Title: House of Hollow
Author: Krystal Sutherland
Genre: Young Adult, fantasy, mystery, urban fantasy/fairy tale
Published: 30th March 2021
Synopsis: ‘This dark, deliciously twisted novel has everything you could hope for as a reader – a brilliant concept, glamorous characters with secrets to hide, immersive world-building, and some of the finest writing I’ve seen in YA fiction. I’ll put it like this – I am obsessed with House of Hollow.’ Louise O’Neill, author of Printz Honor Book, Asking For It
‘Stepping nimbly among the liminal spaces and eerie real-world haunts of our heroine’s cipher-sister, this haunting modern fairytale will wrap you up like a glittering fog, before going for your throat.’ Melissa Albert, author of The Hazel Wood
Iris Hollow and her two older sisters are unquestionably strange. Ever since they disappeared on a suburban street in Scotland as children only to return a month a later with no memory of what happened to them, odd, eerie occurrences seem to follow in their wake. And they’re changing. First, their dark hair turned white. Then, their blue eyes slowly turned black. People find them disturbingly intoxicating, unbearably beautiful and inexplicably dangerous.
Now, ten years later, seventeen-year-old Iris Hollow is doing all she can to fit in and graduate high school – something her two famously glamorous globe-trotting older sisters, Grey and Vivi, never managed to do. But when Grey goes missing, leaving behind only bizarre clues, Iris and Vivi are left to trace her last few days. They aren’t the only ones looking for her. As they brush against the supernatural, they realise that the story they’ve been told about their past is unravelling and the world that returned them seemingly unharmed ten years ago, might just be calling them home.
Krystal Sutherland’s latest novel is a dark and twisty modern-day fairytale that expertly melds the fantastical with the real as the Hollow sisters discover just how much horror can lie beneath the surface.
Every fairy tale and folk tale tradition , especially in places like Scotland and Ireland has stories of the changeling child, where a child is taken to the fae world, and comes back or is seemingly replaced. The new child looks the same but acts differently. This idea forms the basis of House of Hollow, the new YA novel by Krystal Sutherland. Ten years ago, sisters Grey, Vivi and Iris Hollow went missing in Scotland, on New Year’s Eve, at midnight: one of the times when the veil between the worlds is thin. The sisters disappeared into thin air, only to reappear a month later, in the same spot, but with black eyes, white hair, and an eerie sense about them that everyone seems to find off-putting. Iris, the youngest, has been trying to fit in and find a normal life, whilst her sisters, Grey and Vivi, have forged their own paths.
When Grey goes missing, and Vivi and Iris follow her, they begin to fall down a rabbit hole of old secrets as they uncover the mystery of what happened to them ten years ago, and who they really are. Iris longs to hold onto what she knows yet the siren call of the past beckons to her, and starts to pull her into its web.
Be aware that House od Hollow touches on death and child disappearances, as well as suicide, and is quite a dark novel so prepare yourself to deal with these things, and perhaps it is best suited for older Young Adult to adult readers due to the themes. It is one of those books that gets under your skin – there is a creepy sense about this book, and even though it is billed as a dark fairy tale, you know there is going to be no happily ever after. It delves into Celtic mythology, and ideas of changeling children – dangled at first, surreptitiously and quietly. At first, it is not obvious that the stories about changeling children and disappearing through doors into other worlds is obvious – apart from references to Narnia and Alice in Wonderland. Yet the worlds referred to are as far from the whacky Wonderland and the fantastical, wintry land of Narnia as possible. It is a dark world and is hinted at throughout as a world in between life and death – one that some never escape from.
It is as though the darkness seeps through every page, and as you read, you are drawn into this world, this mystery of finding out what happened to the Hollow sisters – and who they really are. There is a clever use of Hollow, or hollow, throughout the book. Krystal has created a believable world and premise that is filled with uncertainty and an uncanny ability to send chills through your entire body yet has made it so compelling that it is hard to put down. In parts, it is disturbing, but this contributes to the overall feel of the book, and the expansive dark fairy tale it tells. It is a new twist on fairy tale retellings, taking a subset of different tales and retelling it, rather than taking a singular tale and creating a new version or retelling of that tale.
Fairy tale themes are common in literature, and these days, many books seem to be some kind of fairy tale retelling, or reinterpretation of fairy tale in a real-world setting, Each is always different and unique, and House of Hollow is no exception. I did enjoy it, and the creepy and ethereal feel suited it as it explored darker themes and darker ways of life that we encounter, and also explores ideas of identity and who we really are – and what we are capable of. A family rift drives this book as well, and contributes to the uneasy feeling, and the sense that there is something sinister at play – but you will have to read to find out!
A haunting book that can be devoured or savoured.