“But magic, when ignored, when forbidden, twists upon itself and becomes strange.”
And thus Kat Howard welcomes the reader into Hex Life, an anthology of stories of witchcraft, wickedness, and goodness. This book is written by women in its entirety with authors such as Mary Sangiovanni, Hilary Monahan, Tananarive Due, Theodora Goss, Chesya Burke and more. This anthology deals with themes of loneliness, self-acceptance, love, magic, womanhood, discrimination, and racism. Intermixed with these themes are tales of loss, of love, of fighting against oppression, of moments of life that are bound to be lost. I loved this book from beginning to end. I’ve always been a lover of magic and witches as their world is wondrous to me.
Without being kitschy or tacky, it delivers original tales of witches. These tales don’t subscribe to traditional ideations of witches. We don’t get 18 tales of naked women around a fire, casting spells with a boiling cauldron, or vengeful women who seek the destruction of men. No, we get a wide variety of witches and magic: magic passed down from generation to generation, women who trade power for liberation, magic that is uncontrollable and untamed, magic that is oppressed. The language and the storytelling: all the stories are extraordinary.
My definite favorite from this anthology is “Last Stop on Route Nine” by Tananarive Due. The story’s general vibe reminds me of Get Out, Us, and Midsommar. It has a quality of being unsettling and terrifying without outwardly explaining why until the very last second. I truly love Due’s writing. In her tale of witchery, she tackles racism in the south whilst providing a genuinely compelling tale. I was terrified from start to finish. My stomach clenched and I felt scared, something that seldom happens to me with books. I went through the pages at such a fast pace. I simply couldn’t get enough. I would love to have a full-length book of this short story, but Due makes excellent use of her space and delivers a horrifyingly beautiful plot in just the perfect way.
My second favorite was “Bless Your Heart” by Hillary Monahan. I laughed so much even though it was a sad story, but it’s always wondrously cathartic to see someone get their just desserts. This tale reminded me of Como agua para chocolate, a book by Laura Esquivel. It’s a book in which the mood the main character cooks in translates into the magic of the food. It’s a similar concept in this book, but instead of romantic love, it centers on motherly love. A mother is fed up with her son, who happens to be gay, being bullied (for years!) and decided to get her revenge. This story is just the right type of wicked.
“The Memories of Trees” by Mary SanGiovanni is a sad story of ignorance, but of the earth coming to help. It tells of deep magic from the earth, one that remembers, one that won’t let the innocent die without at least some vengeance. What I love about this one is how the magic is collective. The earth is not just one being. The trees make up the whole of it, and it comes to aid. A bonus of this story is the language used. The writer is skillful for days. It’s written so gorgeously that I nearly cried.
Honorable mentions are “The Night Nurse” by Sara Langan and “Widow’s Walk” by Angela Slatter. “The Night Nurse” is a story that has a pleasant build-up but ends in a sharp twist. The ending is not unexpected but it dawns on you with a true sense of horror. “Widow’s Walk” is a sad story with a lovely ending. A story of abuse in which the victim takes control and empowers herself, it truly adds another layer of depth to this book. I honestly loved the stories in which magic (the magic that’s generally associated with the dark arts and wickedness) is being used for good, for release. It’s the tone the book needs to be truly successful.
The book ends on a lovely note: “How to Become a Witch Queen” by Theodora Goss. It’s a retelling of Snow White. Anyone that has ever wanted Snow White to be an empowered woman will rejoice when reading this. It will satisfy more than the Disney version ever could.
I highly recommend this book, especially if you’re a lover of everything witchy and magicky.
This book is out for sale on October 1, 2019. You can purchase it on Barnes & Noble.
Rating: 5/5 Stars
This book was recently published on October 1, 2019. You can purchase it on Barnes & Noble.