The greats of fiction Stephen King and George R. R. Martin lead the fanfare for HEX, so be assured that Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s debut English novel is both terrifying and unputdownable in equal measure.
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.
I’ve had HEX on my ARC shelf for over a year, waiting patiently and I will admit that I was being a little bit of a wuss, slightly afraid of what I was going to find in those pages! But I finally put on my big girl pants, I manned up and started reading and well, what a bloody brilliant book.
Black Spring, to look at, is a normal town in the Hudson Valley, except they are cursed, there is a 300-year-old witch named Katherine, who appears in their homes, walks their streets. Her eyes and mouth are stitched to prevent her from causing chaos. But once someone moves to Black Spring they can never move away.
Now, regular readers of this blog will know I tend to flip things on their side, and while I found Katherine immensely creepy (and as someone who suffers with psychosis and sees people who aren’t there, is slightly freaked out that a Katherine is going to appear by the bed now) I felt intensely protective of Katherine as the book progressed. I felt like this was a woman who had been cursed herself and the town wasn’t cursed by her but as a result of what had happened to her.
Although Katherine is the focus of the story I felt like the people of the town were where the main story sat. This story was about what happens when there is a kind of marshal law, or even a mob rules. What happens when the laws of the land don’t apply and people go against what is morally right and get carried away with being cruel instead jumping into the idea of an eye for an eye. It’s as though our author has looked at where evil really comes from in these stories.
This book gets uncomfortable and hard to read in parts, it doesn’t hold any punches and things happen that made me feel ill but they aren’t going too far, they fit with the story and the situation perfectly. Not once did I feel that things had gone outside the realms of reality.
There were subtle references to original Grimm’s Fairy Tales, which obviously didn’t end well, in some ways this was like a modern adult version one. It did remind me of them in the way it read.
The writing was engaging and between the author being a fluent English speaker and Nancy Forest-Flier who acted as translator for the novel you would never know this had been written in Dutch originally.
I can’t recommend this highly enough, a gripping, psychological journey.
A huge thanks to Thomas Olde Heuvelt and Hodder & Stoughton for the ARC so that I could read and honestly review this novel.
Book & Buy Links
Author: Thomas Olde Heuvelt
Genre: Horror | Thriller | Magic
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication Date: 26 April 2016
Review Format: Hardcover
Other Formats: Paperback | eBook | Audio
Buy: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Waterstones | Foyles | Book Depository | SpeedyHen