I just finished reading Spell Bound, the third book in the Hex Hall series by Rachel Hawkins. And, like I knew I would based on the first two books, I liked it. The trilogy is genuinely entertaining. It may not be trying to do anything groundbreaking, but it isn’t confined by the formula either. The story flows in a way that feels refreshingly natural, especially compared to many other YA urban fantasies.
The story follows a witch named Sophie Mercer, and her successes and failures determine where the story goes. Along with her best friend, a vampire who loves pink, and some others, she ends up at the heart of a serious problem. But of course, first she’s got to figure out what’s happening, and that’s a journey all on its own.
I can’t talk too much about the second two books, because of the number of spoilers from the first book. Which is going to make this a little difficult, since it’s been a while since I read the first one. But, oh well. The concept for the first book is one that I’m generally dubious of–the whole boarding school fantasy thing. It can be done well, but it isn’t always. So it was great to read this series and find that it actually has a kind of charisma to it.
The series comes out to be a mix of urban fantasy and fantasy. It takes place in a present day setting, but it has more of an adventure feel to it than a mystery one (though there is a mystery, especially in the early stages). Each book is very different from the previous ones, so there’s no danger of them feeling repetitive. Even so, the story that begins in the first book is one the one that concludes in the last one.
The protagonist was snarky and fun without being overbearing. Her best friend is a very different character, and fun in a very different way. And the almost requisite love triangle was (narrowly) avoided by the characters trying to be as mature about this as teenagers can manage to be. Especially since they’re busy trying to save the world. And another thing–the characters may have avoided the kind of immature abrasiveness that tends to annoy me, but they still come off as people, kids, thrust into a situation too big for them. They’re scared in the big moments, even when they’re trying to be brave (and thankfully, the love interest is not exempt from this, as is too often the case).
Maybe that’s what gets me about this series. The characters aren’t written to be the kind of people you want to be. They’re written to be people. Maybe ones that try to be a little better than average, but still people. Still making mistakes, still being scared, still trying to cope with the weight of what’s happening around them. And doing it with a healthy dose of sarcasm.
Also, the covers are kind of cute, with the reflection thing.