by Rachel Hawkins
'Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It’s gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie’s estranged father—an elusive European warlock—only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it’s her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.
By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect.
As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.'
*** MIGHT CONTAIN SPOILERS ***
This series (trilogy?) has been on my Amazon wish list forever. It wasn't until reading this author's paladin trilogy recently that I even remembered the Hex Hall books. I decided now was the time to dive in, and ordered the first one. I hesitated on getting the whole set because, even though I did enjoy the paladin books, the storytelling was extremely weak and rushed. Having finished this first book now, I will definitely go ahead and get the rest of them.
Main character Sophie already knows she is a witch as this book starts. She's already using her powers and she knows she gets it all from her dad, who she's never met. So it's not like the typical set up where a teen wakes up to powers and confusion one day and is sent off to some special school that's been waiting for them. Sophie IS sent off to a special school though, as punishment for flaunting her powers in front of humans. Oops!
Let me just say here that this book came out well before the paladin series and I think the writing is much better here. I think this was the author's first book actually. There is almost a world of difference, for the better. This story seems tighter, more in-depth. The paladin story was weak, very superficial, and inconsistent. This one is more clever too. There were quite a few things along the way that had me all 'Oooh, clue?!' and cataloging information away to try and solve the mysteries. Yes, this is a much better book than the paladin books are!
So anyway, Sophie's new school has a mix of witches and warlocks, fairies, werewolves (and other shape shifters) and a sort of charity case vampire. The various groups don't really get along, with the witches coming off as rather snooty and racist. (Those fairies are pretty arrogant themselves though!) A group of popular witches immediately tries to get Sophie to join their coven but their nasty attitude towards the vampire girl (Sophie's roommate) has her wanting to steer clear of them. This does not sit well with the popular girls and they of course become her biggest enemies. Is it any surprise when those girls become targets of attacks that seem to obviously be coming from the vampire? Or is there something more sinister going on here?
While the mysteries that are revealed are not super deep or amazing, they are interesting and I had not figured them out beforehand. Things are clever and just seem to work in this story. It keeps a decent pace and stays on track, without a lot of fluff or filler or complicated side stories. This author is great at writing relationships, whether it's just friendship or budding romance or even rivalry. Rachel Hawkins nails it without becoming too sappy or over the top. I love that. Less is often more!
I did not see the events at the end coming. A twist was introduced that I'm quite anxious to continue reading about. There is some corniness and cheesiness throughout the story, like these witches *can* ride broomsticks. As one ghost says to Sophie, "Be traditional for once!" The vampire does get burned in sunlight, as opposed to the sparkling of other modern day vampires. While Sophie does possess a lot of power, she still needs to learn how to use it, and she struggles with it. That was neat, instead of seeing her try once and has it mastered like other stories often seem to do.
So yeah, quite an entertaining book, and I look forward to seeing where this storyline goes!