Goodreads summary (review below) of The Hexologists By Josiah Bancroft:
The first book in a wildly inventive and mesmerizing new fantasy series from acclaimed author Josiah Bancroft where magical mysteries abound and only one team can solve 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 and 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.
*No, there is no salty review here. I’m joining the bandwagon of Hexologists lovers* 😉
Reason #1 Characters
Let me clarify. Reason #1- Main characters, side characters, and creatures. Isolde (Iz Ann Always) and Warren Wilby (he changed his last name to hers because he hated his original last name) are the main characters in The Hexologists. Josiah Bancroft has a blast with them. The Wilbys are eccentric yet well-suited for each other. I’m not the romance person (why do I feel like I’ve been saying that a lot lately). Yet, I loved these two to death. They completely accept each other for who they are, with no exception. And how they worry for each other is a precious thing. Furthermore, I love how Josiah Bancroft deeply develops both characters independently and together.
Now how about some creatures to throw in the mix? How I loved them! Josiah Bancroft’s creative prowess really shines with these characters. From the loveable dragon, Turdus Felivox.
Felivox’s voice made the teacups hanging under the cupboards chatter and ring. “Revelatory! Absolutely divine! Do you have any idea how much goat hair one must choke down just to geet even a hint of liver? Yes, yes! More of that, please.”
Then there is the imp, and lest I forget, the murmuration of starlings that have the eeriest conversation with the Wilbys is phenomenal.
The flock began to speak. The sound was so disorienting, Warren had to resit the urge to plug his fingers in his ears. The words emerged separately, a variety of volumes, and from every direction and range. The speech leapt from one side of the road to the other, cawed down from the wires, and chirped up from the street. Each bird appeared to be the master of but a single word or syllable, which they dutifully contributed as needed.
In this way, Josiah Bancroft develops all side characters and creatures into meaningful beings with specific places and meanings in the story.
Reason #2- Magic
The Hexologists have a complicated history and present-day status. However, Josiah Bancroft does a masterful job breaking down both for readers. Additionally, he does it without ever making it feel like an information dump or bogging down the story. Instead, it is engaging and masterfully created and explained.
This includes the different types of wizardry, necromancy, alchemy, and hexagy.
The analogy most often used to explain magic to the children of Berbition was that it was like a mounting spring- a thing that burst reliable flow… The truth, of course was far less elegant and more frightening. But schoolchildren did not need to learn about the death of the Yoked God, the Great Purification, and the Transumutation of Spleen. Suffice it to say, those who knew of the visceral origins of Magic’s Bubbling Font generally wished they did not.
I believe this isn’t just essential to The Hexologists but will also serve to enlighten further entries in the series.
Thank you to Orbit Books for an advance audio arc of The Hexologists by Josiah Bancroft, which was released on September 26th.
Reason #3- Chapter Titles
No, I’m not kidding. This will be short, but for me, chapter titles add wonderful additions to a book’s structure and story. With this said, the chapter titles in The Hexologists was done with intention and imagination. Chapter titles are very underestimated, in my opinion. Sharon Doering does a wonderful job with chapter titles in the thriller, She Lies Close (review linked). With chapter titles such as Sotto Voce Sniper, Blessed to Death, and an Alternative To Infinite Goat, Josiah Bancroft nails an often overlooked but often discounted structural piece.
Reason #4- Mystery
I thoroughly love that there is a mystery (or two) that is solved with the reading of the Hexologists. Nevertheless, there are also overarching mysteries that, I imagine, will span the course of the series. The cliffhanger is a perfect lead into the next entry of The Hexologists Series. However, I suspect that with each new book, the main mystery will provide immediate intrigue. While there isn’t the high-stakes you might expect, characters are put in extraordinary danger. This is, of course, by choice. Annnnd I won’t say more for fear of spoilers!
Reason #5- Writing
Oh my! What can I even say about Josiah Bancroft’s writing style? Action-packed yet graceful, The Hexologists exerts a modern-day read yet has an evergreen feel to it. If I may make (a high compliment from me) a major comparison. I believe The Hexologists reads like an adult version of A Wrinkle in Time. There are imaginative characters and an almost musical feel to Josiah Bancroft’s writing. It is a joy unto itself how Josiah Bancroft strings words together. On top of that, the way the entire story is plotted out makes it a read you want to hug.
Quite simply, Sarah Slimani isn’t just a joy to listen to. In fact, she is a master of her craft. Each character and creature is handled with a unique tenor. And she possesses a beautiful cadence that is well-suited for Josiah Bancroft’s writing.