Review: House of Hollow

black bare tree inside a forest covered with fog

“I am the thing in the dark.”

Like most lost souls in 2020, I joined a quarantine-era book club to fill the time. Unlike many of those 2020 book clubs, I’m proud to say our group is surprisingly still going strong! When it was my turn to pick the club book last month, I wanted it to capture the spooky vibes that October has to offer. Naturally, I turned to LSQ blogger and witchy friend Alexa for a rec. She has never steered me wrong before, and she certainly didn’t with this pick!

Let me start by offering a word of advice: be careful what you wish for. For all of you “cottagecore” folks out there wanting to become moss or something, read House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland. You’ll either 1) love it or 2) change your mind about the whole “becoming moss” thing.

Let me give you a little taste of what the book is about.

***

House of Hollow follows 17-year-old Iris Hollow, the youngest of the three Hollow sisters, on her quest for normalcy in her everyday life. Don’t get the wrong idea: she’s normal for all intents and purposes–almost to a fault. She never skips class, always does her homework, always does what her mom asks of her. Despite all this, something has always felt off, but maybe that’s just because her two older sisters, Grey and Vivi, are eccentric enough for the three of them.

Maybe it’s because they mysteriously went missing one New Years Eve, as children on a crowded Edinburgh street barely a foot away from their parents. Or maybe because it’s they returned exactly one month later, without their clothes and with absolutely no memory of what happened. The only clue they had was the crescent-moon shaped scars at the base of their throats.

Iris would stay wrapped in mystery forever if it meant she could hold on to her remaining strands of normalcy, but life has other plans for her.

***

This book really has something for everybody: urban fantasy, mystery, family drama, spookiness, dead people. (Well, maybe that last one’s not true… or is it?) It’s British gothic meets voodoo magic meets realism. It’s Stranger Things meets The Ten Thousand Doors of January meets The Craft. I can’t even begin to express how vivid and vibrant Sutherland’s descriptions are. Reading this book allowed me to feel the moss between my toes, the sharp vines twisting around my limbs, and the awful smell the decaying human flesh rotting in the ceiling–and I loved every minute of it. Her ability to make your skin crawl or your heart beat fast with words alone is truly mesmerizing. The whole experience feels like a cloudy dream and a horrible nightmare, reveling in the beauty of her words while dreading to turn the page and learn their meaning.

The three sisters are the embodiment of “look but don’t touch,” though you don’t know why (at first). People are drawn to them because they’re beautiful, but there’s a sense of danger lurking behind their pretty smiles. They are equal parts compelling and strange, frightening and ethereal. That enigmatic quality is what draws the reader to them as well. In theory, they shouldn’t be anything other than normal, but there’s something there that goes beyond a simple je ne sais quoi. They have a secret, hidden so deep that not even Iris is aware of what it is, but you’ll keep turning the pages until you find out what it is. The mystery will eat at you, crawling and scratching at your mind until you’re just waiting for the next time you can open the book back up and find out what happens next.

If you want to keep the Halloween vibes going, I highly recommend this book. It can be a little on the horror/gruesome side at times, so be warned, but I can’t stress enough how thoroughly I enjoyed my time reading House of Hollow. If this author were to make another book in this series, I’d pick it up in a heartbeat.

What are you reading? Come find me on GoodReads!

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