Published: March 2nd 2010 by Hyperion Book CH
Details: Hardcover, 323 pages
My Rating: 3.5/5
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.
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.
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!
- The main character Sophie is sent off to a boarding school for magical folk.
- 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.
- Like Harry, Sophie was brought up in the human world, hence is a complete novice when it comes to all things magical.
- Like Harry, Sophie is famous in the magical world, given her family status, and I won’t say anymore here due to spoilers.
- 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.
- Like Harry, Sophie has a tendancy to get herself into trouble, with pretty much everyone at school, earning her several punishments and detentions.
- Like Harry, Sophie find herself an archenemy pretty much straight away.
- 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.