Hex is a horror novel by Dutch author Thomas Olde Heuvelt. It’s about a cursed town: whoever is born here, is doomed to stay ’til death. Whoever settles, never leaves. Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a 17th century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Blind and silenced, she walks the streets and enters your homes at will. She stands next to your bed for nights on end. Everybody knows that her eyes may never be opened or the consequences will be too terrible to bear.
The elders of Black Spring have virtually quarantined the town by using high-tech surveillance to prevent their curse from spreading. Frustrated with being kept in lockdown, the town’s teenagers decide to break their strict regulations and go viral with the haunting, but in so doing send the town spiraling into the dark, medieval practices of the past.
Stephen King praises Hex
Let’s start of with a huge positive: it’s amazing that a Dutch author has accomplished as much as Thomas Olde Heuvelt has with Hex. Hex was translated into several languages, including English, and the setting and names were rewritten to fit into American culture. The original Dutch version of Hex was set in the small town of Beek, the Netherlands. For international publishing, Beek became Black Spring, a town in the Hudson Valley, America. This is a very smart marketing trick. Most amazingly, Hex got praise from non other than Stephen King on Twitter:
A wicked witch holds an upstate New York town prisoner. This is totally, brilliantly original.
I agree with King on the ‘totally original’ part, not so much on the ‘brilliantly’. I wonder if I read the same book as Hex receives very high praise from bookish friends of mine on Goodreads, and general high praise from horror readers. But Hex was not the book for me… Which is sad, because I love horror and I also love and respect Stephen King. This review is probably one of the very few which is not loving Hex.
Over the top
The book is made out of two parts and the second part is what ruined the book for me. First things first: the first part of Hex is good. It’s not amazing or terrifying, but it’s decent and indeed very original. The book has well written characters and the setting is very creepy. It’s one of those stories where you will imagine what you would do in the same situation. It helps that this is a very modern setting, with apps about the witch, YouTube vloggers and other modern technology.
The second part of the book is completely different from the first part. Where the first part of Hex was subtle and will get under your skin, the second part is over the top. The story derails completely and is totally unbelievable. Yes, this is a horror story about a witch, but the first part was very convincing and the second just… plain crazy. For me, it read as two different novels with one being a pretty decent horrorstory and the second being a weird fantasy from the mind of a crazy person.
Hex has two different endings; the original ending, and a rewritten one. I read the rewritten version and later found the original one through Google. I think Olde Heuvelt did well to rewrite it as the original ending was even more absurd for my taste. The books being in print right now all have the new and improved ending. Speaking about the ending: the last chapter redeemed some of the second part of the book but still can’t make up for it.
Another thing I genuinely disliked is the language Olde Heuvelt uses. Maybe this is better in the English translation, but the original Dutch version, which I read, felt very pretentious at times. Also, there are too many metaphors, which was just destracting from the main story. For example, there is a metaphor about someone squirming on the sidewalk just like an enchillada wrapped in cellophane would do. Um, say what now? If your enchillada is squirming, something is wrong with your food. Throw it out.
I’m not saying to throw out Hex. It does have some genuinely scary parts and it certainly is original. For me though, there are far better horrorstories out there and I don’t understand why this keeps on receiving 5-star reviews.