Last September I read (and adored) You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria. It’s the first in her Primas of Power series, and I’m eagerly awaiting its second installment, A Lot Like Adiós, due out in two months. Luckily, the countdown was made a bit easier with the release of her new novella, What the Hex, currently available exclusively as an audiobook on Audible. It just came out on July 1st, so I dove in this weekend. It’s a quick but fun ride!
|What the Hex by Alexis Daria|
|Setting||Isla Bruja (Magical Caribbean island off Florida coast)|
|Format I Read||Audiobook|
|Book Length||2.75 hours|
|Narrator||Jacqueline Graze Lopez|
|Original Publication Date||July 1, 2021|
Welcome to Isla Bruja, a secret magical enclave near Miami and home to the richest and most powerful Latinx witch families.
When Catalina Cartagena returns home for her older sister’s wedding, she’s shocked to discover that her soon-to-be brother in law is possessed by a demon. To make matters worse, everyone else seems to be under the demon’s spell—except for Diego Paz, younger brother of the groom and Cat’s childhood rival.
With only three days until the wedding, Cat must join forces with her sexy nemesis to break the spell and defeat the demon. If they fail, demonic forces will control two of the most powerful witch families on Isla Bruja.
There’s only one bed at the magical B&B, and it’s time for these witches to get wicked…in more ways than one.
After enjoying her novel You Had Me at Hola last year, I was excited to listen to Alexis Daria’s new novella audiobook, What the Hex. As soon as I started, I found it to be fun and breezy, just like its cute artwork.
The story takes off instantly, with Catalina arriving back home on the magical Isla Bruja after several years away. As soon as she gets home, though, she can tell something is off. Why are her parents acting so strange? And her sisters, too? Sure, her older sister is getting married in just three days, but this seems like more than just your average wedding jitters. Cat quickly determines that everyone on the island is in a sort of trance, and the two families about to be united in matrimony are in serious danger.
Luckily, Cat isn’t the only one who still has her wits about her. Her old academic nemesis, Diego – the brother of the groom – has also noticed the trance. It’s up to him and Cat to work together and get rid of the demon controlling their family members. Cat will have to overcome her fiercely competitive feelings towards Diego, but they’ll also have to manage their undeniable attraction to each other.
I’ve read maybe one or two other novellas before, so while a faster pace is to be expected, I still found it remarkable how quickly things move along. What the Hex largely bypasses tedious setup and world-building. Instead, we’re thrown right into the story, making it exhilarating from the get-go. For me, this made it easier to get into the book. However, it also means the story races ahead to its end, so the relationships develop fast and the mystery is solved without excessive setbacks or twists. While it works well here, I also wouldn’t mind reading a full-length novel of What the Hex; its a world I’d love to spend more time in!
Catalina is a wonderful lead character here, and I found her to be quite relatable. She was smart and ambitious in high school, and is still upset that she was only salutatorian, not valedictorian, upon graduation. (I have the same regret, but mine is one worse: I was in third place when my school decided the top two students who would speak at our graduation. But after our finals, I ended in second place and should have been the salutatorian, but I didn’t get to give a speech at our ceremony. I may never get over that.)
After becoming a successful fashion designer, she reached a point of burnout that I find equally relatable. Unfortunately for Cat, this manifests as a loss of her magic and an escape from her family and home.
Diego makes a great match for her. What I love about their relationship is how he fully understands Cat and loves her the way she is. He can accept both her good and bad traits; he can be a steady support when she starts to push herself too hard, or better, help her in preventing burnout. I like that Cat and Diego have a relationship with a solid foundation and mutual respect.
Of course, this is also a steamy romance, so they have physical chemistry, too. It’s fun, though I found it funny and surprising that they could be so horny in the midst of such high stakes. Diego’s brother is possessed by a demon, for crying out loud! How do they have time to think about anything other than saving their families? But I guess I’m just new to this particular genre.
The elements of witchcraft are fun, too, and I love how the characters use witchy slang. The title doesn’t come from nowhere! Several times, Catalina exclaims “what the hex,” and she and Diego laugh as they try to come up with naughty witch puns.
I also enjoyed how much Spanish Alexis Daria includes here. Spanish is not my first language, but I’ve been learning it for 15 years, and I always feel strangely excited and proud when I hear Spanish and understand it fully. Nerdy, I suppose, but I like that she doesn’t offer translations. It’s generally pretty easy to figure it in context, even if you don’t speak any Spanish.
What the Hex is a quick and delightful book. Beyond witch magic, a mission to save two families, and steamy romance, it also packs in valuable lessons about ambition, burnout, and home.
So far, I’m two for two with Alexia Daria’s books. I love What the Hex, and now I’m even more excited for her next full-length novel, A Lot Like Adiós, out in September. Stay tuned for that review in a couple of months!
About the Author
Alexis Daria writes stories about successful Latinx characters and their (occasionally messy) familias. Her debut novel, Take the Lead, was a RITA Award winner for Best First Book, and You Had Me at Hola, the first book in her Primas of Power series, is a national bestseller. Alexis is a lifelong New Yorker who loves Broadway musicals and pizza.