Insert Polite Laughter Here

Hex Hall - Rachel Hawkins

”Come on, Sophia!” she called. “Be traditional for once!”


Seeing as a young witch getting sent to a Magical School is brimming with creativity and originality.

 

 

To be fair, Hecate/Hex Hall was more of a lazy derivation of Hogwarts than an effort to be in the same league. I suspect any other attempt at imagining a school in the context of Fantasy will be branded as such and this smartly capitalized on its presumed strengths in other areas. Unfortunately, this felt like it placed all its eggs in the charm and humor basket instead of saving some for the character development and a creative, original storyline.

 

Sophie Mercer has been to nineteen high schools across the country for causing trouble with her magical interventions. Her last one gets her shipped to Hecate “Hex” Hall, a reformative school of sorts for the wayward young Prodigium (witches, warlocks, shifters, fae and a vampire) where she’s off to learn pertinent things like dress design by magic, literature from Lord Byron (the real one) and self defense because her kind is being hunted by an Irish family and an Italian cult of hunters who has a thing for eye tattoos. And maybe even defend herself from her vampire roommate who may or may not be killing the witches in school one by one.

 

Unlike some of the recent smart-ass heroines I’ve encountered, I didn’t find Sophie as annoying as I expected. But I wasn’t charmed by her either. In more ways than one, she’s very Anne Hathaway circa Princess Diaries kind of funny here: I know she’s being funny, it’s all very friendly and inoffensive… it’s just that I’m not laughing.

 

I opened my eyes to stare at a bright blue tulle monstrosity with a skirt that would hit me at mid-thigh. I’d look like the really slutty bride of Cookie Monster.
I muttered a really bad word under my breath, which earned me an evil look from Ms. East, but surprisingly, no punishment.


‘A really bad word’? Seriously? I kept on telling myself how very Disney-fied this story is, not only on the humor but also in the drama (walking out while crying, plopping on the bed while having girl talks etc.), realising belatedly this is a Hyperion book.

 

I have nothing against this kind of funny of course, and as I’ve said Sophie didn’t piss me off as much as I dreaded but the humor hardly counted for me as this book’s strongest suit.

 

I liked the ease in the flow of the story and I suppose the predictability of the plot helped some. This employed A LOT of the high school cliches (i.e. mean girls, the prettiest mean girl dating the guy Sophie’s angry crushing on, a freaking Formal Ball etc.) and Urban Fantasy tropes that could only work for me if the characters are likeable enough so Sophie turns out to be a “special kind of witch” and while I was hardly surprised with the reveal, a small hopeful part in me wished that she gets told that her father is a mid-level customer relations employee for a mediocre brand of magical cat food instead. Now, wouldn’t that be more fun? Hawkins also has a habit of telling me A LOT of things. How this girl is goddess-like gorgeous and how that particular shade of pink is beautiful with the subtext of being cold and this electric raspberry shade is meant to convey quirkiness and friendly warmth.

 

Oh and I should be swooning over Archer Cross.

Because… he likes to wear his tie loose, collar unbuttoned and smirk a lot?
Because… he was “slender almost to the point of skinny” in one page and armed with the taut chest muscles of sexiness in the next?
Because… of the spoiler that I won’t be discussing here?

 

 

But for some reason after all that I’ve whined about, I liked the way the story progressed in the last quarter. It felt a little rushed but stoked enough curiosity in me to shelf this series as a perhaps rather than an outright NO. I’m actually more interested in the groundskeeper.

 

(Kindly warn me ahead if this is all the extent of Cal’s participation so I may abandon posthaste.)