Review: Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

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The English language debut of the bestselling Dutch novel, Hex, from Thomas Olde Heuvelt–a Hugo and World Fantasy award nominated talent to watch

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 seventeenth century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Muzzled, she walks the streets and enters homes at will. She stands next to children’s 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, they send the town spiraling into dark, medieval practices of the distant past.

This chilling novel heralds the arrival of an exciting new voice in mainstream horror and dark fantasy.


I have had a copy of Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt on my Kindle for a long time, but it was not until the Tor Nightfire reissue that I finally picked it to read. I did not know much about it when I first started, and I did not realize I was in for such a treat. 

The novel is about Black Springs, New York, a small town that is haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a woman who was killed by the town in the 1600s. The Black Rock Witch is the town’s dirty secret, a manifestation that they keep track of through a surveillance team, CCTV cameras, and clever ways to hide her during festivals and occasions where out-of-towners are visiting. Unfortunately those who live in town can only leave for short periods of time before they get depressed and suicidal and need to come back home. This has kept the town populated, and the town has worked with the Black Rock Witch for years. Now that there is a group of curious teenage boys and that the internet is largely available, the security is threatened by kids who are technologically smarter than the adults. 

The first part of this novel is fun and surprisingly convincing. We are introduced to the town and the way that the town deals with their curse, and there it is pretty entertaining. The problem is that the kids are going to get the town in trouble with the witch because they keep poking her with experiments and a little bit of bullying. What happens to Black Springs is shocking and well deserved. 

The writing in places is a little odd, and I do not know how much it is Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s original writing and the translation. The original book is set in Beek, a village in south-eastern Netherlands. It is rare for a book translation to change the location for Europe to America, and I do not know how well it is executed. This also makes me question what else has has been changed from the original text. I just know that there are moments when the writing feels a little off. Now that I know that the location has been changed from the original text, I can assume that any other questions that I have might be answered in the original versus the translation.

There were a few moments when I was not engaged in Hex, but most of it really had my attention. This translation was released originally in 2016, so there are a few moments that seem a little dated, but as a whole this stands up as a really great town horror novel. Black Springs has a curse and only a few people bring the entire town into danger. The execution of this is strong and gripping, and I enjoyed every page.

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