Halloween Book Review: Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

Hex is a supernatural horror novel by Thomas Olde Heuvelt, set in the modern American town of Black Spring, which is cursed by the presence of Katherine van Wyler. Katherine, an alleged witch, was put to death in the 17th century, but has haunted Black Spring ever since. Her eyes and mouth are sewn shut. She wanders through the town, entering people’s homes at will. She prevents anyone from escaping. The townspeople are instructed to avoid her as, if they get too close, Katherine begins to whisper, and bad things begin to happen.

“Her name is Katherine Van Wyler, but most of us call her the Black Rock Witch.”

I had to work really hard to write a clear, succinct plot summary of this book because personally, once I started reading, I found it really difficult to understand what Hex was about. The descriptions were unclear and they made it hard for me to imagine the town of Black Spring at all. Initially, I thought the book was set in the 17th century and it wasn’t until WIFI and CCTV systems were mentioned I realised this was not the case.

In fact, the first few chapters were such a struggle to read and understand, I considered putting Hex down – a great shame, as I generally try to persevere with books, even if I’m having a bit of trouble.

This is because Hex begins by immersing the reader in a world we know nothing about, following characters who are already accustomed to life in Black Spring with Katherine, and so nothing is explained or described to the reader. We have to wait until chapter 6 to receive exposition about Katherine van Wyler, why she has cursed the town, and why it’s such a terrifying place to live.

I think the opening of Hex could have been much better had it began differently. For example, we could have followed Burt and Bammy Delarosa from the start, a new family who, later in the novel, move to Black Spring.

Opening Hex with the Delarosas’ move, despite the desperate pleas of the townspeople for them to live elsewhere, would puzzle and intrigue both them and the reader, leading us to wonder what could be so terrible about Black Spring. Then, as the Delarosas begin adjusting to their new life in the town, they would notice the curiously high number of surveillance cameras. They would notice that Black Spring is incredibly closed off and hostile to outsiders. This would pique both their suspicions and ours; what is wrong with Black Spring? Then, Katherine could appear in their home – terrifying both the Delarosas and us.

Unfortunately, this is not how Hex begins, so you must make it past chapter 6 in order to understand and enjoy the narrative as, once we know more about Katherine and Black Spring, the book immediately gets much scarier and creepier.

After this moment, I was drawn to keep reading – I had no idea what was going to happen next or when things were going to happen, and this filled the book with such exciting unpredictability. The townspeople interact more with Katherine and, as a result, Black Spring devolves into a savage, violent, and dangerous community.

Then, towards the end, Hex becomes disappointing and confusing. The narrative is filled with dream sequences that make no sense and abhorrent violence, with no real resolution. The protagonist (if there is one), Steve Grant, suggests Katherine has been innocent all along, and that it is the people of Black Spring who are really at fault; they have corrupted themselves with evil.

Unfortunately, I am not convinced by this at all. Throughout the book, we see Katherine bewitch, attack, and even kill people. Admittedly, some extreme or violent actions committed by the townspeople are not caused by Katherine, but are caused by the people of Black Spring allowing their fear and anger to transform them into lawless savages. However, to suggest Katherine is entirely innocent and Black Spring would have been corrupted anyway, even if she had never existed is just wrong. Katherine has clearly had a negative influence over some of the townspeople, and this exacerbated and escalated the cruelty, violence, and savagery which takes place.

Overall, I was disappointed by Hex.

I almost stopped reading after the first few chapters, and I couldn’t make sense of things. Then, it suddenly became really good – it was exciting, interesting, and engaging. Yet, by the ending, I was left puzzled, cross, and disappointed again.

Sadly, I don’t think I could recommend this book.

Star Rating: 3/5 Stars 

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Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith

This post was last updated in January 2020

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