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Hex: Darkland Tales

Hex: Darkland Tales

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The Sunlight Pilgrims, her second novel, was shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature Encore Award and the Saltire Fiction Book of the Year Award, and saw her win Scottish Author of the Year at the Herald Culture Awards. Just children, or girls, old or ugly, outcast, poor, strange, odd-voiced, limping or unholy or too tall or too pretty… when will we, not as witches but simply as women, curse our accusers?

Edinburgh’s Old Town remains atmospheric to this day but this image of Geillis being hanged at Castlehill with all these birds watching is an incredibly compelling and eerie one.On this, the last night of her life, in a prison cell several floors below Edinburgh’s High Street, convicted witch Geillis Duncan receives a mysterious visitor – Iris, who says she comes from a future where women are still persecuted for who they are and what they believe.

There is, however, a thread of magical realism that runs throughout, which sees Iris, a woman from the present day, seemingly travelling through time and space to comfort Geillis in her prison cell on her final night, before transforming into a crow so she can watch over her. Fagan views the witch hunt as being purely an expression of male dominance, almost as an essentialist tantrum. The narrative primarily focusses on Geillis as she reflects on her short life, recounting how and why she came to be accused of witchcraft and sentenced to hang for it.

although i can appreciate the themes and the general discourse, i personally didn’t resonate with the writing style. Every day the leading Tory papers – the Daily Mail, Telegraph and Express all have their campaigns against ‘wokery’ (the new witchery? Tough and calm, electrifying and intent, it is an intelligent and deeply literary novel which deals its hope and hopelessness simultaneously with a humaneness, both urgent and timeless, rooted in real narrative subtlety. Horror lends itself well to feminist literature, but it absolutely must be done well, it’s a fine balance in how pronounced the message needs to be. Fagan introduces, in the form of the novella’s narrator, a modern-day character named Iris from the summer of 2021, who tells Geillis that she ‘comes from a future where women are still persecuted for who they are and what they believe.

We know this from our own time with Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, Bagram, Northern Ireland and all the unknown sites of extraordinary rendition. Some 21% of Americans also believe – according to a poll conducted in recent years – that witches are still around and brewing up their fiendish brews. Today’s reader will be thoroughly tired of witches before they even get started on Hex, the new novella by Dr Jenni Fagan. Fagan does recognise the ‘ good men too’ and they simply have to grow in number so that all people of all nations, all races, all faiths, all men and all women can come to inherit the better world that is ‘ Somewhere out there’ in ‘ a different time. The second is the more recent, feminist one in which the witch is now glamorously peripheral, a poster child for alternative lifestyles and, inevitably, a martyr to the envious narrow-mindedness of the majority.

Hex is a visceral depiction of what happens when a society is consumed by fear and superstition, exploring how the terrible force of a king's violent crusade against ordinary women can still be felt, right up to the present day. As the time approaches dawn, Geillis tells Iris about how she came to be imprisoned, and offers a ‘visceral description of what happens when a society is consumed by fear and superstition. Doctor Fagan’s stance is supposedly against patriarchy, power structures and established systems but she otherwise bears down upon the sixteenth century with an almost imperialistic fervour. This new book, The Witch in the Word Machine, is a collection that underpins Jenni Fagan’s entire approach to words.



  • Fruugo ID: 258392218-563234582
  • EAN: 764486781913
  • Sold by: Fruugo

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