The Hexologists (The Hexologists #1), by Josiah Bancroft

The Book

The Hexologists
Series: The Hexologists
Pages: 386
Age Group: Adult
Published on 9/26/2023
Publisher: Orbit Books
Urban Fantasy
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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, hope from the hopeless, Iz and Warren Wilby are ready for whatever springs from the alleys, graves, and shadows next.  

My Review

The Hexologists is the first book in a new steampunk mystery fantasy series written by Josiah Bancroft, also known for his imaginative The Books of Babel series, also published by Orbit Books; it's the kind of zany fantasy story you don't know you need, but that will you love, with an excellent prose and enclosing acute social commentary.

The Hexologists, Iz and Warren Wilby, are used to help people with their mysteries, using Iz's ability with hexes and a bag full of magical artifacts; dealing with the strange is their every day's bread. But when the royal secretary approaches to the Wilby marriage, they are not ready for the conspiracy and intrigue they will become part of; a case that seemed just to be about the king's past will unravel secrets that are threatening the stability of the Royal Family.

With this premise, Bancroft creates a mesmerising story, focused mostly in our pair of main characters, Iz and Warren. And let me tell you, how much I enjoyed reading of a marriage with a healthy relationship, with complicity and that helps each other. They might have some disagreements, but at the end of the day, they trust in the other. While Iz is great at hexes and magic, Warren brings a bit of normality to her craziness.
Outside of our pair, the rest of the cast is quite memorable, starting from the dragon that lives inside Wilby's bag; from the sketchy secretary to the alchemists looking for power and social climbing, all of them leaves you with a great impression.

The worldbuilding is another of the aspects I found more memorable in this story, with its steampunk details in the city; we explore so much of it, learning much about the problems behind the apparent calm. Monarchy is experiencing weak moments, and some revolutionary groups are trying to use this opportunity to abolish it.
The magic system is imaginative, not being too hard, but having certain rules that limit its power when needed; the class system, while not being too original, works well to delimit the scope on certain jobs.

Pacing is quite nice, as the prose flows naturally, and with the occasional funny moment, you find yourself looking to read more and more. If I have a small gripe with this book, is the amount of consecutive fights that happen at some points, which made me feel a bit overwhelmed with so many action scenes.

Said that, The Hexologists is an excellent and fun novel, with steampunk touches that I enjoyed much; a story that shows Bancroft's abilities to create engaging plots. Can't wait for the next adventure of our favourite marriage.

The Author/s

Josiah Bancroft

Josiah Bancroft

Josiah Bancroft is the author of five novels, a collection of short fiction, and numerous poems. His books have been translated into eight languages. Before settling down to write fantasy full-time, he was a college instructor, rock musician, and aspiring comic book artist. When he’s not writing, he enjoys strumming a variety of stringed instruments, drawing with a growing cache of imperfect pens, and cooking without a recipe. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife, Sharon, their daughter, Maddie, and their two rabbits, Mabel and Chaplin.