TITLE: The Hollow Gods
BY: A.J. Vrana
SERIES: The Chaos Cycle Duology #1
GENRE: Magical Realism, Contemporary, Fantasy, Paranormal
PUBLICATION: July 28th 2020 by The Parliament House Press
NOTES: I was given a copy by the publisher via Netgalley. Opinions are entirely my own.
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 think this is one of the best debuts I’ve read this year. The Hollow Gods surprisingly has everything I want in contemporary fantasy. The story centers in a local folklore about the Dreamwalker who lures young women into the woods and possess them. And after they’re found, they almost always end up dead anyway. The mystery and suspense surrounding the folklore is what initially kept my interest. The town of Black Hollow is so mysterious, including its people, and definitely so atmospheric. I can imagine it as one of those movies where the main characters visit a town that’s filled with secrets, just like one of the MCs, Mason, did.
Speaking of MCs, I love the characters. First, there’s Miya who’s struggling in life, but especially financially. Her reality is gloomy and maybe that’s why she’s a bit drawn to the mystery of the woods in Black Hollow. There’s also the mystery of the wolf she once saw and can’t totally forget. By the way, the belief of the people about wolves in this story is fascinating, along with the “Dreamwalker” I really find the concept very interesting. Kai, another main character, is a wolf and what I like about him is he has certain behaviours that are still wolf-ish even if he’s in his human form. But that’s not the only reason why Kai is my favorite among all the characters. I like everything about him. Sure, when he was first introduced I was worried because his actions are definitely not for a protagonist but he grew on me. He has the foulest mouth and the softest heart. Also, I like the hint of romance in this book. Yes, it’s just a hint for now, more like a beginning of a romance, which I think I’ll see more in book 2. For now, I love the banters between Kai and Miya. I even find some of their interaction sexy.
Mason is a very well-written character too. I like his backstory and loved how he let his curiosity drive his actions in Black Hollow. This, in particular, is a brilliant move for the author. The author used Mason’s character to introduce things so there is no issue of info-dumping or too much telling in this book. Everything I need to learn about Black Hollow and the folklore, I learned through Mason. But still, he has a character of his own and very likable too. There are other characters I also found interesting, like Ama and her Raven friend. But to share more about her might spoil a lot.
My only issue with the book is the beginning. It’s a bit slow but after a few chapters, things get more interesting and I couldn’t stop reading. I also think the book wrapped up neatly, at least for this book. I’m excited to read the sequel. And by the way, the prose is terrific and the author is really good at writing dialogues.
RATING: 4 blissful pages with lilies
Overall, I highly recommend this book to ALL lovers of Contemporary Fantasy, magic realism, paranormal and atmospheric stories, and of course, if you love fun characters, this book is for you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A. J. Vrana is a Serbian-Canadian academic and writer from Toronto, Canada. She lives with her two rescue cats, Moonstone and Peanut Butter, who nest in her window-side bookshelf and cast judgmental stares at nearby pigeons. Her doctoral research examines the supernatural in modern Japanese and former-Yugoslavian literature and its relationship to violence. When not toiling away at caffeine-fueled, scholarly pursuits, she enjoys jewelry-making, cupcakes, and concocting dark tales to unleash upon the world. Her published works include The Chaos Cycle Duology: The Hollow Gods (2020) and The Echoed Realm (2021) from The Parliament House Press, and a short supernatural horror story, These Silent Walls (2020), printed in Three Crows Magazine.
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