Michael Alan Nelson Hexed-ravaganza: Graphic Novel and Book Reviews
Once upon a time, Tiara and Mogsy had a conversation on Twitter about Michael Alan Nelson and thus the idea of a “Hexed Day” was born…
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A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Series: Book 1
Publisher: Pyr (May 5, 2015)
Mogsy’s Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Another excellent Young Adult novel from Pyr, the first of what I hope will be Hexed series featuring more of heroine Luci Jenifer Ignacio das Neves – Lucifer for short. Based on the author’s comic of the same name which I’ve actually not read before tackling this book (but you can be sure it’s on my to-read list now), Hexed: The Sisters of Witchdown has made me a new fan of Michael Alan Nelson.
The story begins with a Bloody Mary game gone wrong. What should have been a harmless prank ends up getting a high school girl snatched away by monstrous haggish creature. Her father, a police officer, goes to Lucifer for help after hearing that the young thief possesses supernatural talents that would help him get his daughter Gina back. Unable to bear the cop’s grief, Lucifer decides to help. After her initial investigations at the missing girl’s school, Lucifer ends up with some promising leads as well as a new sidekick – Gina’s handsome and popular boyfriend, David.
A great mix of action and humor with just a dash of horror, Hexed is an entertaining paranormal YA novel featuring a story that feels new and fresh. With a plot that’s fast-paced and addictive, this book is truly something special. I took to our kickass protagonist right away, charmed by her resourcefulness and laugh-out-loud wit. Lucifer is simply hilarious! I really enjoyed following her as a main character, even if I do find her name and the reason behind it (she was named for her two grandmothers, and she “honors” them by combining their first names like that) a little dubious, but I guess when it comes to her brand of dry dark humor, that’s probably as good an example as any. I like Lucifer too because she manages to pull off that take-no-crap attitude without coming off as a belligerent little brat. She may have a strong personality, but her kind heart and good intentions come through on every page.
I also love the secret mystical underworld of Hexed. As Lucifer is so fond of reminding us, she possesses no inherent magical power, but the tools she uses often do. She carries around a trick bag full of magical – and sometimes dangerous – gadgets and thingamabobs which she whips out whenever she needs a problem solved, and finding out what each object does is half the fun. Through some very intense scenes, we’re also introduced to what appears to be a very intricate spell system involving runes and symbols, used for anything from activating mirrors to other dimensions to exorcising demons from their hapless victims (bet you’re dying to know why Lucifer’s holding a stuffed bunny on the cover!) The supernatural baddies here can be pretty terrifying, like the filcher demons, witch-hounds, and the witches themselves, but they’re also fascinating. Lucifer’s harrowing journey to find and rescue Gina from the dead realm of Witchdown is not without its disturbing moments, but I couldn’t help it – I found myself utterly captivated by the whole story.
There are just a couple of issues I have to bring up; one is minor, while the other can be a deal breaker depending on your personal preferences. The first is something that struck me as unnecessary, which is the constant reminder that Lucifer is something “separate” and apart from the normal real world. Every few chapters is another wistful comment from her regarding high school life in general, how all that is out of reach for her but she still wants it badly. The other issue is the romance, and not just any romance. As Lucifer and David work closely together to get Gina back, feelings start to develop between them, despite David already being unmistakably, indisputably, irrefutably spoken for. This particular story arc did make for a pretty startling twist at the end, but just a heads up if you find the idea of dallying with a taken guy unappealing.
Lucifer is not your typical teenage girl, nor is Hexed your typical YA. It was a very enjoyable, quick and fun read, and best of all it is not necessary to have read the graphic novel before diving in this one. You do get a feeling that there’s an incredibly rich back story there though, one that I’ll definitely have to go back and check out one of these days now!
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Genre: Urban Fantasy, Supernatural, Leading Ladies
Publisher: Boom! Studios (March 9th 2010; first published September 2009)
Tiara’s Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
I am a huge fan of Michael Alan Nelson’s work. I loved what he did with the comics that followed the events after the movie 28 Days Later, and that’s how I initially was introduced to his work. Since then, I’ve read many of his comics, and I love what he’s done with the series Day Men, Dingo, and Pale Horse. To say that I am a fan of his comics is probably a huge understatement.
Luci Jenifer Ignacio das Neves–Lucifer, for short–just had a really good night. The young thief procured a magical item that her employer, a snobby, witty old soul named Val, sent her to steal from a really suspect night club. The item in question?
