I have been a little distracted the last week or so and bouncing between books. I have started ‘Beyond Redemption’ by Michael R. Fletcher, and I have been listening to the audiobook (a new format for me) of ‘Celtic Empire’ by Clive Cussler, who I was very sad to learn had passed away. He is my favourite non-fantasy author after I picked up a copy of ‘Trojan Odyssey’ while on holiday nearly fifteen years ago, and since then I have read all but a few of his books.
*Disclaimer e-copy received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*
Black Hollow is a town with a dark secret.
For centuries, residents have foretold the return of the Dreamwalker—an ominous figure from local folklore said to lure young women into the woods and possess them. Yet the boundary between fact and fable is blurred by a troubling statistic: occasionally, women do go missing. And after they return, they almost always end up dead.
When Kai wakes up next to the lifeless body of a recently missing girl, his memory blank, he struggles to clear his already threadbare conscience.
Miya, a floundering university student, experiences signs that she may be the Dreamwalker’s next victim. Can she trust Kai as their paths collide, or does he herald her demise?
And after losing a young patient, crestfallen oncologist, Mason, embarks on a quest to debunk the town’s superstitions, only to find his sanity tested.
A maelstrom of ancient grudges, forgotten traumas, and deadly secrets loom in the foggy forests of Black Hollow. Can three unlikely heroes put aside their fears and unite to confront a centuries-old evil? Will they uncover the truth behind the fable, or will the cycle repeat?
I was searching for something a little different when I found ‘The Hollow Gods’, and I certainly got what I was looking for. I fell in love with the cover at first sight, and the title intrigued me as did the summary. I have a soft spot for folklore at the best of time, and this seemed like an interesting twist on that idea, and it was. It took me a few chapters to get into the book, but once I did, I was hooked. While folklore and the role it plays within a community is central to the story, it weaves through several genres, and I would find it hard to classify it under a singular genre, which I think is a massive part of its appeal.
The story itself is split between three very different narrators, all following their own paths through the story, and it felt very much to me that I was with them on those paths, discovering new secrets and answers, alongside them. The. Each character was well developed in their own right, as well as through their connections with one another, and there were aspects of what they were struggling with or searching for that you can’t fail to identify with. The relationships between them, the folklore and the rest of the town were intricate, and there was an ambiguity to it all. That, rather than leaving you lost or drifting away from the story, kept you hooked and chasing the answers.
There were a couple of places where the language choices jolted me out of the flow, but it only happened a couple of times and was more a personal tic than anything, and for the most part, I found the language beautifully reflective of the story. It felt like a folktale, in terms of language but also in the storytelling method, but one that the reader is experiencing for themselves.
My favourite part of the book is how it explores folklore and how it is experienced – as a story, a dream, a part of history – and how stories can become something far more if people believe in them strongly enough. ‘Stories aren’t told to convey the facts. They’re told the convey the truth’ – is something very real, and very present in our lives, and here it is explored and addressed in a way that is not only relevant, but which is accessible, and I loved it.
I would highly recommend this book for anyone with interest in folklore, magical realism, and a dark touch of horror. An absolutely stunning debut from this author. I have pre-ordered my own copy of the book, and I am very much looking forward to the second book in ‘The Chaos Cycle’.
The Hollow Gods (The Chaos Cycle Duology) – A.J.Vrana (The Parliament House Press, 2020) – ***** (5/5 Stars)
You can Preorder ‘The Hollow Gods’ (Release date: 28th July, 2020) HERE
If you’ve read it, or read it in the future please feel free to shout at me about this fantastic book.