Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
Current Mood: hopeful
Current Song: Vocal exercises by Roger Love
If Hermione had been American, she might have enrolled in Hex Hall. In Rachel Hawkins' wonderfully absorbing supernatural trilogy, we learn that Hex Hall is not your typical boarding school. Three years after learning she was a witch, Sophie Mercer performs a spell that lands her in Hex Hall, a reform school for Prodigium: witches, fairies, and shape-shifters. She makes both friends and enemies almost immediately as she encounters vampires, ghosts, warlocks, and strict teachers. As the series progresses, Sophie discovers secrets her family has been keeping from her and truths about her newfound friends, frenemies, and love interests.
There are many reasons why I enjoy and recommend this wonderful trilogy by Rachel Hawkins. First of all, the writing rocks. If you liked Buffy the Vampire Slayer, you will like these books. I seriously want to put these books in the hands of every single BtVS fan. Hawkins has infused her stories with a wonderful mix of humor and drama, fantasy and (fictional) reality, friendship and romance. The dialogue is witty, the individual character histories and storylines are intriguing, and the mythology and magic are well-explained.
The characters rock. There are characters you love, characters you love to hate, and characters you can't decide whether or not to trust. My favorite characters include Sophie, as detailed in the next paragraph; her roommate Jenna, who has a wonderful storyline, personality, cool hair - and, oh yeah, a set of fangs; and Cal, who drew me with his introspective demeanor and his gentle disposition, which tied in so well with his healing abilities.
The main character especially rocks. Sophie is strong, even when she doesn't know it. The books are written in first person from her point of view. Allow me to reference Buffy again, so you understand how awesome Sophie is: both of them can fire back when attacked, verbally or physically; they both fight, defy, accept, and re-form their own destiny; they are surrounded by supportive and talented friends and family; and they hold their ground, no matter what, even when the going gets tough. I admire Sophie's strength and bravery. Her journey is just great - and I love that she takes a literal journey as well as an emotional one.
The pacing rocks. I raced through these books, the second and third particularly. In fact, I waited to read the second book until the third came out so I could read them back-to-back. All three books are page-turners, and each book raises the stakes.
I am cautious of revealing too much in this review because I really enjoyed all of the surprises that appeared throughout the series. If you pick up all three books at one time - which you should - do NOT allow yourself to read the cover flaps of the second book until you've read the first book, and do NOT read the cover flap of the third book until you've finished the second book. Trust me, you're going to want to meet Sophie's friends, foes, and family at the same time Sophie does, rather than knowing about now and anticipating their arrival. There's magic in the journey and in the reveal, in experiencing the twists and turns in step with the main character.
The character names rock. Nick, Daisy, Jenna, and Sophie are some of my favorite character names ever. (If you want to know why I like these names, just ask. Each name has a story or two for me.)
Bonus points to Hawkins for including quotes from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland between portions of the books.
Really, the only thing about this series that disappointed me was the fact that each volume had each a black cat on the cover - and no such cat appeared in the story. Perhaps if I just shapeshift in a cat, I could attend Hex Hall too... Please? (Meow?)
Read all three books in the Hex Hall trilogy:
Also pick up the spin-off book, School Spirits.
Read my interview with Rachel Hawkins.
Visit Rachel's website and blog.
Here's one of my favorite lines from the third book, Spell Bound:
...I studied my feet and tried to remember how to breathe without sounding like a hyperventilating walrus. - Page 114