review // the hollow places by t. kingfisher

a cartoon galaxy that is ovular with four  bulbous distortions to the shape. it is a dark blue with small light purple dots, meant to represent stars. text, in the same purple and centered on the galaxy but horizontally extending past it on the first line, reads "the hollow places nu t. kingfisher"

I received a e-arc of this book from the publisher via netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Any links to purchase the book included in this review will be affiliate that will earn me a commission if you use them to purchase the book. This review contains spoilers, probably, because I have no idea what counts as spoiler. Read with caution if you have not read the book and prefer a reading experience without much known.

Horror isn’t a genre I am well-versed in. I only recently got into, and I am still finding my footing in the genre. I picked up the Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher, the the author’s previous horror novel, at the start of the year. I, admittedly, thought it was this book when I first started the audiobook because I was, at the time, trying to catch up on ARCs. I fell in love with it and just knew I needed to read more books like it.

The Hollow Places, a fantastical horror novel, follows a young woman who after her marriage falls apart moves in with her uncles and helps him run his museum of curios. While he is away recovering from surgery, she discovers a hole in the wall that leads her to another world, one that is barren and strange and roamed by monstrous creatures that are not always hungry.

Pray they are hungry. She, along with the friend that followed her through the hole in the wall, reads etched into the door frame of another bunker they find in this strange world. Combined with the eeriness of the world, the emptiness that is felt not in what is described but what is not, it sets a chilling tone, one that primes the reader for a nearly biblical horror. Nothing is known about the creatures, Not what they look like. Not what they can do. Not how they move. Nothing of that sort. In fact, the only piece of information given is right before, they can hear you think.

The world itself is given some more attention. I imagined it almost in gray scale. Muted shades of green, brown, and blue with black and grey accents. I did not imagine a bright blue sky or a blinding sun but instead an intense grayness premating it all. Oddities in the sand are described. The trees, all a sort of willow, are described. The occasional shriek of a killdeer or an odd humming, almost like a gong, is noted. Late, fish are mentioned to live in the water. There is a distinct lack in the world.

It made me wonder. What happened here? Where is everything? It set me on edge, giving me goose bumps in a way that few other things had. It was a thing that built and built and, while it was occasionally undercut by humor in order to offer some relief, kept building until the climax of the story.

Really, the atmosphere of the novel is what matters. On storygraph, it is listed as action-driven. And where that isn’t factually wrong, it does feel wrong. What drives the story isn’t character or action but the world and the ever-building tension, the story itself seeking some sort of relief to that. While there is action and wonderfully realized characters, those are not the draw of the story or even the focus. It is instead on the horror of this world, on these creatures and on what they do. And that is a terror I cannot recommend highly enough.

Cover design by Chelsea McGuckin

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