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.
Magical schools have become a popular theme in young adult and children's literature lately, mostly due to the success of the wonderful Harry Potter books. Some authors have taken this theme and just given it a minor makeover that results in a bland, unoriginal concept. But, there are others that take this inspiration and turn it into something completely new. That is what I found in Rachel Hawkins's Hex Hall, the first in the Hex Hall series.
The protagonist of this series is Sophie Mercer, a witch, who has been getting into trouble since her powers manifested. Her latest escapade has resulted in her being sentenced to time spent at Hecate Hall aka Hex Hall. This is a type of reformatory for supernaturals who have risked exposure through a variety of means. The students and teachers include a variety of species such as fairies, shapeshifters, and witches/warlocks. The primary conflict involves Sophie's confrontations with three witch classmates and the mysterious attacks surrounding them.
Sophie is a teenage witch who has always striven to prove herself to her mother and her absent father. Her miscues seem to always result from her attempts to help others. So when she is sent to Hex Hall, Sophie is understandably upset and scared. She has not spent much time with other Prodigium and is unsure of what to expect in such an institution. But, despite this uncertainty, Sophie retains her good-natured and independent spirit. Her voice is highly entertaining and realistic with her sarcastic comments and overwhelming curiousity.
There are quite a few secondary characters that caught my attention. I really enjoyed reading about Jenna, Sophie's roommate, who is the sole vampire at Hex Hall. Jenna's personality and attempts at normalcy after being turned are unique and heartbreaking at the same time especially with all the prejudice and bullying that she deals with on a daily basis. Another intriguing character is Archer, a popular warlock, who catches Sophie's eye early on and has some mysterious actions to account for in this and, possibly, future books.
The plot begins simply, but becomes fast-paced and wonderfully unpredictable. I, like Sophie, was not sure what was going in the walls of Hex Hall for most of the book and enjoyed the suspense surrounding the attacks and their connection to the three witches, Sophie, and Jenna. I love it when authors provide a true thriller feeling in paranormal books!
Overall, Hex Hall was an enjoyable read and a solid introduction to a fascinating supernatural world. There are twists and turns throughout the book that keep a reader's attention. I see definite potential for this series and look forward to reading the next book, Demonglass.
Rating: 4 Stars