Angel wings, which are beautiful enough to cause tears to come Val’s eyes. Not only did Lucifer get the wings her employer wanted for her client she also made off with a new toy–a witch hound (monstrous demonic things) that she keeps trapped inside of cutesy stuffed animals that she collects.
After making Val go through the “every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings” act (much to Val’s chagrin), Lucifer receives her payment and goes home hoping to wash the skankiness off her and get some rest since she hasn’t slept in 24 hours. However, when Lucifer arrives home, she’s confronted by a dangerous former employer named Dietrich who claims she owes him three hundred grand after not completing a contract he gave her three years ago because she figured out the magical tome he wanted was being protected not used for ill as he seemed to imply. Dietrich is powerful, and he knows that how to hit Lucifer where it hurts because she’s a decent person. He gives her 24 hours to retrieve another magical item for him with the added stipulation that she has to introduce him to the woman who hexed her, a woman simply called The Harlot.
Hexed was a glorious treat. Once I was able to sit down with it, I was fully engrossed in this story. Everything around me just ceased to exist for the a little while as I became completely emerged in Lucifer’s world. There were moments I couldn’t help laughing or mentally pumping my fist for Lucifer as she triumphed through her trials or even aching for her a little as she dealt with painful problems. This book also showed that it intends to play around with theology in interesting ways as it continues, and as someone who loves when theological ideas are used in new ways in stories such as these, I look forward to it.
While showing no real magical abilities herself, Lucifer is armed with magical tools and knows just about everything about getting information and material she needs from this strange magical world beneath the mundane world. Her name belies her attitude, which shows her to be a brave, caring, resourceful, and a darkly funny person. I couldn’t help but smile when she made Val recite the “angel wings” thing I mentioned earlier and actually ring a bell, showing that while she is a rock-n-roll ninja burglar, as she calls herself, there’s still something young and vulnerable inside her.
I’m not sure if she’s supposed to be “teenage young” or “new adult” young in this graphic novel. It feels more “new adult” even though the novel is categorized as “young adult.” However, this is a comic, and it has to be succinct, and for that reason, that could possibly be why she doesn’t lament on high school life or being a normal teenager like in the novel. Despite whatever range she’s supposed to represent, Nelson has managed to write her in way that doesn’t make he roll my eyes or mutter brat every few panels, which I always appreciate because that’s my main problem with most “young adult” and “new adult” stories.
This book doesn’t go into Lucifer’s back story, but there are plenty of hints about things that have happened before, especially things she doesn’t want to be part of again, but nothing has been explored fully yet. We learn the much of the extent of her connection to The Harlot, whose name is very fitting once you meet the character (and not for sexual reasons) and learn what her role is in the supernatural world, but the book still gives plenty of wiggle room even in that story to explore more of the relationship between Lucifer and The Harlot. They share a contentious relationship with The Harlot coming off mockingly maternal to Lucifer while Lucifer just hates her damn guts.
However, on the opposite end of that relationship is Lucifer’s feelings towards her employer Val who she obviously views as a mother figure and would do anything to keep her safe, even if it means unleashing forces that cannot be controlled. It’s a beautiful relationship between two women who barely try to keep up to keep up the pretense of employer and employee. Their care for one another shows even when they’re trying to be formal.
The only real complaint I have for this book is that one scene toward the end was rather convenient, too convenient. However, it was a very beautiful scene. I thought it was absolutely breathtaking with the art accompanying it, but I still couldn’t deny it felt sort of deus ex machina-ish, even though readers can calculate that it does have something to do with a very brief scene from earlier in the comic. So, at least, it did have some precedent, even if it was just that small iota. It just still made me think: “Well, isn’t that a convenient turn of events?”
Urban fantasy, even Urban Fantasy novels, can be a little formulaic, so it’s always nice to read something that adds an offbeat spin to an old familiar story. This managed to be touching, dark, and funny all at the same time. Emma Rios’ art really makes this story pop. The mixture of bright and dark art makes Lucifer’s world a visual treat with Nelson’s narration. Again, Nelson has given me a comic that I’ll continue to enjoy as I explore Lucifer’s world and unlock more of her secrets. Now excuse me while I bump this novel higher up my TBR list! Why wouldn’t I want to read more about a rock-n-roll ninja burglar?