Published by Tor Books on April 26th 2016
Hex is a unique story about a witch who haunts the inhabitants of a small town. It’s a creepy tale that stays with you after you finish reading and gives you plenty of food for thought – but probably in a way that you really wouldn’t expect.
Katherine van Wyler was sentenced to death for witchcraft by the towns people of Black Springs in the year 1664. Unfortunately for the people of Black Springs Katherine took her death sentence rather badly and ever since has haunted the towns people who are now, effectively cursed.
I think Hex probably has one of the most unusual concepts for a creepy tale that I’ve ever come across. A witch who haunts a town and literally walks the streets or shows up in people’s houses. What makes this worse is that Katherine has her eyes and mouth sewn shut and is wrapped with chains. Her appearance is usually preceded by the smell of rot and the stench of dirty water and if the inhabitants listen closely enough they can hear Katherine whispering quietly a string of vitriol that can cause madness and worse in any that overhear her words. Now imagine that some people have become almost immune to the sight of Katherine and in those, far from causing fear she has almost become a figure to ridicule or taunt.
Now, I must confess that this isn’t a horror story! It’s not a slasher or blood filled fest. It’s a book that is progressively creepy. It lulls you into a false sense of security by showing you a town full of people who have come to terms with their own sentence. And, make no mistake, living in Black Springs is a sentence. Once you move there you can’t leave – I won’t go into the reasons why but trust me on this – there are no physical barriers but everyone knows that escape isn’t an option. This is the beauty of this book – it’s like a work of stealth! You’re reading along oblivious to the fact that you’re about to be hit by something strange and dark and more than that something that will shock you and keep you reading even if you want to stop.
So, to the town – Black Springs appears to be an average and picturesque place. The inhabitants have had a long time to come to term with it’s resident ghost and are now experts at keeping everything under wraps (or towels for that matter!) The odd thing is that nobody really knows the true story surrounding Katherine but everybody knows that if something goes goes wrong and upsets the equilibrium then the whole town could fall victim. This is such a clever concept – everyone is dependent on everyone else and it really only takes one weak link for the whole thing to fall apart and spiral into chaos. In turn it gives Black Springs an olde world feel – the people there live their life with fear and superstition, all huddled up behind closed doors. They don’t always trust each other and can in fact point the finger of blame without a second thought. Almost like a witch hunt all over again.
Of course, the last time that anything scary happened in town was so long ago that most of the residents have forgotten and although some still remain vigilant the younger members of the population are starting to resent the restrictions placed on them. They want a regular life, they want to take pictures and tweet them, date people from other towns, go on holidays to far flung places and be reckless – and so we have a situation bubbling and about to boil over. The town of Black Springs is a town stuck in the dark ages but with a young generation bursting at the seams to break into the modern century. A generation of youngsters who secretly wonder how bad it could really be.
I can’t give away too much more about Hex without spoiling it. It’s a very unusual ghost story. It takes a look at people and how they sometimes react, particularly when under severe stress or fear. The animal instincts that awaken, only thinly covered by a relatively new veneer of civility, when the going gets tough. And the fact that sometimes the fear and the reaction it causes can be equally bad if not worse than whatever it was that caused the fear in the first place.
I definitely recommend Hex. It’s such a compelling book, it will make you think, you’ll start the story and have questions, much like a new resident to the Town, and slowly the truth will become apparent – and just as you come to terms with what’s going on and think you have a grip on things everything will go to hell in a handcart!