Hexbound: No sense of high stakes

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy and science fiction book reviewsHexbound by Chloe Neill

The second in Chloe Neill’s DARK ELITE series, Hexbound follows the continued adventures of Lily and her friend Scout at St. Sophia’s School for Girls, as they face both teen drama and evil magicians.

I’ve had a bit of trouble getting into this series from the beginning, but couldn’t initially put my finger on why. I got a little over halfway through Hexbound and encountered a scene that made the issue clear to me — and sapped my interest in the book. Neill tells us that the conflict between the Adepts and the Reapers is a matter of life and death, but the way these scenes are written, they don’t feel any more tense than the scenes of ordinary teenage conflict between cliques or romantic rivals. There’s not a sense of high stakes.

This scene is a good example of the problem. A ward has been tripped, alerting Scout and Lily to a pair of Reapers breaking into St. Sophia’s via the underground tunnel system. The two good girls have just dragged the two bad girls (who are “tied up” in magical restraints) back over the threshold and off St. Sophia’s property, and they’re all arguing.Dark Elite (3 Book Series) by Chloe Neill

Scout rolled her eyes. I raised a hand. “While we’re here, I have a question.”
”Go for it, Lils. All right, cheer-reaper and gatekeeper—“
”I’m in the band.”
”Sorry?”
”You call her cheer-reaper, I figure you should call me by my title, too. I’m in the band. I play the French horn.”

After some more bickering, Lily and Scout leave the bad girls outside the door with a flashlight to help them get out of the tunnels safely. The bad guys get indignant about the French horn; the good guys don’t even try to detain these people who mean them harm; and I’m left with the sense that neither side is taking this conflict seriously. It feels like they’re playing magical Capture the Flag, rather than fighting a secret, deadly war. At that point, I lost interest.

Neill’s portrayal of Chicago remains one of her strengths, however, and I think I’ll give her adult CHICAGOLAND VAMPIRES series a shot. I have a hunch it may feature more danger and less drama.

Published in 2011. Lily Parker is new to St. Sophia’s School for Girls, but she’s already learned that magic can be your best friend-or your worst enemy. That’s why Lily has to learn how to control her newly discovered paranormal abilities while fighting the good fight with her best friend Scout as they take on Chicago’s nastiest nightlife-including the tainted magic users known as Reapers…

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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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