Readers: February 27th: Apologies for the scattered posting that's about to come during the next week or so. University has just started and I have a lot of work to do to get on top of things (and ahead!). Thanks for your patience, as always.

Publishers: I promise I'm not abandoning the lovely review copies you've sent!
I'm getting through them and the reviews will come eventually!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Review: Hex Hall

Title: Hex Hall
Author: Rachel Hawkins
Series: Hex Hall #1
Publisher: Hyperion
Published: March 2nd 2010

Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It's gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie's estranged father--an elusive European warlock--only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it's her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.
By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire student on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect. As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.

I had high expectations for Hex Hall. Did it deliver? Most definitely! The writing style is very enjoyable to read as we're in the head of Sophie Mercer, the main character. We're introduced to Hawkins' humour from the very start, when the novel begins with a slight mishap. We find Sophie in a bathroom…on prom night. She's trying to comfort a fellow schoolmate who is dateless and wishing for a boy named Ryan to take interest in her. Sophie's attempt at rectifying the situation goes horribly wrong, as Ryan falls insanely "in love" and goes after the girl desperately. Drive-my-van-through-walls kind of desperately.

"It's okay, baby!" he shouted after her. "I don't need eyes to see you! I see you with the eyes of my heart, Felicia! My HEART!"
Great. Not only was my spell too strong, it was also lame.

Funny, yes? This is an example of the humour that is present throughout the book, though this is the most out-there of them all. The usual humour is mostly just very witty and sarcastic, and captures a teenager's snarky thoughts perfectly. Aren't we all guilty for wanting to scratch the pretty girl's eyes out for liking the guy we fancy at least once in our lives?

So as a consequence of using her magic in public, Sophie is shipped off to Hex Hall where she must stay until she is 18 years old. There, we meet many interesting characters who have all misbehaved in some way and are there to serve their time also. Sophie gets a warm welcome to the school as she is attacked by a werewolf and saved by…a cocky warlock? One called Archer that makes fun of her less than impressive skills. That's, of course, before we run into some fierce faeries, an annoyed shapeshifter and a strange vampire! At first, the large amount of characters and history we're presented with is total madness. We're told so much in such a short amount of time and so it made me a little uneasy. Don't you just hate it when something important happens later on in the book but you're lost because it didn't sink in at the beginning? Luckily, we're pulled in after a short while and all of the characters become familiar, so there's no need to worry!

As mentioned before, Sophie finds herself enamoured with a seriously hot boy named Archer. Thing is, he has a girlfriend and something's a little off with him… Prior to Sophie's enrolment, he disappeared for a month and no one knew where he went. He doesn't ever speak about his family either. Are the bells ringing?

As I watched him lope up the stairs, I gritted my teeth and repeated a mantra in my head:
I will not have a crush on Archer Cross, I will not have a crush on Archer Cross, I will not . . .
When I got back to my room, Jenna was sitting cross-legged on her bed, reading a book. I heaved a sigh and leaned against the door, pushing it shut with a loud click.
"What's wrong? The Moving Picture Show get to you?" Jenna asked without looking up.
"No. I mean, yeah, of course. That stuff was messed up."
"Mm-hmm," Jenna agreed. "Anything else?"
"I have a crush on Archer Cross."

That little goal didn't last long, did it? To be perfectly fair, it's hard not to like Archer. He's charming and sweet, and you just want him to run away with Sophie so that he can get away from his witch of a girlfriend (ha!). Elodie is the queen bee, I guess. She's the leader of a witch coven whose members are all attractive and wield strong powers. They try to recruit Sophie but luckily she stays away. Reading about the conflicts and tensions between the girls is such a joy, as are the Archer/Sophie scenes. Their relationship is slow and build little by little so it is believable.

I took a deep breath and hoped he didn't notice. Weird little moments like this one were getting too common with Archer and me. Maybe it was all the time we spent together alone in the cellar, or how familiar we'd gotten with each other's bodies while kicking the crap out of each other in Defense, but I was beginning to notice a subtle shift in our relationship.

Mhmm, you read that right. They're in dark cellars together and getting "familiar" with each other's bodies. Does that make you want to read this book? It better!

Bitchy girls and romance aside, the other main plotline in the novel revolves around the girls who are being mysteriously attacked by the same person who previously killed a girl at the school. These darker scenes are all very suspenseful and quite creepy if I do say so myself. Rachel Hawkins has created these daunting enemies who we fear - L'Occhio di Dio (The Eye of God) - even though we do not make contact with them at all. You'll be kept guessing until the very end, as Hex Hall takes many twists and turns, many of which you would have never guessed! Better make sure you remember to pick those jaws back up…

Sophie, a stereotypical teenage girl whose thoughts are very much centred on Archer, is a very loveable character. Her running commentary never gets aggravating and is actually quite endearing. The other side characters are fantastic also. You either love them for being so hilariously cool or love to hate them because they're so stubborn and snobby. I'm sure readers will all be scrambling for the next book, Demonglass, to see what will happen next with them all as we're left on a cliffhanger! I cannot wait to get more history on Sophie and her powers as what we've been told so far is great! It's not totally evil and ending mid-scene but it definitely gets you curious. Hex Hall is a light and fun read with a splash of dark, something everyone needs to give a go!

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