Hex Life: Wicked New Tales of Witchery was published by Titan Books in October 2019.
Information about the editors:
Christopher Golden is the New York Times bestselling author of Snowblind, Ararat, Of Saints and Shadows, and many other novels. As editor, his anthologies include Seize the Night, Dark Cities, and The New Dead, among others. Golden has also written screenplays, radio plays, an animated web series, short stories, non-fiction, and video games. He is one-third of the popular pop culture podcast Three Guys with Beards.
Rachel Deering is a rising star, first coming to prominence as part of the Kickstarter hit, Womanthology. Since then, she has done very well with her self-published horror anthology, In The Dark, and short stories for DC/Vertigo’s Magenta series.
Information about Hex Life: Wicked New Tales of Witchery:
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…
Eighteen tales of witchcraft from the mistresses of magic:
Rachel Autumn Deering
Bring out your dread...
REVIEW: HEX LIFE: WICKED NEW TALES OF WITCHERY (EDITED BY CHRISTOHER GOLDEN AND RACHEL AUTUMN DEERING)
For many years, people have been fascinated - and even frightened - by tales about witches and their deeds. Many of us, if not even all of us, have heard these tales and recognise certain tales, because they have become part of our cultural heritage. The roots of these stories lie in history and mythology, and some of the stories have become an integral part of popular culture and continue to mesmerise generations of new readers.
Hex Life: Wicked New Tales of Witchery is an anthology that would not exist without our fascination towards witches and witchcraft. Its contents owe a lot to old tales and beliefs about witches and their uncanny powers. This captivating and diverse anthology will please readers who love fantasy tales, paranormal stories and dark fairy tales, because it contains fresh and exciting tales about about witches and witchcraft with a modern twist.
Hex Life contains the following stories:
- An Invitation to a Burning by Kat Howard
- Widow's Walk by Angela Slatter
- Black Magic Momma by Kelley Armstrong
- The Night Nurse by Sarah Langan
- The Memories of Trees by Mary SanGiovanni
- Home by Rachel Caine
- The Deer Wife by Jennifer McMahon
- The Dancer by Kristin Dearborn
- Bless Your Heart by Hillary Monahan
- The Debt by Ania Ahlborn
- Toil & Trouble by Madaug Kenyon and Sherrilyn Kenyon
- Last Stop on Route Nine by Tananarive Due
- Where Relics Go to Dream and Die by Rachel Autumn Deering
- This Skin by Amber Benson
- Haint Me Too by Chesya Burke
- The Nekrolog by Helen Marshall
- Gold Among the Black by Alma Katsu
- How to Become a Witch-Queen by Theodora Goss
What makes many of these stories fascinating is the authors' way of infusing their stories with modern themes and issues. I was amazed at how well the authors wrote about the characters, because they explored their lives and feelings in a realistic way and dared to delve whole-heartedly into their lives.
In these stories, the authors write about longing, empowerment, justice, occult powers and faith in an incredibly fresh and compelling way. Some of the authors also write about gory details in an unsettling way that is befitting to the atmosphere in their stories.
Three of the stories take place in existing fantasy worlds, but they are fully self-contained and can be read as independent stories. I enjoyed reading these stories, because the authors (Kelley Armstrong, Rachel Caine, and Sherrilyn and Madaug Kenyon) revealed enough details about their fantasy worlds to keep me entertained and focused on what was happening.
Here's a bit more information about the stories and my thoughts about them:
An Invitation to a Burning by Kat Howard:
- This strong opening story tells about Sage who lives in a town called Merrinvale where witches are burned.
- I enjoyed this story and found it captivating, because it's a fully satisfying story about belonging and claiming one's power.
- This story has a wonderfully mysterious and strange atmosphere.
Widow's Walk by Angela Slatter:
- A story about a young girl called Chelsea and widows who, despite their differing personalities and interests, live together in a grand house.
- In this story, the author explores such delicate themes and issues as domestic violence, bullying and loneliness.
