Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
Really, I have had enough. Angsty vampires, brooding werewolves, mysterious fae and alluring, wise witches. It’s all gotten so dark, hasn’t it? Are we really in love with so much misery?
Frankly, I blame advertising. When I was a lad the biggest advert was a cheery crowd up on a hill wanting to buy the world a Coke. Fun, smily, beautiful people in a world of sunshine. But that was before they invented diabetes.
To quote the great man with the clown face, “Why so serious?”
Yes, yes, yes. I know my stories are as grim and the grimmest brothers Grimm living in Grimland, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the odd jolly jape as much as the next man. So Thank the great gods of the netherworld for Hex Hall. And Rachel Hawkins.
Hex Hall is a school for delinquent supernaturals (Prodigium). Our heroine, Sophie Mercer, a witch who means well but results badly, has been sent there after a love spell went way way too well. She makes friends with the local hot and crushworthy Archer Cross, makes enemies of a trio of supermodel dark witches, and teams up with Jenna, the one and only vampire student at Hex Hall. Who promptly goes on a killing rampage. Apparently.
Mix up a cult of religious fanatics descended from the Knights Templar (HELL YES!) and Sophie’s great-grandmother’s ghost and you have a high school experience like no other. Except my school was EXACTLY like that. Exactly like that.
The best way to give you a flavour is by teasing you with this extract.
There was the soft snick of a match being lit, and a small pool of light illuminated the figure.
She was wearing purple silk pajamas, a black candle cradled in her hands. Two other candles blazed to life and I saw Chaston and Anna, also pajama-clad, standing behind Elodie.
“Sophie Mercer’” Elodie intoned, “we have come to induct you into out sisterhood. Say the five words to begin the ritual.”
I blinked at her. “Are you freaking kidding me?”
Yes, Hex Hall has a lot of lines like that. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and is just plain old fashioned funny. Like books used to be.
I was lucky enough to track Rachel down, and whilst sipping a cup of Earl Grey tea, asked her a few pertinent questions.
1. I love that Sophie’s half-English. Any plans to send her over here? There’s a very nice tea shop near Fortnum and Masons I could take her to. So, is it true that Brits make the best wizards?
It’s very true, you are a Wizardy People, you Brits! And yes, Sophie WILL be going ‘cross the pond in the 2nd Hex Hall book, DEMONGLASS. I went to the UK when I was about 20, and I totally fell in love with all Boys With Cute Accents, and Places In Which To Drink Beer. Wait, I mean with the rich cultural history, and old buildings, and fascinating museums, and...did I say history already? Anyway, when it came time to write DEMONGLASS, I knew I wanted to send Sophie to England, and the majority of the book takes place in one of those big, ancestral country manors I’m told you all have.
2. L’Occhio di Dio, better known as the Eye. If I have one complaint about Hex Hall us how you’ve portrayed a bunch of knife-wielding religious fundamentalists as the bad guys. They’re descended from the Knights Templar! What’s not to love?
Look, I dig a hot dude in black, running around with a sword in his hand and righteousness in his heart as much as the next gal. I WILL say that there may be more to the Eye than meets... um...the eye. Still, even you have to admit their propensity for carving young girls hearts out MIGHT have something to do with the whole being seen as villains thing.
3. Obviously the ‘vampires who love pink’ market has been sadly neglected for too many years, so hooray for Jenna! Any other twisted facts about Jenna you’d care to share? What are her musical tastes? I’m suspecting she’d not into that whole goth thing.
It’s my firm belief that Jenna participated in a beauty pageant or two back in the day, and she probably had QUITE the Barbie collection (but no Kens, obviously. Barbie+Midge 4-eva!) As for her musical tastes, I think she definitely listens to Ani DiFranco and probably some Florence+The Machine. However, her musical guilty pleasure? Girls Aloud. (Who, I must add with shame, are also MY musical guilty pleasure.)
4. The story starts off pretty light, but gets darker as it progresses until by the end you’re having to read it with a very bright and shiny torch. Sophie’s lied to, betrayed more than once and several of her school chums don’t make it to the end of term. How have these events changed Sophie and what clues can you give us about Hex 2, Demonglass?
First off, I love that y’all say “torch” for “flashlight.” It makes me picture legions of British children, hiding under their covers with flaming sticks held aloft. And yes, the events of Hex Hall definitely change Sophie going into Demonglass. She’s a little tougher now, and a whole lot more suspicious of everyone’s motivations. However, girlfriend has in no way lost her sense of humour! (There *cough* may be a Twilight joke or two. Allegedly.) Some things you can expect from Demonglass include fire, Surprise Betrothals, swords, references to Chuck E. Cheese, kissing, and Tons of Stuff Blowing Up.
5. I've saved the most serious question until last. One, actually, two, of the things that struck me about Sophie where the constant references to the size of her breasts. Now we all know, as writers, you never put anything in a book unless it's going to be relevant later on. For those not familiar with the term it's called 'foreshadowing' and means if you put a gun on the mantlepiece at the beginning of the story, then, by heck, someone needs to have gone all Tarantino with it before the end. So, can we discuss Sophie's breasts, in a grown up not-giggling at all manner? Are they the source of her supernatural might? Are dark witches better endowed? What about dark warlocks? In what area are they, shall we say, larger than normal? What I'm asking does the size of a warlock's wand matter?
Stop sniggering at the back. We can see you.
Well, Sarwat, I think there is little doubt that Boobs=Magic. That's just science. HOWEVER, what you may not know (and I am probably violating many tenets of the Lady Code by revealing this) is that there is an ACTUAL algorithm detailing just how breast size relates to superpowers. Created in 1844 by Ada Lovelace, this complex equation is one of the most closely guardedsecrets of womanhood, so I obviously cannot reveal it to you. Of course, my cover story is that I made Sophie bountiful of chest because I was a little tired of reading about all the flat-chested chicks in YA. Life is no picnic for the well-endowed teen girls, either!
Sadly, you have seen through my ruse, so yes, Sophie's magnificent bosom is IN FACT related to her bad-ass magical powers. Unfortunately for warlocks, superpowers do NOT equal increased junkitude, mostly because, as I think we can all agree, Lady Lumps>>>> Boy Parts.
There you have it. Kind of makes me wonder about Hermione and if Sophie could take her in a battle. Fairly likely given the difference in their, well, you know, cup sizes. Now for those of you who've been paying the slighest bit of attention will know that this is not over, not by a long shot. I will be teaming up, joining forces, dueting and all together getting into a dynamic duo with Rachel as we'll be touring around the US together in March! An entire continent, at our feet.