Hex by Thomas Old Heuvelt – A Spoiler Free Review
HEX by Thomas Olde Heuvelt
I’ve been torn to pieces. I am floored.
I had to wait a while after finishing this before I could even begin to start writing down my thoughts. Even now, as I write this, I’m not completely sure I’ve recovered from the book hangover enough to start. But, here we go…
Whoever is born here, is doomed to stay ’til death. Whoever settles, never leaves.
Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a 17th century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Muzzled, she walks the streets and enters your homes at will. She stands next to your bed for nights on end. Everybody knows that her eyes may never be opened.
The elders of Black Spring have virtually quarantined the town by using high-tech surveillance to prevent their curse from spreading. Frustrated with being kept in lockdown, the town’s teenagers decide to break their strict regulations and go viral with the haunting, but in so doing send the town spiraling into the dark, medieval practices of the past.
When I read the synopsis, it was all like “small town haunted by a witch,” I was all like, “blah, blah, blah, whatever synopsis. Why don’t you do me a favour and shut the hell up?” Then it was all like, “Wait just a second, fancy pants! This ain’t a regular witch. She goes into people’s houses whenever she wants and stands by their beds for days without moving. And her mouth and eyes are sewn shut! Screw you!” And i was like, “Fine. I’ll read any book that can talk to me like that.”
Three things you need to know about Hex
- It’s not THAT scary. The description makes you think you’ll be up all night, jumping at every creaky floorboard and strange thump, real or imagined, but nope. You might check the corners of rooms a little more often for a little old lady with a strange sewing hobby, but seriously, not that scary.
- If you’ve ever loved Stephen King, this should be the next thing you read. It had a very similar feel to a Stephen King novel. Great characters that were as deep as oceans, a setting that I can picture perfectly without being beat to death with description, and a plot that I thought I knew but kept surprising me.
- If you read the English version—which I did—it’s a translation and has an alternate ending from the original Dutch version. In a brief acknowledgements at the end of the book the author explains the few subtle differences and then teases that the original ending was different. He goes on to say that he won’t reveal the original ending and if you want to know you need to bribe a Dutch person. He’s a cruel, cruel man.
What I liked
The Characters. As I mentioned before, there was such depth to the people of Black Springs. Their quirks and individuality was there without it being paraded about in an attempt to show off. One character was racist against a family in town. Normally, I would have expected that to come about in some kind of confrontation, but it didn’t. It was just there. She’s racist. She also sells meat and likes peacocks. Let’s move on. And whether we were sitting with the ‘heroes’ or the ‘villains’ we get a taste of sympathy for most everyone and are shown how, in their own way, every man, woman, and child are a little heroic and a little villainous.
The Nod to History. Obviously, in a book like this, there isn’t a lot of truth (…or is there? Muhahahaha!) But I did enjoy the small references to real history. Mainly, the persecution of women accused of being witches, both in the Netherlands and the land that would become America. If you find this kind of information dry, don’t worry. There’s so little of it that by the time you realized you learned a little something, it’ll be done.
Plot. Not everything was a surprise, but it kept me guessing. Many times I believed I knew what was next, and that’s when Heuvelt would take a left turn. Even when the author foreshadowed something it brought about more questions than answers.
What I LOVED
Emotional Spectrum. Glee, torment, love, terror, rage, grief. The entire emotional spectrum, in its rawest form, was on display through the course of the story. And I felt it all. Every smile, every heart break. I was part of every family, sat in attendance to every town meeting, and watched in horror as everything went to hell.
The Suspense. Honestly, I’ve never been much of horror reader. Some Stephen King here and there, but mostly his non-horror material. But when I reached the tense parts of the book, and could something was about to drop, I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. There were several times where an audible gasp escaped my lips, and I’m usually not that kind of reader. If I was one of those cartoon characters that chewed fingernails like corn on the cob when I’m anxious, I’ve have nubs instead of fingers.
The Premise. I would have read this book if nothing happened beyond the town’s average day. I wouldn’t have loved it nearly as much, but I still would have read it. It was fascinating how the people of Black Springs lived with the curse. The way they went about day-to-day life, the things they did to cope with the Black Rock Witch herself. Every person kept living life despite the witch and the curse. It was like they just found a way to live around her as if she was nothing more than an inconvenient rainstorm. Obviously, things don’t stay that way for long, but it really engulfed me in the world and setting.
“But, Joe… what about the things you didn’t like?” Caught that, did you? I can’t think of anything. I loved it all.
Sure, there was this kid named Jaydon that I didn’t like, but he was a little asshole with impulse problems. I wasn’t supposed to like him.
Look, I could go on and on about Hex but you probably have other things you want to do today, and any additional time would be better spent reading the book. I can’t recommend it enough.