Publisher: Simon and Schuster Kids, Hyperion Book CH.
Where did you get this book from: Review copy from Simon and Schuster.
Release date: Out now.
There are a lot of YA books out that feature magical boarding schools, and sometimes when another one pops up, I think: Oh gosh, not again. But! Hex Hall, IMO, is probably one of the newest and freshest, and I believe that the series has full of promise.
Hex Hall’s young protagonist is Sophie Mercer, a 16 year old witch who gets into a lot of trouble due to her not being trained in her magical abilities. Sophie has been raised by her mother, who is non-magic, single-handedly. And her father – who’s a warlock: a male version of a witch – has been absent throughout her entire life for reasons Sophie doesn’t know. And all her exchanges with her father take place via emails or a phone call – which struck me as quite bizarre when I first read about it. But there’s a reason! But I’m not going to say coz’ it’s a spoiler. 😉
When another spell of Sophie’s goes disastrously wrong, it’s the final nail in the coffin, and off Sophie goes to Hex Hall: a school for Prodigium delinquents, such as witches, werewolves, fairies and so on. I really liked Sophie, and not in the way where she’s just likeable. Sophie has a lot of personality that comes across as quite sassy, she comes out with humorous quips, and she’s not beyond getting even with the horrible girls in school (sometimes, reading about a heroine who takes the dignified route is boring *grins*). She’s something of a loner as she doesn’t make friends easily due to her moving schools constantly in the past because of the trouble she causes via her spells. Sophie is ignorant – through no fault of her own – about her magic, and she thinks that she’s very weak in her powers.
While in Hex Hall, Sophie’s knowledge of the magical world expands, and so does her understanding of the magical community and its dangers. She learns about the ‘L’Occhio di Dio’ (‘The Eye of God’). The Eye of God is a group that’s based in Rome, Italy, that is a threat to Prodigiums, as they want to wipe all of the supernatural beings off the face of the earth. Even though Hex Hall is YA, there are a lot of dark events that occur that gives it an edge, especially some scenes in which Sophie learns about The Eye of God. In fact, I’m not very keen on the UK cover as it gives the impression that it’s a light fluffy book, when in fact, it’s not.
While Sophie’s knowledge expands, her social life improves when she makes a friend in her room-mate, Jenna, who is the only vampire in Hex Hall. Even though Sophie is sometimes fearful of Jenna, mainly because she’s never met a vampire before, a strong friendship quickly springs up between them. Sophie shows herself as someone who is incredibly loyal, and doesn’t go with the crowd because it’s popular. So when Jenna is accused of being the attacker in school, Sophie stays loyal, and she speaks her own mind which are traits that I like to read about in a heroine.
Hex Hall doesn’t make for a predictable read, and the other secondary characters make a big impression, especially Sophie’s reluctant crush on a fellow student, and warlock, Archer. I adored Archer. He was witty, and almost had the same type of personality as Sophie. Even though he goes out with one of the horrible popular school girls, he goes out with her because he actually likes her, and not because she’s hot, which makes for a change. Sophie’s sarcastic quips to Archer and his girlfriend are full of humour and sass, and you feel her hurt when she thinks she has no chance whatsoever with Archer. Gotta love teenager angst when it’s done so well . Rachel Hawkins has created characters that are full of life, and the boarding school features a slew of supernaturals that are very imaginative and have their own quirks, and sometimes, not very nice quirks. Sophie also learns more about her family past, including her Grandmother and her father, that pretty much sends Sophie into a tailspin.
Hex Hall also has surprising revelations that I would never have guessed at. And that’s what made this book so exciting for me. I literally didn’t know what was going to happen, or who the attacker was until the very end. And even that was unpredictable. While this book doesn’t feature a lot of magic – mainly because Sophie doesn’t know much magic herself – I think it’s a great start to a series, and features a heroine whom readers will love. And the cliff hanger at the end has made me a very impatient bookpusher, who can’t wait for the second book to be released.
I give Hex Hall 4.5 out of 5 stars.