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  • Writer's pictureThe Fiction Fox

Review: Hex - Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Genre: Horror Published: NL: Luitingh Sijthoff, April 2013, USA: Tor, April 2016 My Rating: 1/5 stars

“Every last grain of idealism would be sacrificed on the altar of safety.”

I first read this book back in January 2020, I and rated a generous 1-star. Then of course, the rest of that year happened and I completely forgot about the entire thing, including why I actually detested it so much.

Now, coming fresh off the back of actually enjoying Olde Heuvelt’s newer works, I’d somehow convinced myself I may have made a mistake with Hex the first time around, and gave it a second shot. Dear reader; I did not make a mistake. It’s still awful enough to justify a full-on rant.


Beek (or in the English Translation Blacksprings) is an idyllic town, straight off a postcard. Except for the curse that affects everyone who takes up residence here…

Beek is haunted by the Wyler Heks (Black Rock Witch), a 17th century woman with eyes sewn shut, wandering the streets on a never-ending loop, or appearing in the villagers homes without warning. The villagers have kept “grandma” a secret for years; from misdirecting government-inquiries to simply covering her up with a sheet when tourists come by. Yet when a bunch of teenage vloggers start to poke around the ancient legends, the witches holding-pattern is irrevocably broken, and horrifying events unfold.

What I like:

The setting alone should’ve made Hex a hit for me. Although the English adaptation is set in a fictional Hudson Valley town, the original Dutch takes place in Beek: a real place, with real history. I happened to have grown up only a few miles from Beek, and spent much of my childhood in the very hills, forests and polders that inspired Olde Heuvelt. Mentions of the ascending Rijksweg, or Hotel Het Spyker, are a feast of recognition, which adds another level to the horror he imagines.

Similarly along the lines of “setting”: I love how “set in the world” the Black Rock Witch is in the culture of the town. The impassionate, practical approach the no-nonsense village folks take towards the Witch is great, and a powerful statement of how so many towns across the world live alongside the atrocities of their past.

What I didn’t like:

I’m going bullet-point-style, because there’s a lot of points…

- The characters

it’s one thing to have unlikable characters in your horror novel, but a full town of insufferable adults and cringy teens is too much. Do not get me started on Grim; I get Olde Heuvelt was going for “stoic but good-hearted detective”, but what he achieved was just misogynistic, racist asshole.

- Misogyny, nipples, boobs and high foreheads…

Not only are many of this novels characters misogynists; the way Olde Heuvelt writes about his female characters reads as if he himself is one too… I cannot stress this enough: misogyny is blatant throughout, and serves absolutely no purpose. It’s not commentary on witch-trials (sorry Thomas, I can’t give you that benefit of the doubt), and doesn’t add to the creepiness or “funniness” as the author seems to think it does.

If I read any more mention of a female characters boobs, nipples or foreheads (strangely, all obsessions of Olde Heuvelt, it seems), I might sow my own eyes shut.

On a more serious note: there’s a scene depicting sexual assault of a fat woman that is played up for laughs/grossness(…?), which is one of the most inappropriately tasteless things I’ve had the displeasure of reading.

- Mistaking being a jerk for “raw edgy humor”

See my point above. No Thomas, this is not “just the way Dutch people joke”… It really is a you-problem.

- Originality…?

finally, I see this book being hailed as wholly original in many reviews, and I simply don’t get it. Maybe it’s the fact that these kinds of legends are more prevalent around these parts than they are worldwide, but I swear this is just another take on the [ witch-not-bad, town-bad-instead- (hide spoiler)] trope & the [sometimes-dead-is-better-trope (hide spoiler)]. We’ve seen it before, we’ve seen it since, and we’ve seen it done better. Might I suggest Pet Sematary…?

- Plotholes deeper than the Beekse Valleys

A lot of this story doesn’t hold up to even a second of scrutiny. There’s no internal logic to the character motivations, or the fact that this town has managed to keep all this under wraps for centuries being the bumbling idiots they are. Also, the questions you really want answered by the end… spoiler: they aren’t… There’s a climax that relies on gore and shock, and ultimately didn’t satisfy any curiosity I had left for the story at that point.

Overall, I hate to dunk on a fellow-Dutch who made it big abroad, and I truly like Olde Heuvelt’s more recent works November and Orakel. There are plenty of awards for “best debut”, but if there was an award for “most improved since their debut”; this man deserves it.

You can find this book here on Goodreads.


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