I don’t think I’ve been excited like this about a new release in a while. A stand alone debut horror novel? Sign me up. And then when it arrived, praise from John Connolly and Sarah Lotz on the press release! And we know I love them both. It sat on my bedside table for two days while I struggled through some other books then I couldn’t wait anymore and picked it up.
Whoever is born here, is doomed to stay until death. Whoever comes to stay, never leaves.
Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a seventeenth-century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Blind and silenced, she walks the streets and enters homes at will. She stands next to children’s beds for nights on end. So accustomed to her have the townsfolk become that they often forget she’s there. Or what a threat she poses. Because if the stitches are ever cut open, the story goes, the whole town will die.
The curse must not be allowed to spread. The elders of Black Spring have used high-tech surveillance to quarantine the town. Frustrated with being kept in lockdown, the town’s teenagers decide to break the strict regulations and go viral with the haunting. But, in so doing, they send the town spiraling into a dark nightmare.
For me, I didn’t find HEX* as spooky as I was expecting. Yes, a witch with her eyes and mouth sewed up is pretty creepy. And living in a town with no access to Twitter would be horrifying. But there’s a couple uses of autism and mental disabilities as the butt of the joke in the narrative, which is scarier to me than any witch. It’s something I’m picking up a lot these days and it really disappoints me. There’s also a lot of- I’m honestly not sure of the term- sexual violence? There’s a pattern of every time a woman in the book was attacked, witch or not, there was a lot of groping.
On the other hand, I can’t deny the creepy vibes I got sometimes. It was like a mild throwback to how I felt two years ago when I read The Three for the first time. I read through the first two thirds in two days. And it’s interesting that the last third was added on when it was translated because I felt that the whole thing slowed down and ran a bit off course at that point. I think reading a translation of the original Dutch book would be a completely different experience.
I’m a fan of any book that uses True Blood as part of a valid argument; “Seriously, in True Blood the vampires came out of the closet.” And the family relationship was super interesting. This book actually looks at the parent who does favour one kid over the other, no matter what they say. Something I’ve always worried about for when I have future children. The brutal honesty of how people act, how they are deep down, is something that this book excels at. If that’s your jam, this will keep you up through the night.
And lastly, the technology aspect of it was great. If anyone has seen the original Scream films, and then the modern show where technology like Twitter and YouTube is so key to the narrative, this book felt like the new version of so many great horror books from the nineties. Videos, websites, instant messaging, so much of that is key to our world and seeing it in a novel makes it feel real.
Warner Brothers is adapting the book for TV and that, I cannot wait for. I think it’s going to be interesting to see this world on-screen. Especially if they go with the same vibes that they work with in Supernatural and Person of Interest.
Want to pick up a copy? The hardcover is available now! And the paperback is coming out in October!
Will you be reading this book? What do you think of modern technology in novels?