Hexbreaker, by Jordan L. Hawk
Series: Hexworld (Book 1)
Release Date: May 6, 2016
DMac’s Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
El’s Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Will a dark history doom their future together?
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.
Before I begin my review I would like to add a general note so you guys can understand me better. When I explain why I don’t like something it is one hundred percent not meant to judge people’s reading preferences or dismiss a type of book, genre etc. I am merely trying to give context to my reviews because my preferences may make me not like something that someone else would like.
That being said I did not like this book, but I really can see why others would like it. So instead of just writing about how terrible it was to me, I am going to try to be constructive so that other people can give it a chance if it interests them.
Hawk is probably known best for her Whyborne & Griffin series. This series (along with PsyCop) actually made me enjoy paranormal romance novels, and also made it difficult for me to find other ones now that my standard is so high.
I know that many people enjoy books with shifters, but I usually do not. However, I decided to read this book because Hawk is such a good writer and I trusted her based on previous work. My trust was not displaced seeing as her writing was still the quality I would expect from her. What ultimately stopped me from liking this book was a myriad of other things (including my inherent dislike of shifter books).
The biggest issue for me was the fact that I am a trained historian who has studied this time period in New York and particularly the Gangs of New York/Irish Immigration/Gay New York. Not that I’m an expert or anything (my work was on Francophone Architecture), but my brain kept making leaps and comparisons that got very, very distracting. Then I ended up going to do personal research on trains and it just derailed (pun intended) me from reading this book faster… which meant that it was not holding my interest the way it should. I did end up finding some other history books I am going to read though, so thank you, Hawk!!
I straight up hated Cicero until about the last 20% of the book. To me he was a poor man’s Dorian Grey. If you don’t get that reference Dorian Gray was a dandy– which were the hipsters of the 1700s to 1800s. I tend to like constructive people so I am probably being a bit unfair, but that is why I didn’t like him. However, if you like artsy bohemian people than you might love him and be like, that one idiotic reviewer was so wrong he is the best ever and I am going to go yell at her. Do that but first read The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, come back, and we can have book club.
Tom was much more likable to me, but he was too much like a caricature for me to be Team Tom all the way. I felt bad for Tom. I was like, run Tom this whole thing is going to ruin you! It didn’t but I was getting mad the whole time because I felt like he was getting the short end of the stick. This is part of why him being with Cicero didn’t do much for me. I couldn’t believe their romance.
So what did I like? I really really loved the hexbreaker/witch idea. If this didn’t have shifters I would have been able to get more into it because the hexes and magic were SO INTERESTING. I wish more of the story had been that.
One of Hawk’s strengths in her other works is her ability to build an interesting, vibrant, and multifaceted world. Even though I wasn’t really into the shifters Hawk gave a thorough background for the shifters involvement in the magical world she created.
I had very mixed feelings about Hexbreaker going in. On the one hand, I loved the paranormal-historical world that Jordan created in The Thirteenth Hex (which I originally read as part of the Charmed & Dangerous anthology). But the prequel short story focused on two incredibly intriguing characters, and this new full-length novel… didn’t? “Hmm,” I thought. “I’ll give it a try.”
Best. Idea. Ever!
I didn’t expect to like Cicero. He wasn’t a captivating character in the prequel, and he didn’t start out as a relatable character here. But as the story progressed I realized that I really adored him! But it was Tom who stole my heart; big, strong, brooding, and with a dark past that he needs to hide at all costs, Tom was exactly the kind of character I wanted to follow on his introduction to the MWP (Metropolitan Witch Police).
Maybe Cicero was a fairy of the other sort, the kind Ma had told endless stories about. Because Tom surely felt as though he were under a spell. “Aye.” Be polite, that was was one treated with the Folk. “Please.”
The relationship between Cicero and Tom was exquisite. Two very opposite men, both with their own fears and desires, drawn together by a bond they neither want nor comprehend. I think the forming relationship was where I began to really love Cicero, as he battles his own wants and needs with logic.
But where the characters really captured my attention with the story, the plot and world-building… did not. I love the magical aspects, but I wanted to see more of Jordan’s unique take on shifters and magic, and less of the political. I get that the politics are central to who Cicero and Tom are, but I felt like the plot itself was…. well, boring compared to the relationship! I just didn’t feel any sense of urgency or importance, even though the story was action-packed.
A very solid novel, and one I definitely recommend to anyone who likes PNR and is looking for a fresh take on shifters. But I do recommend reading the prequel first (even though this is a stand-alone) to get more background on the magical world. And I look forward to future stories set in this universe!
Jordan L. Hawk grew up in North Carolina and forgot to ever leave. Childhood tales of mountain ghosts and mysterious creatures gave her a life-long love of things that go bump in the night. When she isn’t writing, she brews her own beer and tries to keep her cats from destroying the house. Her best-selling Whyborne & Griffin series (beginning with Widdershins) can be found in print, ebook, and audiobook at Amazon and other online retailers.
You can find more about Hawk and her books over at her website (here).
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The reviewers received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.