HEX by Thomas Olde Heuvelt
This was an amazing book. I wanted to start it all over again the instant I read the last sentence. It is about a town, Black Springs, which lives under a curse. Whoever lives there, whether they move or are born there, they can never move away. Anyone who tries to leave, who spends more than a night or two away from the town, is overwhelmed with fantasies of suicide. Their minds are bombarded with visions of doom and torment until they finally take their own life.
Once Black Springs is your home, if you want to live, then you live there, forever.
The witch roams freely through the town she has under her spell. Her eyes are sewn shut. Her mouth is sewn shut. She has iron shackles binding her arms and legs. Yet she goes where she wants, without any seeming rhyme or reason. She shows up walking down Main Street, she stands motionless in the rain, and she appears in people’s houses, sometimes in their bedrooms. And she might arrive, staring with her creepy sewn up eyes, and stay there for days.
The adults remember the times people tried to lift the curse. Some people tried to hurt the witch and they met terrible and violent ends. Some others tried to help the witch and they too met with sudden cruel deaths. So those in charge have decided that the best way to protect everyone is to continue the traditions that have been in place for generations; do not disturb her, let her do whatever she wants, don’t open her eyes, and whatever you do never listen to her whispering.
The younger generation, however, does not remember the power of the witch’s vengeance. And they feel, just as every new generation feels, that the adults are exaggerating the threat (because it couldn’t possibly be that bad) and that they have a better solution. They want out of the town, and some are willing to go to any lengths to do that. Including risking the lives of everyone in town.
Favorite part: I can’t give details without spoiling anything. So, to remain vague about it, the moment Steve’s life changes forever, as he watches it happen, helpless to do anything.
Favorite character: The witch or Steve… oh, or Grim! He was great.
Favorite line(s): “Later I stopped believing in witches, so I did it as a balancing exercise.”
“Desperate needs led to desperate deeds.”
“It’s those smiling faces that get to him. They should seem pleasant but they’re not. They’re perverse, like they have always been. Because when those faces smile, he no longer recognizes them. They’re faces that have forgotten how to smile. They’re faces with too much skin on them, too many winkles for their years. They’re faces that are leading lives of their own, and every day they sag a little further. They’re flattened faces, grim faces, faces under insurmountable stress. They’re the faces of Black Spring. And when they try to smile, it looks like they’re screaming.”
Gore Level: It has a quiet, patient kind of gore. There is violence too, angry and youthful. And slow selfish inward hate. And then the hot sweeping and intoxicating brutality of an angry mob.
In summary: The fear was exquisite. The suspense was elegant. The monsters were complete and abundant. And throughout the story there was this perfectly normal family with absolutely natural emotions trying to deal with this supernatural and utterly unreasonable situation. In the end I was left unsure who was the real evil, the witch or humanity.
It was beautiful, just beautiful.