- I liked this story very much, because it's something different and features excellent prose.
- This is one of my favourite stories in this anthology.
Black Magic Momma by Kelley Armstrong:
- This short story takes place in the author's Otherworld universe.
- This is a story about Eve Levine, who is a dark witch and deals in rare items in the black market. Eve has recently acquired the lost pages of a grimoire and gets a call from a man who wants the pages.
- I found this story fascinating and liked how the author pulled me into the story by writing about the protagonist and her complicated life in an entertaining way.
The Night Nurse by Sarah Langan:
- A story about Esme who is trying to manage with her children. Esme gets help from Wendy, who's a night nurse and a witch.
- This story is a brilliantly fresh take on a witch story, because it has intriguing Faustian elements.
- I like the author's way of writing about Esme's life, because she succeeds in creating a believable vision of Esme's hardships and tells of how Esme struggles with her everyday life.
The Memories of Trees by Mary SanGiovanni:
- A story about Martha Weede and her young ward, Ellena, who have been found guilty of witchcraft and are about to be hanged.
- This story is an excellent post-apocalyptic story about a new and harsh society that has risen after the modern world has collapsed. The author writes excellently about ancient knowledge and old ways and how they clash with the new society that doesn't look favourably upon those who are different and don't follow the law.
- I can honestly say that this is one of the most captivating fantasy stories I've ever read, because it's something different. I love the author's way of combining fantasy, science fiction and horror elements, and I find her writing style compelling.
Home by Rachel Caine:
- This story takes place in the author's Morganville Vampires universe.
- In this story, Jane Penwell has arrived in Morganville and wants revenge and justice for what has been done to her.
- I found this story entertaining and enjoyed it.
The Deer Wife by Jennifer McMahon:
- A story about a woman who has become compelled and infatuated by the witch who lives in the woods.
- The author's way of writing about Jules, her life and her relationship with her son is excellent, because she tells about what has happened to Jules and how she feels about things.
- I can mention that this story is one of my favourite stories in this anthology, because it has a perfect and touching ending.
The Dancer by Kristin Dearborn:
- An interesting story about Mr. Baker who visits a family whose daughter claims that their house is haunted.
- This story about a young woman's powers is an intriguing blend of the macabre and the strange.
- I liked this story very much, because it's something different.
Bless Your Heart by Hillary Monahan:
- A story about Aubrey who lives in a small town and has a gay son, Tucker. Aubrey loves her son and tries to protect him from bullies.
- The author explores LGBT issues and being different in an excellent way in this story. She writes fluently about Aubrey's love towards her son and how annoyed she is when her son is being bullied and nothing is done to prevent it from happening.
- I was impressed by how realistically the author writes about bullying and its consequences, because she shows what kind of an effect bullying has on Tucker and how difficult life is for him.
- I liked the ending of this story very much, because it's utterly rewarding and satisfying.
- This is one of my favourite stories in this anthology.
The Debt by Ania Ahlborn:
- In this story, a seven-year-old Karolin travels to her father's homeland, Poland. When Karolin goes to pick mushrooms with her father, she soon finds herself lost and alone in the forest.
- I was taken by the author's effortless way of writing about Karolin and her mother's fate.
- This story is a compelling take on the witch called Baba Yaga.
- There's something Grimm-like about this story that impresses me a lot. I think that everybody who lovesfairy tales by the Brothers Grimm will be captivated by this story and its dark atmosphere, because the author evokes an alluring sense of darkness with her prose.
Toil & Trouble by Madaug Kenyon and Sherrilyn Kenyon:
- This intriguing short story takes place in Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark-Hunter universe.
- In this story, Eeri who has been sold to the witches of Carrion Hill who foretell the fates of men. When Eeri goes to the town, she begins to practice for fortune-telling.
- This story has an interesting ending.
Last Stop on Route Nine by Tananarive Due:
- In this story, Charlotte and her cousin, Kai, have attended Charlotte's grandmother's funeral. While they are driving to the luncheon, they find themselves lost and arrive at a remote place called Last Stop on Route Nine.
