Title: Hex Hall
Author: Rachel Hawkins
Publisher: Disney Hyperion Books
Publication Date: 03/02/2010
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal Fiction
Copy checked out from library.
Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
After a love spell goes horribly wrong, Sophie Mercer is sent to live, at Hecate Hall. There she and other teen Prodigium, shape shifters, witches, and faeries, learn to use and control their powers so they don’t attract the attention of their mortal enemies. When Sophie arrives, she discovers that something more sinister is lurking inside the protected wall of Hecate Hall, something that will put lives in danger.
At first this book came across as a tamer version of P.C. Cast’s House of Night series mixed in with a little of Rowling’s Harry Potter. In fact, the entire first half of the book left me with this feeling. Like House of Night the action takes place in a boarding school, Hecate Hall, and we even have vampires; two vampires to be exact. One is Sophie’s roommate Jenna, and the other is Lord Bryon, who is a teacher in Hecate Hall. Similar to the House of Night novels, a poet vampire is a teacher at the boarding school. On page 65 she even includes the poem by Lord Byron, “She Walks in Beauty,” that is mentioned many times in House of Night. Which, while being one of his more famous poems, really reminded me of House of Night because they use the poem there.
Sophie herself resembles the young Harry Potter we meet in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Like Harry, Sophie grew up in a world outside the world of magic. The magical world is unfamiliar to her and she doesn’t understand it because she has never been a part of it. Playing the role of the wise Dumbledore like mentor is the headmistress, Mrs. Casnoff, who knows more about Sophie and her destiny than Sophie does herself. Like Dumbledore, Mrs. Casnoff provides Sophie with the bare minimum amount of information she needs and then later reveals that she knew the big secrets all along after Sophie has already discovered various truths for herself. You will find a teacher who holds a grudge against Sophie’s own father much like Snape in Harry Potter. We even have a dining hall scene and a ballroom scene that kept my mind drifting back to my time reading the Harry Potter series.
It is a hundred and six pages before we finally end day one of Sophie’s time at Hecate Hall, and it is just past this point when things begin to pick up. In the second half of the book, we begin to move into more original territory. Once this happens, the book gets more interesting and less like the two series books I mention above. This is where Hawkins's writing begins to shine.
As the book progresses, I began to enjoy her characters more. Sophie’s naiveté and inability to control what comes out of her mouth when she starts speaking, provides us with a charming and likable heroine with a refreshing dose of humor. Hawkins writes with a wonderful sense of humor, and has some pretty good laugh out loud moments:
“Sophia Mercer, “ Elodie intoned, “we have come to induct you into our sisterhood. Say the five words to begin the ritual.”I like that this book made me laugh, and since it picked up towards the end, I may definitely have to give the sequel a shot. Yes, this is the first book in a projected Hex Hall series, and I think that it will be interesting to see where Hawkins will take us next.
I blinked at her. “Are you freaking kidding me?”
Anna gave an exasperated sigh. “No, the five words are, ‘I accept your offer sisters.’” (pg 92)
While the book had some obvious flaws, it also had many redeeming characteristics, and a way of grabbing the reader so that they want to know more. I hope now that this first novel is out of the way, and a good foundation is built, that Hawkins can give in to the creativity she showed in the second half of the book and continue to keep the surprises coming in the Hex Hall sequels.
View all my reviews
Hex Hall Discussion Questions
1. Sophie is abandoned by her father for her supposed protection. Do you believe there is anything that justifies abandoning your child?
As a mother I have to say that I would do everything in my power to keep my child safe, and with me. However, if my presence was a danger to him, I think I would leave. Given the circumstances in this novel, I think I can understand why her father abandoned her. So although I don’t like the idea of a parent being away from their child, I can understand it in this situation.
2. Did Hex Hall remind you of any other series?
YES! At the very beginning I felt like I was having flashbacks to Harry Potter and House of Night. There were some scenes, like the banquet at the beginning, and the dance scene that reminded minded me of some scenes from the HP series. Also, Sophie’s ignorance about the magical world and her place in it was also very reminiscent of HP. The vampires in the boarding school and the vampire poet had me thinking House of Night if you add in Elodie’s mean girl clique you have House of Night with witches.
3. Normally when you think of Dark Witches and White Witches, you think good and evil. This series seemed to have a different take on that all together. It almost had an apathetic take on human life with only care taken if their secret might be revealed. Do you find this disturbing or real?
I found it disturbing that they didn’t care about human life. Perhaps that could be the reason why the Prodigium are so hunted, because they don’t care if a human gets in the way of their magic and is injured or killed.
4. Looking forward to the next book, or pass on it? Why?
This is a tough question for me. While I really enjoyed the second half of the book, I am not sure it is original enough for me to keep going. I might pick up the second if I have time, but if I do, it needs to be more original, or I won’t be picking up any further sequels.