Welcome to Black Spring, a picturesque town with an ugly secret.
A 17th century woman with sewn-shut eyes and mouth walks its streets . . . enters it homes . . . watches its people when they sleep.
They call her the Black Rock Witch.
So accustomed to her presence, the townsfolk often forget what will happen if her eyes ever open. To protect themselves the Black Spring elders use high-tech surveillance to quarantine the town. Frustrated with the lockdown, the town’s teenagers decide to break the rules and go viral with the haunting.
But no one foresees the dark nightmare that awaits them all.
Hex is a horror, fantasy, thriller novel set in Black Springs, USA. For over 300 years, this town has been cursed by the Black Rock Witch (Katherine van Wyler) who has a tendency to appear and disappear as and when she wants, wherever she wants. Her eyes and mouth are sewn shut with wire to stop her from possessing the town and killing everyone in it. Hex follows a string of families and teenagers going about their lives in this strange town and how, over a series of months, things gradually begin to worsen.
I’m going to go straight into it and say it; this novel was in no way scary. Yes, the overall concept is a scary thought and if it were to ever manifest itself in real life, I think we’d all be cowering in the corner wondering what would happen to us if we provoked a 300-year-old witch. However, Heuvelt does not write this novel in a way that is terrifying. This in part I feel is not helped by the humour instilled by the teenager characters as they play pranks on van Wyler. I found it hard to be scared of something which would normally be scary due to the language, actions, and dialogue of these teenagers which lightened the mood far too much to make this novel anywhere near a horror.
As I’ve mentioned, I really enjoyed the concept. Heuvelt has thought it out really well and there is a lot of backstory about Katherin van Wyler that we receive a few chapters into the novel giving a air of mystery about her presence and why everyone is so scared of someone who, at present, seems so helpless. I loved how the character of van Wyler changed across the novel through the actions of the town and, in particular, the teenagers and their pranks. But I also enjoyed the development of all of the characters. There can’t not be any development with the way in which events spiral out of control. In particular there is Tyler, one of our main protagonists who starts out as one of the harmless pranksters who just wants some of the rules lifted off of them. With their technology bugged and no way to ever truly leave Black Springs, he and his friends believe they should have some degree of leniency. However, his manner and perception of everything around him changes as some of his friends take matters into their own hands and go too far with their “pranks”. I’m glad that he was a character that matured from these actions.
There’s not a lot to write about really without giving away the majority of the storyline. All of the characters are individual in their own way, and I loved that one of the characters (though subtly) represented the LGBT community through his sexuality. I loved that there was a connection and link between the past and present in this town with the way in which they interacted with the witch and upholded the traditions of how to handle her. These traditions also play a part in the actions of the town and, given the difference in time periods, some of these rules are far-fetched and truly outlandish. But I also loved how, as a community, they worked together. They have chosen to put themselves aside from society in some aspects, sacrificing parts of their livelihood due to the nature and pull of the town. Given that a sense of community is sometimes very hard to find in this day and age, it was a nice refreshing touch that solidified the characters and the events taking place.
But, as I mentioned, though there are all of these brilliant elements, there was nothing truly scary or jumpy. My heart didn’t race. I didn’t really fear for any of the characters. Given all of the hype surrounding this novel I can admit that I had high hopes, but I felt like there wasn’t enough tension and suspense to give that thrill or scare.