The Ex Hex is the book I needed during the Spooky Season. I read a couple horror novels and considering the amount of horror in the real world, I was struggling to pick up just about anything. The Ex Hex to the rescue! This book has some flaws, but I ended up liking it quite a bit and look forward to more from Erin Sterling/Rachel Hawkins.
What I liked:
- Vivienne has a supportive friend group and their dialogue was fun.
- Sterling leans into the tropey fun with scenes including the classic "hiding in a closet, oh no we're pressed against each other."
- Halloween-y fun - the town is obsessed with Halloween and it feels really spoopy overall. Not scary, which was what I needed.
What I didn't like:
- The breakup and Vivienne's hostility felt contrived. She broke things off without letting Rhys explain why he was betrothed and hadn't told her and years later she's still not willing to talk to him about it. I know she was hurt, but the betrothal from childhood was Welsh Witch Politics and he went home to immediately dissolve the agreement. Couldn't they have fixed all this with a single phone call?
- Rhys is kind of an entitled prat. This is the point, but I wanted to like him more than I did. I had to pretend several aspects of this "Welsh dudes owning a whole southern town since way back" didn't exist because... gross. Sterling is from the south and she tried to acknowledge this a few times but I'm not sure it was successful. (Then again, white people owning towns anywhere in the US is a whole thing and why is this particular one sticking in my craw?)
- Multiple Harry Potter references. Vivienne didn't grow up in the magical community, so she wasn't aware of things like the aforementioned political betrothal and there's an entire page where she's talking about when she learned about her magic and met other witches. Rhys says she went "the full Potter" and there are other references later to plot, characters, merch. Could have been very easily removed, it didn't add anything to the book.
All in all, The Ex Hex was a fun spoopy read and the people I handed it to at my library agreed. If you want light witchy vibes and somewhat sparse world-building, go for it!
Audio Notes: I wish I'd read this book with my eyes instead of with my ears. Caitlin Davies' narration simply doesn't work for me. I was carried forward by the plot, but I would have enjoyed it much more with a different narrator. Her pacing was strange, her nasal voice and the way she hits some words... not for me. Unfortunately, I've since put off reading a couple of other books because she narrates them. (Sorry, Vespertine.)