BOOK REVIEW: HEXED: THE SISTERS OF WITCHDOWN / AUTHOR: MICHAEL ALAN NELSON / PUBLISHER: AMAZON MEDIA (EBOOK), PROMETHEUS BOOKS (PAPERBACK) / RELEASE DATE: MAY 5TH (EBOOK), JUNE 5TH (PAPERBACK)
Lucifer is a thief who steals dangerous magical artefacts from bad people before they can use them to do bad things, and as a result is a skilled navigator of the supernatural underworld that lies hidden beneath everyday life. Hired by a police officer to locate his kidnapped daughter when she is abducted by inexplicable forces, Lucifer must face enemies even she might not walk away from if she wants to stand a chance of rescuing the girl.
Although The Sisters of Witchdown’s primary audience will be readers of the Hexed comics, it assumes no prior familiarity with them and can be understood without knowing their events. In fact, anyone who has read them will guess the direction the story is heading merely from the title alone, so it will actually be more of a mystery if approached with no background knowledge at all. It gives nods to the comics’ events, such as one tangential but amusing chapter illustrating Lucifer’s penchant for binding exorcised demons into stuffed toys, and maintains the same blend of supernatural horror and sarcastic humour.
Although comparisons to Buffy are abundant, if you want a similarity from the Whedonverse, Lucifer actually has more in common with future-Slayer Melaka Fray. As well as both being professional thieves, they are also snarky, cynical, isolated survivors hardened by a tough childhood without parental guidance or protection. Lucifer’s talent for wrangling the supernatural makes it easy to forget just how young she is (while not even sure herself, she’s somewhere in the vicinity of seventeen), and with her sidekick for much of the story being a handsome and charming young man (who is inconveniently also the boyfriend of the girl she’s trying to save) she frequently becomes distracted by her increasing attraction to him and her jealously over the simple and carefree lives led by the teenagers she encounters.
The events of the book take place before the Hexed comics – both the four-issue miniseries from 2009 and the ongoing series revived in August last year – and acts as a prequel to them, partially bridging the gap left between the climax of Nelson’s magnificent apocalypse horror saga Fall of Cthulhu – where Lucifer originated – and the point the series started. It details how Lucifer originally met her future benefactor Val Brisendine and features her first encounter with Graeae Tower, the home of the sinister company presided over by recurring antagonist Madame Cymbaline. There is also some recapped history of how Lucifer became the heir to the pseudo-demonic demigoddess the Harlot, who knows all of humanity’s darkness as the Keeper of Secrets, which is a destiny Lucifer constantly searches for a way to free herself of. Additionally, some of Lucifer’s backstory is explored, such the origin of her lengthy real name Luci Jenifer Inacio das Neves, along with her youth in a Brazilian favela explaining both her indomitable attitude and her occasional outburst of Portuguese.
The Sisters of Witchdown is less one of the cash-in tie-in novels that take up a portion of the sci-fi section of your local Waterstones, and more an expansion of the world of Hexed through a different medium. Prose fiction allows for more detailed internal character thoughts and greater descriptions of what they’re feeling, and the third person narrative allows us to get a greater understanding of what exactly Lucifer is driven by. The book is structured a little like a comic, with each chapter not necessarily concluding at the end of a scene, but at a suitably dramatic juncture or wham line timed to make readers immediately want more. It’s a straightforward and untaxing read, but no less entertaining because of it