Review: Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

10 Oct

Series: Hex Hall, book #1

Published: March 2nd 2010 by Hyperion Book CH

Details: Hardcover, 323 pages

My Rating:  3.5/5

My Summary:

Light and fun read about Sophie, who after casting a particulary bad spell gets sent to Hex Hall, where she learns one or two things about the magical world and about herself. This is a Harry Potter for girls, with a distinct teen-age feel to it. As a 30+ year old, I found it slightly too immature. Yet because of the witty voice of Sophie, and a good pace, it’s still an entertaining read. Sequel is called Demonglass.

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Synopsis:

Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It’s gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie’s estranged father–an elusive European warlock–only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it’s her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.

By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire student on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect.

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My Thoughts:

I remember saying in my review of A Great and Terrible Beauty that it was described as a Harry Potter for girls.

Well, scratch that. This is the Harry Potter for girls!

Let’s see:

  1. The main character Sophie is sent off to a boarding school for magical folk.
  2. Said school is essentially a pale version of Hogwarts, with ghosts floating around, furniture that change shapes, spooky bathrooms and classes featuring subjects such as The History of Warlocks and Transformation.
  3. Like Harry, Sophie was brought up in the human world, hence is a complete novice when it comes to all things magical.
  4. Like Harry, Sophie is famous in the magical world, given her family status, and I won’t say anymore here due to spoilers.
  5. Like Harry, Sophie is special and has a dark streak to her witch craft, which makes her not only a prime target for evil forces, but also has her doubting her own goodness.
  6. Like Harry, Sophie has a tendancy to get herself into trouble, with pretty much everyone at school, earning her several punishments and detentions.
  7. Like Harry, Sophie find herself an archenemy pretty much straight away.
  8. Like in the Harry Potter books, the plot revolves around students getting attacked at school by a mysterious evil force.

Well, isn’t it obvious where Hawkins got her ideas from? I really felt as if I was reading a girl-version of Harry Potter.

A very light version though, which lacked the depth that made Harry Potter such an engrossing read. You see, the theme dealt with here (as in Harry Potter) is quite dark. A character actually dies in this book. Still, because of the light tone of the book, this event never affected me. I didn’t feel the tragedy that the loss of that character was.

Compare that to my reaction to the fourth Harry Potter book where at the end of the book, a character died. I remembering being shocked, as a heaviness settled on me. I just couldn’t believe it had happened. And I certainly felt the grief of Harry and everyone around him.

Hex Hall could have been all that, but instead settled on being just a light, fun and easy read. Something which I liked, but didn’t devour.

Being a girl-version of Harry Potter, the romantic lead is also obvious, pretty much from the start. The romance (or crush as I prefer to call it)  was cute, but that’s about it. Sophie was a well-rounded character and a fun voice to follow. Archer however, felt a bit too one-dimensional for me. He was hot. He was mysterious. He was every girl’s crush. But then what? I would have liked to know more about him. The ending however promises more, and I have to admit I am curious to see how it develops.

Finally, I should warn the adult readers, that the book has a teen-age feel to it, and at times I felt too old (and rightly so, since I am much older than the target audience). I appreciate that Sophie’s voice felt so close to her age, not one year more or less than her 16 years. So kudos to Hawkins for portraying a teen that realistically. However, for an adult reader, it came across as a bit too immature at times.

In fact, I believe the extent of enjoyment of Hex Hall depends on the reader’s age. Say if you’re a teen or early tween, it will most likely rate 4-5 stars. If you, like me, are 30+, the grade is more likely to end up around a 3.

The sequel is called Demonglass.

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7 Responses to “Review: Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins”

  1. jenika October 15, 2011 at 11:30 am #

    Hi Tess!
    I started to read this book time ago but I got bored very soon (when Sophie just arrived to the Academy), maybe the spell gone wrong was nice to read but I decided to stop and try other books.
    What caught my interest was actually the cover of the book (it’s not the one you have in your review, there is a girl with a school uniform with a black cat next to her who reflects on the water down as a girl dressed in green.)
    Maybe in the future I will try it again but I am not sure if I can arrive ’till the end if characters will keep in being quite shallow…
    I totally agree in what you said about Harry Potter (please note that I read every book and I totally loved every single one of them, I think they were very very well written and the characters seemed alive): when the character die in the fourth Harry Potter book I was totally upset as he/she (I don’t want to give spoilers) was one of my favorite characters of all Harry Potter saga!!!! :(
    Anyway if I will read this book in the future of course I will let you know my thoughts about it. :)

    • tess October 16, 2011 at 6:01 am #

      Hi Jenika!
      The cover I showed in my review is what I had on my paperback (unfortunately), because I know there is another (and much more alluring) cover, the one that you described. I think that if you didn’t like the beginning of the book, you probably won’t like the rest, as it continues being a fun but slightly shallow book, but either way if you read it would love to hear what you say! And good to hear you’re a hard core fan of Harry Potter too!! :-) I read all the books, seen all the movies, I adored the whole saga, such an amazing story and characters!!! Thanks, Tess

  2. jenika October 20, 2011 at 6:44 am #

    I didn’t see the last two movies but I read all the Harry Potter books (and I prefer more the books than the movies, but the movies are not bad at all…) and I loved all the saga.
    Actually when that character we talked about die in the fourth book I was hoping he would be back somehow even as a ghost… I was disappointed he didn’t come back but I totally enjoyed the way Harry was missing him… he was not at all a forgotten character as I was fearing… I think the author wrote an amazing saga! Every single character is so well developed!!! full of surprises, adventures, funny moments, a bit of romance and everything else!!!

    • tess October 20, 2011 at 10:51 am #

      Yes, I definitely prefer the books to the movies. But I have to say, the last two movies surprised me, they were far better than the earlier ones! Spectacular action and great acting! Othwerwise, yes I totally agree on the Harry Potter saga, it just has it all, adventure, friendship, funny moments, darkness. And excellent characters! No wonder it became such a huge success :-)

  3. jenika November 15, 2011 at 1:19 am #

    I didn’t see the last two movies but your comments on them made me even more curious to see them! :)
    One thing that I liked of Harry Potter was that even his romance was not given for granted… at the beginning I thought if there was going to be romance was going to be between Harry and Hermione… but it never happened and I totally loved instead the romance between Hermione and Ron!!! They were so sweet!!!

    • tess November 15, 2011 at 10:58 am #

      Yes, do see the last two movies, they were fantastic! I also loved the fact that the romance wasn’t given for granted. It was very very gradual. I was also wondering about Harry and Hermione for a while, but was happy when I realized in which direction it was headed. They were so sweet, the two of them!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Review: Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins « After Twilight… - November 15, 2011

    […] sequel is just as enjoyable as its predecessor Hex Hall. Here we follow Sophie as she goes overseas to stay on the English countryside with her father and […]

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