Hexbreaker by Jordan L Hawk (Hexworld, Book 1)
Published by: Widdershins Press, LLC
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Order at: Amazon
Reviewed by: Erin
What to Expect: A cop, trying to hide his secrets and his magic. A cat-shifter, trying to fight his attraction and his bond. A stunning, beautifully detailed paranormal historical romance and the start of a new series!
New York copper Tom Halloran is a man with a past. If anyone finds out he once ran with the notorious O’Connell tunnel gang, he’ll spend the rest of his life doing hard time behind bars. But Tom’s secret is threatened when a horrible murder on his beat seems to have been caused by the same ancient magic that killed his gang.
Cat shifter Cicero is determined to investigate the disappearance of one friend and the death of another, even though no one else believes the cases are connected. When the trail of his investigation crosses Tom’s, the very bohemian Cicero instinctively recognizes the uncultured Irish patrolman as his witch. Though they’re completely unsuited to one another, Cicero has no choice but to work alongside Tom…all the while fighting against the passion growing within.
Tom knows that taking Cicero as his familiar would only lead to discovery and disaster. Yet as the heat between them builds, Tom’s need for the other man threatens to overcome every rational argument against becoming involved.
But when their investigation uncovers a conspiracy that threatens all of New York, Tom must make the hardest decision of his life: to live a lie and gain his heart’s desire, or to confess the truth and sacrifice it all.
First off: This is a great book and I really enjoyed it as a book. However, I am positively dying to see it as a movie. A miniseries? An HBO special? Or oooh, maybe STARZ? I mean, come on! Shapeshifters and hex magic and explicit sex? This is a slam dunk.
This book takes place in an alternate New York City in 1896, where there is magic in the world and witches and shape-shifting familiars work together to create spells and hexes for everything: fire protection on buildings, hexed absinthe for pleasure, and darker, more dangerous spells. It’s a little bit like if the Muggle world and the magical world in Harry Potter coexisted; average citizens buy and sell small magics for every aspect of their daily life. I can’t emphasize enough how fully-formed this world is. There are enough broad strokes, small details, and grounding in actual historical events to make you feel completely immersed. This includes the people and society as well, from Tom’s neighbors, to Cicero’s radical friends, to the culture surrounding unbonded shifters.
Most people are going to come away from this book loving Cicero, the cat-shifting, Oscar Wilde-quoting, well-dressed bohemian familiar who has not yet bonded to a witch. Predictably for those who know me, I ended up with a million feelings for Tom, the good-hearted, stolid Irish cop, who seems to be heavy on the fists and light on the brains. Cicero thinks he has Tom’s number, but Tom is the one with secrets and a dark past. He’s the one with the most to lose by getting involved with Cicero and the Metropolitan Witch Police.
The romance works well overall, though I think Cicero’s reasons for staying away from Tom wear a little thin after a while. There are plenty of external reasons for them not to be together, and Cicero’s angsting seems unnecessary. I think the book gets stronger when he drops that and those external issues kick in. (This is about 50% in, when I whispered to myself, “Oh no, things are going so well.”)
The larger mystery involves, of course, people being turned into bloodthirsty cannibal monsters, because it’s Jordan Hawk, and she can’t sleep at night unless she gives you nightmares. However, if you’ve avoided her books because you don’t like horror or gore, this is a great one to pick up. The level of violence is about on par for what you’d expect from a paranormal, and there isn’t any horror or body horror. It’s also a hell of an adventure, an incredible alt-fantasy world, and a hot romance. I cannot wait to see where she takes this world next!
What you may not like: There’s a lot of worldbuilding and a lot of characters, so that sometimes takes the focus from the main romance. It’s a paranormal adventure with sexytimes, not the other way around.
What I loved: I’m obsessed with the world, the magic system, and the characters. The book is reflective of the diversity of NYC and the gay culture of the time. Definitely check out the author’s notes in the back for cool historical info!