- I enjoyed this story, because the author writes excellently about the protagonists and what happens to them. This story has a perfect and sufficiently strange atmoshere, because the author effortlessly creates an eerie sense of strangeness with her words and makes sure that the reader will be chilled by the events.
- There's something about this story that reminds me of modern weird fiction stories.
- This brilliant story is one of the highlights of this anthology.
Where Relics Go to Dream and Die by Rachel Autumn Deering:
- This story tells of a man who has summoned the spirit of a witch. The conversation between the man and the witch is intriguing.
- I loved the dream sequence in this story, because it was satisfyingly disturbing and revealing.
- This is an atmospheric story with an excellent ending. I was impressed by the ending, because it works well.
This Skin by Amber Benson:
- A story about a girl called Frances who is being questioned by a detective about a homicide that was committed in the gym at the local high school.
- Ah, what a delightfully fresh and unsettling short story this is! This is definitely one of the freshest stories about witchcraft I've read in quite a while.
- I found this story fascinating and was pleased with the ending, because what happens at the end comes as a surprise.
Haint Me Too by Chesya Burke:
- A marvellous story about Shea and an old dead witch who needs to be set free.
- The events in this story take place forty years after the slavery ended in the USA.
- I have to mention that this story was a wonderful surprise for me, because the prose is excellent and immersive. I was fully captivated by the author's writing style and was captivated by her way of writing about Shea and the old witch.
- By the way, if there are readers out there who wonder what the word "haint" means, it stands for "ghost" and "spirit". It's a variation of the word "haunt".
The Nekrolog by Helen Marshall:
- An impressive, surprisingly tender and beautifully written story about two women and their lives. The women face various tribulations in their lives and have to cope with many changes and things.
- I found myself wholly spellbound by this story and its subtle tenderness. I loved the author's prose and was impressed by the deep and engaging characterisation. The author's effortless way of writing about the characters is fascinatingly vibrant and realistic.
- This is one of the strongest and most compelling stories in this anthology, because it differs greatly from the other stories. I think that readers who enjoy reading Nina Allan will be especially taken by this story and its atmosphere, but it is slightly reminiscent of her stories in terms of beautiful prose, characterisation and storytelling.
- I loved everything about this story and consider it to be literary speculative fiction at its best.
Gold Among the Black by Alma Katsu:
- This is an interesting and well written short story about the thirteen year old Greta and her dog, Jesper. Greta is an orphan who doesn't have many things, but she has her dog whom she loves very much.
- Reading about Greta was fascinating for me, because she works in the castle and has to think about what to do with her life.
- This story has a charming fairy-tale-like feel to it that pulled me in and kept me entertained all the way from start to finish.
- This is one of the best stories in this anthology.
How to Become a Witch-Queen by Theodora Goss:
- This brilliantly written story is a continuation of a well-known fairy tale called The Snow White. It tells of what has happened to Snow White after the events of the fairy tale. In this story, Snow White has grown up and has children. She has become a widow and has plans for the future.
- I loved this story and was charmed by the author's storytelling skills, because she has envisioned a marvellous story that will captivate readers with its events.
- This story is a fitting and rewarding finale to this excellent anthology.
I give this anthology full five stars on the scale from one to five stars, because I found it bewitching and utterly compelling. I was impressed by how fascinating, fresh and original the stories are and how well they are written. When I began to read this anthology, I was instantly drawn into the stories and was mesmerised by their atmosphere.
I consider this anthology to be mandatory reading material to everybody who loves fantasy stories and wants to read about witches. It should not be missed by fans of the genre, because it's one of the few modern anthologies containing tales about witches (there aren't many similar kind of anthologies available for fantasy readers).
Hex Life is an excellent and highly compelling anthology. If you've ever been fascinated by witches and witchcraft, you owe it to yourself to immerse yourself into this anthology, because it's something special. Trust me when I say that you'll be captivated and spellbound by the stories in this anthology.