What You Don’t Know CAN Hurt You!
Sophie Mercer is 16 years old and a witch, a member of a paranormal race called the Prodigium. On Prom Night, at her human high school, she tries to help out a distraught acquaintance by casting a love spell. Unfortunately, the spell goes more wrong than right and she was seen casting the spell. Amidst the destruction she caused, Sophie is publically accused of being a witch. Soon she finds herself shipped off to Hecate Hall, a paranormal juvenile facility run by the Prodigium’s Council
Upon arriving at Hex Hall, Sophie finds herself essentially a pariah. She knows she has limited skills as a witch. She knows that she has a limited knowledge of her race compared to her schoolmates. And she knows she has been assigned as the roommate of Jenna Talbot, a vampire student suspected in the death of another student six months prior. But all of this added up cannot account for the level of spitefulness directed at her.
Then, two weeks into her two-year sentence, at her first Defense course session, the instructor orders Archer Cross to demonstrate a specific skill on Sophie. Archer refuses, as the maneuver is not really meant to defend but to incapacitate. When the instructor turns to demonstrate it herself, Archer steps in and executes the maneuver, hurting Sophie but stopping short of breaking her ribs, a task he know the instructor meant to do.
Sophie now demands to know why everyone, student and faculty alike, hate her. Archer, after a few succinct questions, discovers that Sophie’s mother has hidden her away from the Prodigium all her life. And then he lays the reason for all the hate at her feet. Her father, James Atherton, a man she has never met, is the head of the Prodigium’s Council and is directly responsible for everyone – student, faculty, and especially the Defense instructor – being sentenced to Hecate.
With Atherton’s permission, the headmistress explains to Sophie her paternal history, including the torture and murder of her great-grandmother and her grandmother at the hand of The Eye, an international witch-hunting cabal. Still reeling from all that has been hidden from her, she meets what she thinks is her great-grandmother’s ghost and she finds another student drained of blood almost to the point of death.
At this point, the author does not turn Sophie into a paranormal sleuth trying to catch the murderer. For the rest of the book, which covers about three months in time, Hawkins writes Sophie as a teenager trying to fit in, trying to protect her vampire roommate from harassment, trying to improve her spell casting skills with the help of her great-grandmother’s ghost, and trying to control her crush on Archer Cross, currently the boyfriend of her worst enemy. The fact that she does determine the identity of the murder, and dispatches that murderer unto death, is more a consequence of the author writing her character as intelligent, observant and caring.
Hawkins writes a crisp and logical tale. Her use of sarcasm and snark on the part of the teenagers is appropriately placed, not overdone, and quite humorous. Her grasp of high school social dynamics, including cliques and bullying, is spot on. And she does not leave an obvious trail of breadcrumbs leading to the identity of the murderer. However, she blindsides you with a twist that has nothing to do with the murder and then she sets the hook for the next book in the series without using a cliffhanger.
This is a good entry in the YA Paranormal genre and can be easily enjoyed by readers of all age groups. The characters may be paranormal as part of their nature but they are not superheroes, nor are they imbued with a manner or a wisdom that exceeds their age level. The only suspension of disbelief needed here is that of accepting that a paranormal world such as this might and could exist.
Cover Art from Goodreads