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Jenni Fagan’s Hex – the powerful new Darkland Tale

  03 Dec '21   |  Posted by: Birlinn

A witch will die here in the morning. It is the 4th of December 1591. 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 killed for who they are and what they believe. 

As the hours pass and dawn approaches, Geillis recounts the circumstances of her arrest, brutal torture, confession and trial, while Iris offers support, solace – and the tantalising prospect of escape. 

This is the story of Hex by Jenni Fagan, the new volume in Polygon’s Darkland Tales series, which is coming in March 2022. Ambitious, bold, and poignant, it tells a story of one of the most turbulent moments in Scotland’s history, the North Berwick witch trials. In this short novel, Jenni has woven a powerful dialogue between past and present and offers a visceral depiction of what happens when a society is consumed by fear and superstition. She says –

This book is dedicated to Geillis Duncan, a teenage girl — whose torture and execution for witchcraft in 1591 was never just a story

Jenni Fagan

The historical facts of the persecution of women through accusations of witchcraft are all too real. The terrible force of a king’s violent crusade against ordinary women can still be felt, right up to the present day.

About Jenni Fagan

Jenni Fagan is a poet, novelist and screenwriter, she has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Jenni was selected as one of Granta’s Best Young British Novelists after the publication of her debut novel, The Panopticon, which was shortlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize and the James Tait Black Prize. Her adaptation of The Panopticon was staged by the National Theatre of Scotland to great acclaim. The Sunlight Pilgrims, her second novel, was shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature Encore Award and the Saltire Fiction Book of the Year Award, and saw her win Scottish Author of the Year at the Herald Culture Awards. Her most recent novel, Luckenbooth, was shortlisted for the Gordon Burn Prize. She lives in Edinburgh with her son.

About the Darkland Tales

In Polygon’s Darkland Tales, the best modern authors offer dramatic fictional retellings of stories from history, myth and legend. This series reclaims history for a modern audience, with Scotland’s greatest contemporary novelists and storytellers taking on the challenge of producing Scottish history 2.0 – a redux of landmark moments from the past, viewed through a modern lens and alive to modern sensibilities. While each book has a unique voice and distinctive individual identity, the Darkland Tales are united by their punky, anarchic and deliberately in-your-face aesthetic. These books are sharp, provocative and darkly comic, mining that seam of sedition and psychological drama that has always featured in the best of Scottish literature.

Denise Mina, Rizzio (available now) A dark tale of sex, secrets and lies, Rizzio is the story of the shocking murder of David Rizzio, secretary to Mary Queen of Scots. It explores the lengths that men – and women – will go to in the search for love and power.

‘Mina retells this famous tale with great panache and gives it both a touch of noir and a blackly comic edge’ – Sunday Times

‘Stabby and pithy…an intriguing sketch in blood’ – Guardian 

Alan Warner, Nothing Left to Fear from Hell (Autumn 2022) A battle lost. A daring escape. A long walk into obscurity. In the aftermath of the disastrous Battle of Culloden, a lonely figure takes flight with a small band of companions through the mountainous landscapes of the north-west Highlands of Scotland. His name is Charles Edward Stuart: better known today as Bonnie Prince Charlie. He had come to the country to take the throne. Now he is leaving in exile and abject defeat. In prose that is by turns poetic, comic, macabre, haunting and humane, multi-award-winning author Alan Warner traces the last journey through Scotland of a man who history will come to define for his failure. 

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