The greats of fiction Stephen King and George R. R. Martin lead the fanfare for HEX, so be assured that Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s debut English novel is both terrifying and unputdownable in equal measure.
“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.”
OK, I’ll admit it, I was starting to feel in need of a bookish change. As regular visitors to the blog will know, I am an avid crime fiction reader with quite a few psychological thrillers thrown in there for good measure. The books I have read recently have all been brilliant, but I needed something …different. It doesn’t happen often but when it does, I tend turn my attention to horror novels. I had completely forgotten I had this on the TBR! When it was first published in April 2016 I was so excited about it but wasn’t lucky enough to get a copy then. Thankfully the lovely Hodderscape people didn’t leave me waiting too long but by that point, I was deeply immersed in my Summer blog tour reading. Only now am I starting to choose what to read again and this one lept out at my from my Kindle screen.
Just to prove how excited I was about this book when it first came out, I downloaded the first 10 chapters from NetGalley and reviewed them on the blog back in February. If you click here you can read that review. See? I was really keen! (In my defence, it was only my second month as a book blogger, I was still refining my art!). As so much time had passed between those first 10 chapters and now I decided to start reading at the very beginning. I was amazed at how easily I remembered the characters and what was going to happen next, testament to a good book.
I flew through those first chapters and eagerly anticipated the arrival of chapter 11. So I guess the question is, was it worth the wait? It was. This book somehow managed to garner a strange hold over me. I wasn’t as blown away by the witches antics as I expected to be but that didn’t stop this book being in my thoughts constantly, from the moment I woke up to the moment I fell asleep (thankfully it didn’t make it into my dreams!). It has a certain pull. There are some very shocking moments but they are well paced making the build of tension and the imminent sense of foreboding quite exquisite.
I read this one slowly, savouring the pictures being painted by the author and enjoying every moment. It’s so very emotional, something I didn’t expect at all. Now that I’ve finished the book and taken a few moments to compose myself, it’s become blatantly clear this is book isn’t really about a witch. It’s about a small community that has to stare death in the face every moment of every day. How they struggle to keep the madness of their predicament at bay and how when the times comes, they turn their backs on everyone else, even their loved ones.
I heartily recommend this book. I think it will stay with me for some time and may even be one of the few that I revisit again in the future.
Five out of five stars
I chose to read and review an ARC of HEX.
HEX by Thomas Olde Heuvelt was published in the UK by HodderScape in April 2016 and is available in hardcover, paperback, eBook and audiobook formats | amazon.co.uk | Waterstones | Goodreads | hodderscape |
Dutch novelist Thomas Olde Heuvelt is the author of five novels and many short stories of the fantastic. His short fiction has appeared in English, Dutch and Chinese, among other languages. He has been awarded the Harland Award (for best Dutch fantasy) on three occasions, and was nominated for both the Hugo Award and the World Fantasy Award.
Olde Heuvelt wrote his debut novel at the age of sixteen. He studied English Language and American Literature in his hometown of Nijmegen and at the University of Ottawa in Canada. Since then, he has become a bestselling author in The Netherlands and Belgium. He calls Roald Dahl and Stephen King the literary heroes of his childhood, who created in him a love for dark fiction.
HEX is Olde Heuvelt’s worldwide debut. Warner Bros. is currently developing a TV series based on the book.