Hex Hall Series
By Rachel Hawkins
This will probably be the last time I review something as an entire series, and instead focus on each book individually. But as hard of a time as I had getting through the first book, I figured I would go this route one more time. This is a second series I read in my hunt to understand how boarding schools are portrayed in YA literature. Strangely enough, only the first book really takes place at a boarding school. Warning: Minor spoiler, as I am discussing the whole series.
At the age of thirteen, Sophie Mercer found out she was a witch. Unfortunately for her, this isn’t an easy thing to live with. Remember the television series Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and how she was constantly messing things up with her magic? Sophie is like this, but worse. And instead of witchy aunts to help, she’s living with her non-magical mother. Her magically inclined father is more or less estranged, sending random birthday cards or letters.
After a love spell gone terribly awry on prom night no less, she is sent by the Council to Hex Hall. Turns out Daddy dearest is also Head of the Council, so it is more like a serious grounding than anything else. Hex Hall or Hecate Hall as it is really called is a reform school for Prodigium (witches/warlocks – both light/white and dark, were-animals and faeries….and the random pink loving vampire.) I still haven’t figured out if it’s irony to call magically inclined creatures “prodigy,” but to each her own.
By the end of the first day, she’s met the school’s mean girls (Elodie, Anna, and Chaston) , befriended the school freak (Jenna), gained a crush on the school’s hottie (Archer Cross), a creepy ghost keeps following her around, and learned that there are two groups that hate Prodigium – L’Occhio di Dio commonly called “The Eye” and the Brannicks.
The series progresses with Sophie learning some dark things about her family as she tries to adjust to going to an all magic school. She gets caught up in a strange love triangle, and finds out that The Eye is specifically out to get her. With the help of her estranged father, roommate slash outcast best friend slash vampire Jenna, Hex Hall’s groundskeeper Alexander “Cal” Callahan, and school’s hottie Archer, Sophie tries to stop the oncoming war between the Prodigium and regular ole humans.
Things I liked:
It may be easiest to bullet point what I liked about this series, because there wasn’t much.
- Jenna. A lesbian vampire who has a pink fetish who also has a good bit of teenage angst cracked me up.
- Cal. He’s quiet and really almost kind of pointless outside of saving everyone when needed (he is the most powerful healer ever, basically), but he seemed like a solid voice of reason….when he actually is allowed to speak.
- Where Hex Hall is located: Georgia. Not too many teen books are set in my home state, so I had to have some love there.
- Elodie as a (SORRY SPOILER) ghost. Hated her in the first book, but as a pissy “told you I’d haunt your ass” ghost, I liked her.
- The second book. The plot, the setting, the lack of Archer Cross, and the twists.
- Thorne Abbey. 35 kitchens? 200+ rooms? Multiple libraries? Yes please.
Things I didn’t like:
First, I want to say that I had SO MANY GOODREAD FRIENDS LOVE THE FIRST BOOK. I had to double check multiple times, because I seriously almost didn’t finish the first book. I think if it had been written as a teenage girl’s journal or something I might have liked it more. There was something about the tone that was just…a little off for me. Sophie’s sarcasm and humor seems incredibly forced, but not in a good way. Ad the only other person who talks like she does (meaning “quick witted” and “sarcastically”) is the school hottie, so obviously they should look at each other longingly across the lunch hall. And sarcasm is apparently genetic.
[ Serious side note – is it? Because my dry wit and sarcasm came from my stepfather if you ask me. No joke there. ]
I’m really not sure what compelled me to finish the first book, other than I adjusted to the writing style at some point. Or maybe it lessened? I’m not sure. But I am glad I read the second book. It was definitely the better of the three books. I really think it’s because Archer Cross, the MC’s love interest, was missing for most of the book. Well not missing per se, but he wasn’t there for most of it. It allowed for the second half of her love triangle to shine. Only, not really. Cal is there as in a figure who kind of lurks around being friendly with Sophie, and despite me being firmly Team Cal, it’s mostly because I didn’t like Archer Cross at all. Hell, I was also quite Team Jenna. I mean, Sophie keeps claiming Cal is her friend…but they never talk or anything. Except maybe the beginning of the second book. But really, each time he’s all “Let’s talk,” she goes “Yeah we’ll hang out later.”
We get it. Archer is who you want to be. Hell, Bella and Jacob had more of a relationship than Sophie and Cal did.
Then I got to the third book, where the Brannicks are suddenly a huge part of the plot. Sophie spends two books being chased by The Eye, so I’m not going to lie, I really forgot there was a second group hunting the witch.
And since Archer is back in the third book, and making out seems to be more important than SAVING THE WORLD, I was back off the wagon by the third book.
Am I glad I read the series? Meh. It gave me a good bit to think about with my own writing, and that I need to figure out what exactly about the dialogue bothered me so much so I don’t accidentally do it myself.
I still am trying to figure out why my friends liked this series. I get that it’s light and has magic, and maybe I have grown up some. If I had read it in 2010 when the first book came out, I might feel different. I really wanted more focus on the growing war and the relationship between Sophie and her dad — it resolved into a good father/daughter relationship, despite 17 years of almost complete radio silence. Even her relationship with her mother was too calm for me.
One of the twists in the first book, and one of the twist in the third book, I liked. All the other ones I found a bit predictable. It’s definitely not a series I’ll read it again, nor will I read the spin-off story.