Thursday, August 24, 2023

Book Review: The Hexologists

The Hexologists, Iz and Warren Wilby, are quite accustomed to helping desperate clients with the bugbears of city life. Aided by hexes and a bag of charmed relics, the Wilbies have recovered children abducted by chimney-wraiths, removed infestations of barb-nosed incubi, and ventured into the Gray Plains of the Unmade to soothe a troubled ghost. Well-acquainted with the weird, they never shy away from a challenging case.

But when they are approached by the royal secretary and told the king pleads to be baked into a cake—going so far as to wedge himself inside a lit oven, the Wilbies soon find themselves embroiled in a mystery that could very well see the nation turned on its head. Their effort to expose a royal secret buried under forty years of lies brings them nose to nose with a violent anti-royalist gang, avaricious ghouls, alchemists who draw their power from a hell-like dimension, and a bookish dragon who only occasionally eats people. Armed with a love toughened by adversity and a stick of chalk that can conjure light from the darkness, hope from the hopeless, Iz and Warren Wilby are ready for a case that will test every spell, skill, and odd magical artifact in their considerable bag of tricks.

The Hexologists, the first book in a new series by Josiah Bancroft, will be released on September 23, 2023. Orbit Books provided an early galley for review.

I have not read Bancroft's earlier works like his Babel series; this novel was my first exposure to him. I like his writing style, and his use of language is elevated and smart. He displays a broad vocabulary and rewards his readers who do as well. I will note, though, that more elevated words tend to slow down my reading progress - so this one took longer than normal for me to complete.

The relationship of our married protagonists Iz and Warren felt very natural and true to me. Here is a couple who balance one another, playing off each other's strengths and balancing one another's weaknesses. They work well as a team. I enjoyed their interplay with everyone they encountered during the investigation.

Bancroft eases the reader into the worldbuilding here in a logical way, giving the reader details as things move along. Its world is a mix of our own industrial history with a cross-section of magic and mythical. Think along the vein of the Harry Potter series. He does a good job explaining how different schools of magic work in his setting, giving each distinctive elements and aspects.

If you are looking for a mix of fantasy and mystery, The Hexologists might be one you'll want to check out.

1 comment:

ApacheDug said...

Great review (I had to read this twice it was such fun)--I am intrigued! Making a note of this for my Libby account, thanks M.