Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Hex Breaker by Stella Drexler: review

3/5 stars on Goodreads

Hex Breaker by Stella Drexler

Hex Breaker is a readable story that suffers from not knowing what kind of book it wants to be. The cover promises fantasy with magic; the back cover description promises urban fantasy mystery. It tries, but fails. I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

A mystery from the shared past of the main characters threatens the life of Devin Rayne. But instead of investigating the past, the PI duo Alexandra Quinn and Rio Mondragon (though mostly Quinn, because Rio is useless) run after random clues that don’t really lead anywhere except by accident. A great production is made of acquiring one clue that turns out to be useless. There are flashback chapters that I foolishly presumed would reveal what happened ten years ago and foreshadow the baddie. My money was on Rio. But the baddie turned out to be a rando we’d barely met with random motivations, which is just about the worst mistake a mystery author can do. One star for that.

So it’s not a good mystery. It could be a romance. Quinn certainly has her fair share of men to choose from. Two she declares to be the loves of her life, though she takes her time to admit it (and I still don’t know why there was such antagonism between her and Devin in the first place if she’s always loved him). One is there for sex and random conflict. But there is no proper happily ever afteror even happily for now. I give the pair that forms six months the tops.

In the end I think this was a New Adult relationship drama, though the characters were over thirty (I presume; they claimed to be under, but they’ve graduated a decade ago). There are several relationships and a lot of drama.

Quinn and Rio are best friends since college turned co-workers. But I didn’t really feel their friendship. Rio did really shitty things to Quinn to either ‘protect’ her or just because he’s an asshole. Quinn and Jack are supposed to be dating, but all sorts of drama come from that. Quinn and Devin are the source of the main drama, past and present, with the added complication of Quinn and Hale. Then there is a random assortment of old college friends introduced for no reason that I could fathom, as they play no role in the story. They’re just word-fillers that come with their own dramas and could (should, actually) all be cut. And to crown it all, Quinn and Aine, her best friend, who casually violates Quinn’s bodily and mental integrity with potions and magic several times, basically just because she wants to, with no compunction or repercussions. She made me root for the bureaucrats who wanted to make every magic user wear a scarlet letter.

As a relationship drama, the book works. I might have given it four stars even, if it weren’t for everything else. On top of the lousy mystery, there were too many empty scenes that served no purpose whatsoever (though the gala dinner works if you think this as a relationship drama); incoherent world-building (I still don’t know where the book took place) and weak character introductions (I thought I was reading a second or third book in a series when I started for all I was able to connect with the characters); and some writing issues, like head-hopping, especially in those chapters that were in Rio’s point of view. With some restructuring and better focus, it could be an enjoyable book. As it is, I’m only giving it three stars.

 

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