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Hex: Darkland Tales

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Fifteen-year old Anais Hendricks is smart, funny and fierce, but she is also a child who has been let down, or worse, by just about every adult she has ever met.

Were Geillis an escapee, Iris would be lumbered with her and they would have to both navigate their way across sixteenth-century Scotland together. One might look at Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Wicked, or even (my favourite) Frau Totenkinder in Bill Willingham’s Fables for iterations of how the witch can be rehabilitated. Brecht would certainly agree with her but so too would Edmund Burke (1729-1797) when he said, ‘ The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.We know this from our own time with Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, Bagram, Northern Ireland and all the unknown sites of extraordinary rendition. No es nada sutil en ese aspecto, el enfado de la autora es palpable en todo momento, y entiendo que a algunos lectores les pueda chirriar. The hours tick along equally at the pace of treacle yet simultaneously of that identical to a rebellious river having burst its banks and dawn is quickly approaching, yet the two women confide in each other from the circumstances of Geillis finding herself thrown into such squalid quarters , brutal torture, confession, trial, deceit, all while Iris offers support, solace - and perhaps escape.

Much of the short book is a feminist outcry about the treatment of women by men, which is of course, perfectly justified and true, but I would have liked to have learned more of the historical context around witch trials in Scotland and so on. Históricamente conocida por ser una joven acusada de brujería en Escocia, tras horribles torturas que la obligaron a confesar y señalar a otras personas que también fueron procesadas de estos cargos. And if we think of the way our children can also be conditioned to think in this way then consider the tale of Hansel and Gretel or the Slavic tale of Baba Yaga.James and Anne were formally married in Oslo and as they travelled to Denmark it became apparent that here was a country familiar with witchcraft and this sparked James’ interest. A storm had blown James’ wife to be, Anne of Denmark, off course and the ship was forced on to the Norwegian coast. The idea of retrospective exculpation is one which I feel a certain ambivalence towards: if those women, then why not Margaret Maclauchlan and Margaret Wilson, the Wigtown Martyrs, who were killed under law for their beliefs and without any supernatural suppositions?

This gives the book a contemporary relevance, at one stage of the night Iris relating to Geillis how more than four hundred years later, similar evils were still occurring, alluding to the two Metropolitan police officers who took photographs of two murdered sisters, instead of guarding the murder scene they took photographs of the two ‘dead birds’ and circulated to friends. This is the story of Hex by Jenni Fagan, the new volume in Polygon’s Darkland Tales series, which is coming in March 2022. On this, the last night of her life, in a prison cell several floors below Edinburgh's High Street, convicted witch Geillis Duncan receives a mysterious visitor - Iris, who says she comes from a future where women are still persecuted for who they are and what they believe.When the hex is finally unveiled there is a sense of triumph, tinged with future sadness, that is orchestrated well.

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