This is one of the worst novels I’ve ever read. The premise sounded good and the story started off intriguingly. Set in a modern-day American town, Black Spring, the novel is about a witch’s curse upon the town and how it affects the people.
I don’t usually read horror books, so I don’t know a lot about them. They’re supposed to be frightening, I know that. One of the bits of praise on the back cover described Hex as ‘a powerfully spooky piece of writing’. I find this incredible, as I’ve read much scarier Goosebumps books. I’m easily scared, but the content of this book is shocking rather than scary. Some of it made me feel sick, so about halfway through I got fed up with it and skim-read to the end. I wanted to know how the plot unfolded, but I didn’t care for the writing style (too much ‘telling’ rather than ‘showing’), the characters (all of whom seemed very similar and unlikeable), the narrative point of view, or even the setting – originally, the author explains in the acknowledgements, the novel had a Dutch setting and ended differently. It seems that moving it to America gave the book a wider appeal, but actually I didn’t find the sense of place to be very convincing. I was picturing a film set, rather than a real place.
If this book has any merit, it’s probably the characters’ use of modern technology to capture and share information about the witch. This contrasts well with the seventeenth-century witch and the corresponding town laws which harshly punish anyone who provokes her or reveals her existence to outsiders. And the cover design is good. That’s about it, really. There’s an endorsement from Stephen King on the front cover, a quote on the back cover comparing the author to Stephen King, and the author himself cites Stephen King as a literary hero… maybe you’ll like this book if you like Stephen King?! Or maybe you won’t. I thought it was awful.
Published by Hodder & Stoughton in 2016, translated from Dutch by Nancy Forest-Flier.