4 stars out of 5.
The book blurb:
Whoever is born here, is doomed to stay until death. Whoever comes to stay, never leaves.
Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a seventeenth-century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Blind and silenced, she walks the streets and enters homes at will. She stands next to children’s beds for nights on end. So accustomed to her have the townsfolk become that they often forget she’s there. Or what a threat she poses. Because if the stitches are ever cut open, the story goes, the whole town will die.
The curse must not be allowed to spread. The elders of Black Spring have used high-tech surveillance to quarantine the town. Frustrated with being kept in lockdown, the town’s teenagers decide to break the strict regulations and go viral with the haunting. But, in so doing, they send the town spiraling into a dark nightmare.
The story behind HEX is that of a Witch and a curse and takes place in a town called Black Spring, the Witch in question is 300 years old from the seventeenth century and has had both her eyes and her mouth sewn shut and under no circumstance must they ever be opened, the curse states if ever they are then the whole town will die. The nature of the curse means that the residents of Black Spring cannot leave the town for any length of time and the people who come to live there can never leave.
The book is split into two parts, the buildup to and then the aftermath. Both have different tones with the first part introducing the characters, location and actions that inevitably lead to the second part and the second part showing the consequences of those actions. I did find the first part of the book to drag at times, it wasn’t that it was boring I just felt it could have been shorter in places whilst the second part is very dark and disturbing and I didn’t expect the ending.
The setting and curse are well thought out and on the whole the cast of characters are all well developed, some are likeable and some aren’t but the author does a decent job of giving them all individual voices. Alot of the events that take place surround the Grant family (Steve, Jocelyn and there two sons Tyler and Matt) throughout the book they are a likeable family who you really feel sympathy for and can for the most part understand their actions. However I didn’t particularly like the Holst’s (Jayden and Griselda) big parts of the story involve them but I found them both to be annoying, some of Jaden’s actions made me feel like he was an annoying twerp and I couldn’t feel any sympathy for either of them whereas I even felt sympathy for Katherine at times.
I liked the fact that the story is set in the modern day using apps and modern technology to keep track of the Witch, it made the story different than classic horror tales set in the past and some of the ways in which they hid her were very inventive.
Onto The Black Rock Witch (Katherine Van Wyler) herself, she is a creation who invokes a horrifying visage and image, shackled and manacled with eyes and mouth stitched shut. But what’s really creepy is that she isn’t just a ghostly insubstantial apparition, when she appears she manifests into a solid embodied form which adds to the fear and terror factor she creates.
The book is a well written, harrowing and at times uncomfortable and unsettling read, the author has done a good job crafting a unique tale that is far more than a simple horror story and at times it really made me think, while you would class the Witch as the monster of the story to me the actual monster was fear and human nature and the consequences that derive from both.
The Black Rock Witch is one of the best horror characters in recent times.
Dark and unsettling, recommended.