It’s been awhile since my last book review, eh? Things have been a bit crazy – I moved, I painted, I learned how to install laminate flooring, I interviewed another amazing author, I got a story acceptance – it’s been a busy, hectic month.
Also, don’t worry — this novel came out in 2016, but I am still going to keep this review spoiler-free.
Thomas Olde Heuvelt is a Dutch author who published his debut novel De Onvoorziene when he was nineteen (in 2002). He has been a multiple winner of the Paul Harland Prize for best Dutch work of fantastic fiction (2009 and 2012).
On top of that award, he has also been nominated for the Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Awards in 2012, the Hugo Award for Best Novelette in 2013, the Hugo Award for Best Short Story, and the World Fantasy Award in 2014 for various works.
His debut novel, HEX, was published in 2016 by Tor Books in the US. His website says that it’s soon to be a movie but I couldn’t find any other mention of it online. He is coming out with another novel though: ECHO.
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. Muzzled, she walks the streets and enters homes at will. She stands next to children’s bed for nights on end. Everybody knows that her eyes may never be opened or the consequences will be too terrible to bear.
The elders of Black Spring have virtually quarantined the town by using high-tech surveillance to prevent their curse from spreading. Frustrated with being kept in lockdown, the town’s teenagers decide to break their strict regulations and go viral with the haunting. But, in so doing, they send the town spiraling into dark, medieval practices of the distant past. – Amazon landing site
Published in 2013, then released in English in 2016, the novel revolves around a town haunted by the living ghost of the Black Rock Witch. Formerly put to death in 1664, the Witch had her eyes and mouth sewn shut. She randomly appears through the town and the town tries to avoid her as much as possible.
They also have HOA-style rules in place to keep the town safe and to keep the outside world from finding out about the Witch. They fear that, should the Witch’s stitches be removed, a reckoning will occur.
Anyone who moves to the town can never leave because, if someone is away for more than a couple days, they become suicidal. Some teens decide they are sick of the current setup and begin broadcasting the Witch’s existence across the internet by secretly recording her.
Of course, this only ends badly for everyone involved.
Fun fact: this novel is actually being re-released alongside Heuvelt’s newest novel: ECHO in 2021.
“HEX is reminiscent of vintage Stephen King, and I can think of no higher praise. Chilling, moving and, in its odd way, not a little profound” – John Connolly
“HEX is creepy and gripping and original, sure to be one of the top horror novels of 2016.” ―George R.R. Martin
Simple put: I had a great time reading this novel!
When I first read the book, I didn’t know the author was Dutch and HEX was translated to English from another language because it was such a smooth read.
The whole idea of a witch no one can get rid of, whose curse continues to haunt the town after her death, is really fascinating and fun. I am used to reading about witches who live in the shadows, hardly seen, lurking between the trees, that it was refreshing to find this novel about a witch people wished would stick to the shadows!
Heuvelt creates such an oppressive, creepy atmosphere, it’s chilling – a picturesque town in all ways but their one big problem. His sinister setting is populated by characters who are well-developed and believable. You root for them, yet, it’s hard not to feel bad for the Witch too, considering.
The best part: I can honestly say I did not expect the ending.
All in all, the whole book was a wild ride! I read it in only a couple days because I couldn’t put it down. So, if you’re looking for a new take on witches, of a town cursed by the actions of the past, and an ending that will haunt you afterward – this is the book for you! It’s definitely been one of my favourite reads of this past year – don’t miss out!
x P.L. McMillan
p.s. don’t forget that I’ll be doing a live reading from my tale “Left Behind” this coming Friday!