“Never mix vodka and witchcraft.”
The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling is the story of a scorned lover who demands revenge, albeit while drunk and in a way that she didn’t think would actually come to fruition. Nine years ago, Vivienne Jones was a young witch nursing a freshly broken heart. She tried to heal it the best way she (and her cousin) knew how: a bubble bath, vodka, sad music, and a curse on her horrible ex-boyfriend. Vivi and her cousin knew they shouldn’t mix vodka and witchcraft, but her broken heart wanted vengeance. After all, they cast their curse using an orchard hayride scented candle – that’s an utterly ridiculous candle to curse someone with, so the two thought nothing of it and moved on. At best, they thought he would have a couple minor inconveniences and that’s it, no grievous bodily harm or anything.
Flash forward nine years and Rhys Penhallow, the breaker of Vivi’s heart, is on his way back to Graves Glen, Georgia. Rhys is one of the descendants of the town’s ancestors. His presence is necessary to recharge the town’s ley lines and to put in an obligatory appearance at the annual fall festival. The minute Rhys is within the town’s limits though, disaster strikes. As soon as he recovers from one issue, another one happens. It soon becomes apparent to Vivi and Rhys that her long ago hex isn’t quite as harmless as she thought it would be.
After a particularly disastrous incident, the two realize that Graves Glen is under attack. The magic has begun to rebel and the supposedly harmless ex hex may lay at the root of all of their problems. Vivi and Rhys must work together to find a way to save the town and to counteract and/or destroy the ex hex before everything they know and love is destroyed.
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A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske is set in Edwardian England, with all of it’s rigid formality and strict social rules intact but with one difference – magic exists. However, only a few people know this and fewer still possess magical abilities.
Sir Robin Blyth comes from a noble family but due to his parent’s frivolous ways, he and his sister are left with little money and he must work to keep them afloat. An administrative error assigns him the job of civil service liaison to a hidden magical world, something he had no idea even existed before his first day at work.
Edwin Courcey is a member of a very old magical family, although he has only a small amount of magic himself. He is horrified to find Robin in the Magical Liason office and astonished to discover that he doesn’t even know magic exists. Edwin and Robin take an instant dislike to each other and part ways. However, on his way to resign, Robin is accosted by three strangers wearing mysterious masks, asking him “where is it?”. When he can’t answer (he has no idea what they’re talking about), one of the men places a painful curse on his arm and tells him the curse will only get worse until he gives them what they want.
Well, thinks Robin, this isn’t good. He seeks out Edwin (the only magical person he knows) and Edwin, who has made a study of magic, is intrigued by the curse which appears in intricate curls and patterns on Robin’s arm. At first reluctant, Edwin can’t pass on this intriguing puzzle and thus begins a search for answers that includes murder, foresight, a very dangerous hedge, family drama, secret rooms and magical objects of all kinds including a very protective mansion.
The enemies become friends and then much more over the course of their adventures. The magical world that Marske creates is imaginative and intricate and the characters – good guys and bad – are compelling. You will root for Robin and Edwin both as a couple and as individuals as they stumble their way to solutions. There are elements of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, Red, White and Royal Blue and even a touch of Lord of the Rings that combine into something unique and delightful.