would be repetitive and annoying to be stuck in a town where you basically were monitored all the time, had little to no outside contact and lived under the tyranny of a witch who just won’t go away. And then the last third of the book came and I was really happy that I had stuck with it. It definitely was NOT what I was expecting. I was a bit confused and was really happy to have a fellow Bookstagrammer who was also reading it to discuss with. We agree that with all the build up, the last part of the story seemed rushed. From what I understand the ending is different in the translation and now I’m extremely curious as to how it originally ended. If you know, please tell me!
I do love a book that surprises me and this one definitely did that. I certainly walked away with a WTF feeling. I’m still torn. I wanted to love it… but I just ended up being ok with it.
Sam’s Thoughts: 4/5 stars
I was looking for something incredibly creepy for October; a true Halloween read. Enter, Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt. I read about this book in several different Buzzfeed articles about books that are ACTUALLY scary. Usually I take the word of Buzzfeed, so I went out to Chapters and picked myself up a copy.
Now, while I wouldn’t call this book truly horrifying, there was something about it that was completely unsettling.
The novel opens with the introduction of a small town called Black Spring. Seemingly picturesque, the town has a dark secret. In the 17th century, a woman, nicknamed the Black Rock Witch, had her eyes and mouth-sewn shut and was killed for her crimes. Now a fixture of the town, she walks the streets and enters homes at will and, using high tech surveillance, the elders of Black Spring have kept her contained and have continuously ensured that her mouth and eyes are never opened. However, when a group of the town’s teenagers, frustrated with the regulations, decide to film the haunting, the town reverts back to medieval practices of the past and Black Rock will never be the same.
The first thing I would love to mention when discussing Hex was the originality of the text. Heuvelt chose to unravel his narrative in such an original way. I loved how he was able to combine the paranormal with the modern and make something completely supernatural seem like the norm, right down to the witch tracker app and the online forums. It added a layer to the text that I usually find any novel with a supernatural element is often missing. Believability.
I also loved how Heuvelt marched to the beat of his own drum in regards to plot points and character storylines. There was truly no rhyme or reason to how the story was rolled out or how characters were removed from the text. I loved feeling as if no one was safe and that there was truly no predictability to the text. I also loved the development of the characters are they all found themselves questioning their own humanity as the witch hysteria rose in the town. It was a very atmospheric look at human nature.
As mentioned, I didn’t find this novel particularly terrifying but it was unsettling. It was downright creepy. Something about the ominous tone and the general vibe made my skin crawl. It sort of had Blair Witch vibe to it, which I really enjoyed.
So as much as I was enjoying the book throughout the beginning, I found it dragging by the time I was reaching the end. Truly, my biggest gripe with this book was the ending. I found it to be completely underwhelming. It was confusing.
Overall, I feel like this a perfect read for Halloween and I think that people who enjoy a bit of unsettling reading will appreciate this book!
My Thoughts: 3.5/5 stars
How could the #cjsreads trio not round out the month of October with a horror book? HEX by Thomas Olde Heuvelt is one that has always interested me. I mean, when Stephen King as a blurb on the cover I’m always going to be curious about it! I had definitely heard very mixed reviews about this one, and I completely understand why. It’s one I’m still debating on how I feel about it.
We enter Black Spring, a small town in the Hudson Valley. This town is haunted by the Black Rock Witch, and has been since the 17th century. She has her mouth and eyes sewn shut – that’s a terrifying image. She freely wanders about the town and will enter the homes of the residents as she pleases and will stand by your bedside for nights at a time. No thanks. It’s common knowledge throughout the town that her eyes are never to be opened.
Well, as the beginning of the synopsis states, “Whoever is born here, is doomed to stay ’til death. Whoever settles, never leaves.” The elders of Black Spring have made it virtually impossible for anyone to leave the town. This is their way of containing this evil curse from spreading. Naturally, the teenagers of the town are sick of this and decide to break the strict rules. They film the haunting and get it to go viral – because of this the town is reverted back to medieval practices and spirals deeper into this curse.
I will say that the beginning of the book was terrifying in parts. Imagine being trapped in a town with zero contact with the outside world, and then throw in a witch that controls the town. Nope. I thought there was a good pacing to the story and it kept up with the eerie and ominous tone throughout. The character development was unique and it seemed completely random as to what happened to each of them. The plot was intriguing but I’d have to agree with my buddy readers, Chandra and Sam, that the ending was underwhelming and confusing. That was really the only drawback for me.
Overall, if you want a uniquely written and eerie read for fall, then this one I’d recommend you pick up!
Did you read this book? What did you think of it?