Top critical review
A paranormal plot with punch.
Reviewed in the United States on June 28, 2018
Actual rating 3.75 stars.
For some reason I did not connect that this was the same author that had written the ‘Rebel Belle’ trilogy – more stupid me! I had a lot of fun reading that Palladin adventure, and so too did I enjoy this witchy-demon-magic boarding school romp through the grounds of Hecate Hall.
I’d seen this book pop up in my recommendations repeatedly on several different sites – but something about the cover art, and it being a witch-based tale had me dismissing it. But because I was looking for some quick reads to help reach my reading goals back in 2017 (futilely) ‘Hex Hall’ fit the bill... and I was pleasantly surprised. This was not some mass produced paranormal romance I’d predicted. While still in the YA wheelhouse of tone, our protagonist Sophie had some wit and humour that kept me engaged, and I never felt bored for a moment. With a murder mystery entwined into the storyline, a romance, a fish-out-of-water arc, I was always waiting to see what would unfold on the next page. Needless to say this novel was a wonderful surprise and an engaging read. I’m definitely looking forward to adding the rest of this collection to my library as soon as possible.
‘Hex Hall’ has a Harry Potteresque feel. A prodigy magic user/outsider protagonist with a mystery to solve about their past. A magical boarding school with spells and student hijinks. A bully, some beasties and ghosts, wacky teachers and classes, and of course a library. But Sophie stands on her own – there is no Scooby Gang with a like-minded Hermione or Ronald, she does her own research, practices and develops skills and uncovers answers solo. I felt there could have been a bit more establishment of her character for me to connect with her quicker, and there are many tropes that gave this a I’ve-read-this-before vibe. But still, I was entertained and armoured by Sophie and her stumbling existence at Hecate Hall.
Qudos to Sophie’s roommate/vampire/best friend Jenna, by far my favourite character from the novel. She was sarcastic, juxtaposing and quirky... just as a best friend should be. I’m eager to see where this friendship will go in the series.
The writing style lends to an easy read, the tone is very teen-girl, I wanted a bit more sophistication, but it would have not hit its target market and confused readers. Hawkins writing is bang on for the demographic. And as a huge lover of all things YA, was charmed by this story. As there are new challenges and clues mixed with humour constantly scattered every page or so, it keeps the pace and tension building right to the end, and can quite easily be completed in one sitting, however I broke it in two, consuming it over lazy afternoons accompanied by a hot cup of tea.
There is enough of a mystery solved and plenty of resolution to feel like you get a pay-off at the end of the novel, even though this is a debut to a series. Plus, there are enough good teasers to leave you wanting to read on and get your hands on the next book. I’m definitely eager to dive right into ‘Demonglass’ as soon as possible. A super fun read and something I’d recommend to lovers of YA, and light witchy-toned books!