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Review: Hex Life

Review: Hex Life

‘These are tales of witches, wickedness, evil and cunning. Stories of disruption and subversion by today’s women you should fear. Including Kelley Armstrong, Rachel Caine and Sherrilyn Kenyon writing in their own bestselling universes.

These witches might be monstrous, or they might be heroes, depending on their own definitions. Even the kind hostess with the candy cottage thought of herself as the hero of her own story. After all, a woman’s gotta eat…’

Hex Life is exactly the kind of book I absolutely adore and it did not disappoint. I am a huge fan of stories about witchcraft, and particularly those that examine the representation of and assumptions about women involved involved in it – and exactly why the perception of women involved with magic changed so early in history (big surprise: because of men). In ancient literature, it’s relatively easy to track the presentation of women from all-powerful and beautiful sorceresses to the more common and stereotypical haggard and evil witch figure, used by male dominated societies to paint women as emotional, unpredictable and not to be trusted (I could rant for many thousand words about Medea, but I’ll save that for another time). That we have more and more works by women reclaiming the witch figure and writing them as the powerful, unflinchingly human characters  that they are is, in my opinion, one of the best things happening in modern literature.

A collection of short stories about women and witchcraft, Hex Life encompasses a variety of styles, time periods and themes, with the common thread being the involvement of different magics. Some of them contain the more familiar and typical features of what people have come to expect of the genre, but even those that do certainly cannot be considered ‘typical’, especially in their tone, which is, more often than not, brilliantly unapologetic.

My favourite of the collection is actually the last: How to Become a Witch-Queen by Theodora Goss. One of my favourite things to read is a fairytale retelling, which is what How to Become a Witch-Queen is a twist on, carrying on the tale of Snow White after she has lived her days as a queen and now faces the fact of her son inheriting the throne in the wake of her husband’s death. One of the the features I loved most about it was it being perfectly its own story in its own right, while linking back to the the events in the more widely-known version of Snow White and turning them on their heads to create a new tale and a new, more modern character without dashing the original to pieces. Her primary motivation is to ensure a brighter future for her daughter, knowing that the men in her life will inevitably remove any chance of her making her own choices, determined to use her for their own advantage, and both the journey of mother and daughter and the unthreading of the supposed reality of the past was simply a joy to read.

Hex Life was released on October 1st and is available in bookshops now! Thank you to Titan Books for sending me a copy!