You probably can’t tell yet from the things I’ve reviewed so far in this blog, but I have an intense love for the creepy and weird when it comes to books. There’s something about the lurid appeal of the darkness and the fear of that which lurks in the shadows that is so incredibly compelling. My favorite books are usually gothic in nature, dark and brooding but with incredibly beautiful prose. Favorite classics include The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, a psychological horror masterpiece, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus. Aside from Neil Gaiman, a story telling god, in my opinion, there are very few modern authors who can truly embody this classic gothic feel, where both the terrifying setting and the lyricism send shivers up your spine. With that being said, I am immensely pleased to have stumbled upon a young adult horror novel called House of Hollow.
Iris Hollow is one of three sisters who disappeared without a trace for a whole month ten years prior when she was just 7 years old. When they reappeared suddenly, shivering and naked but otherwise unharmed save for three identical scars along their necks, they had no memory of what they’d endured over the past month. At first their frantic parents were relieved to have them home, but then their father descended into madness. He was convinced his daughters had been switched somehow. Though they looked like them, their eyes, hair, and teeth, different from the children who had vanished, gave away the sickening secret, one that was only apparent to him. They were not, in his estimation, the children who had disappeared a month prior. To him, they were evil changelings from another world.
A decade after their return, their father merely a memory of worse days, Iris Hollow is a relatively normal high school student. Her sisters, Vivi and Grey, have moved out of the house to pursue careers. Vivi is a rock star on the rise and Grey is an ultra-famous model and fashion icon with an equally famous and fashionable boyfriend, Tyler. One night, Grey mysteriously vanishes once again, and things begin to feel oddly familiar, and increasingly frightening. Iris and Vivi, along with an unwitting Tyler, go on a search to uncover the strange truth of what happened to Grey, as well as truth about what happened to them in the past. Tracked by a terrifying bloodthirsty horned man, they will descend into a truth more horrifying than they could ever have imagined, and they just might realize their older sister knows more about their past than she has ever admitted.
From the start, this book is incredibly exciting. There’s so much mystery and intrigue, so many questions posed not only about the events of the past but of the present. Who are these girls and where have they been? Why did they return with changes? Why do they have a raw and unyielding power over others, a power to influence or to harm with merely a word? We’re immediately presented with an unreliable narrator, which just adds to the excitement. Iris has no memories from before her disappearance and no memories of the event itself. I love the psychological nature of seeing events unfold before our eyes, watching the main character uncover truths of her own past that would shake anyone to their core. Things are greatly complicated by the intense bond between the three girls. Though Iris begins to learn her oldest sister, Grey, has been keeping dark and treacherous secrets, her instinct is still to love and protect at all costs. Readers are torn between trusting their own instincts or the instincts of Iris.
I will say, this is an incredibly inventive story line. The world building is superb, grotesque, and shockingly vivid. Sutherland is an extremely gifted writer. She builds strong characters and crafts sentences with grace and precision. She somehow managed to infuse beauty into a landscape of cruel unfeeling gore and rot. She made aspects of our present world, living things, transfer into an alternate dimension of death and decay, representative of all of our nightmare visions of what could be lurking beneath the surface of consciousness. And it definitely worked.
This is a wild ride, horrifying and captivating, but not without depth and intense meaning. Ultimately, there’s a message about the power of love, both familial and that which transcends a bond of blood. It’s a grim and creepy tale with some real shockers thrown in the mix. This one contains a lot of elements of classic horror, which I greatly admire. I definitely wouldn’t recommend House of Hollow for the squeamish, but lovers of supernatural horror will really enjoy this one. 4 stars.
Published April 6, 2021 by Hot Key Books. ISBN 9781471410062. Runtime 9 hours, 10 minutes. Narrated by Eleanor Bennett.
Spot in Reading challenge: # 40 – Fantasy. Disclaimer: This page contains affiliate links. I receive a commission from purchases made through my site.