I’m sharing another instalment of my Mini Review Mondays, the most recent of which was last month. In case you haven’t seen any of my previous posts, I do ‘mini’ reviews of books that I’ve read, loved and usually promised to review ages ago.
Today, I’m focusing on three brilliant books that are all infused with a touch of magic, two of which were published on the 25th February. The first of which is A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth, which I was kindly gifted an eARC of by Hodder.
Choose your player.
The “ironborn” half-fae outcast of her royal fae family.
A tempestuous Fury, exiled to earth from the Immortal Realm and hellbent on revenge.
A dutiful fae prince, determined to earn his place on the throne.
The prince’s brooding guardian, burdened with a terrible secret.
For centuries, the Eight Courts of Folk have lived among us, concealed by magic and bound by law to do no harm to humans. This arrangement has long kept peace in the Courts—until a series of gruesome and ritualistic murders rocks the city of Toronto and threatens to expose faeries to the human world.
Four queer teens, each who hold a key piece of the truth behind these murders, must form a tenuous alliance in their effort to track down the mysterious killer behind these crimes. If they fail, they risk the destruction of the faerie and human worlds alike. If that’s not bad enough, there’s a war brewing between the Mortal and Immortal Realms, and one of these teens is destined to tip the scales. The only question is: which way?
Wish them luck. They’re going to need it.
Publication Date: 25th February
TW: anger, arson, blood/gore, body horror (minor), death of a child, depression, disownment, divorce, drug use/addiction, grief/grieving, human trafficking, poverty, psychopathy, stalking, suicide (past, off-page), suicide ideation, toxic relationship/manipulation, trauma/PTSD, racism, violence/gun violence
A Dark and Hollow Star was a brilliant blend of fantasy and mystery that laid the groundwork for what promises to be a spectacular series.
Shuttleworth has crafted such a rich and imaginative world. I really enjoyed how blurred the lines between fantasy and reality became. At certain points, I started to envision how the faerie world make intersect with our own in other ways. It reignites the spark of childhood imagination, wanting to find the path to Narnia down the back of your wardrobe. Their writing just has this glimmer to it that is incredibly entrancing to witness. On one hand, you are seamlessly enmeshed into this unique world without ever feeling like a lot of information is being dumped on you. Then, on the other, there’s this exciting mystery being told while you meet this rag-tag bunch of flawed characters.
It goes without saying that I’ve utterly fallen in love with our central quartet of characters. They’re all just such lovable, complex and disastrous protagonists who end up forming a found family style vibe, complete with plenty of family arguments and messy romantic dynamics. I loved getting to hear from each of them and how distinctive each voice was. They’ve all got hidden depths to them and are bound by their pasts and the secrets buried there. In addition to them, we get a mysterious extra voice whose true nature you’ll slowly begin to understand. This all made for an amazing reading experience, which felt cohesive and deeply bingeable. Shuttleworth made the dialogue crackle with authentic wit and a lightness of touch that was so believable. These characters all feel realistic (within the highly fantastical world of urban fantasy) and truly are a highlight of the book.
In regards to the plot, I thought that it was a well-constructed plot that lays the groundwork for an explosive follow up. There’s enough twists and turns to keep you hooked, though I’d argue that Shuttleworth saves the best one just before the final page. Now, all I need is the sequel – particularly after that ending.
A Dark and Hollow Star stands out amongst any other urban fantasy with an awesome cast of characters and enthralling plot.
Next up, I’d like to talk about the enthralling The Coven by Lizzie Fry. Thank you so much to Frankie Banks and Sphere Books for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Imagine a world in which witchcraft is real. In which mothers hand down power to their daughters, power that is used harmlessly and peacefully.
Then imagine that the US President is a populist demagogue who decides that all witches must be imprisoned for their own safety, as well as the safety of those around them – creating a world in which to be female is one step away from being criminal…
As witches across the world are rounded up, one young woman discovers a power she did not know she had. It’s a dangerous force and it puts her top of the list in a global witch hunt.
But she – and the women around her – won’t give in easily. Not while all of women’s power is under threat.
Publication Date: 25th February
TW: imprisonment, torture, death, parental death, sexism, racism, self-harm
The Coven was an empowering, fast paced and deeply interesting book.
I really liked the magic structure and characters. The three types of witches were really interesting to learn about and it was intriguing seeing them use their different forms of powers. The characters, however, were what made The Coven stand out. Chloe in particular was a great protagonist and her journey gave a fresh spin on ‘The Chosen One’ trope. It felt far more realistic and how a scared teenage girl would react when the weight of the world is placed upon her shoulders. Fry’s use of multiple perspectives helped create this rich tale, with layers of thought-provoking discussion points intertwined with a compelling narrative. I really liked the use of multi-media excerpts that showed the build up of propaganda used to rationalise the discrimination and terror of the reign.
The overall tone and themes are pretty reminiscent of certain political events in recent history. I appreciated how they felt both timely and timeless, echoing themes of female subordination that have echoed throughout the centuries. Fry’s balance of action and political discussion was well-handled, with some excellent twists sneaking their way in as well.
From the start, I was interested to see how Fry would provide a new take on witchcraft. It turns out she does so by weaving an intriguing tale that spans several key voices and being unafraid to turn to some dark moments. There’s consequences to every action and from the start, there’s loss. Power is dangerous and the ramifications of each character’s actions were keenly felt by the plot. This in turn made The Coven feel more high-stakes, as there was a tangible sense of the reality of the situation they faced.
The Coven was an interesting, compelling story that I’m certain many will love.
Finally, I’d be doing you all a disservice if I left out House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland. Thank you so much to Sasha for sending me her ARC and Hot Key Books.
The Hollow sisters – Vivi, Grey and Iris – are as seductively glamorous as they are mysterious.
They have black eyes and hair as white as milk. They share the same birthday, spaced exactly two years apart. The Hollow sisters don’t have friends – they don’t need them. They move through the corridors like sharks, the other little fish parting around them, whispering behind their backs.And everyone knows who the Hollow sisters are. Because one day the three Hollow sisters simply disappeared. And when they came back, one month later, with no memory of where they had been, it was as if nothing had changed.
Almost nothing, apart from, for example, the little scar that had appeared in the hollow of their throats … and a whispering sense that something is not quite right about them, despite (or maybe because of) the terrible passion to be with them that they can exert on anybody at will…
A thrilling, twisting, novel that is as seductive and glamorous as the Hollow sisters themselves….
Publication Date: 6th April
TW: kidnapping, graphic descriptions of murder, descriptions of dead bodies, suicide, attempted assault, body horror
House of Hollow is the kind of book that is steeped in mystery and hiding a tragic, gory secret at its core. It’s twisted and Gothic in the best possible way.
Within the first five pages, I was sold. Like the Hollow sisters, Sutherland had lured me into her glamour and invited me to peek at the darkness underneath. This is a fantastic book that it’s best to go into knowing very little. It’s a dark and strange narrative, infused with weird and magical touches that all culminate in a fascinating story. Sutherland’s writing is spell-binding and dire in equal parts, creating this heady sense of intoxication and enticement that is impossible to resist. This is a wicked little gem of a book that meshes genres and expectations perfectly.
Sutherland really captures the true essence of those Grimm fairytales that are sewn into the very fabric of our society. Far too often, they are sanitised and the bloody, monstrous heart of them is ripped out. That’s not the case here. This is a truly chilling and eerie tale about family, while also delving into the myth of celebrity status. The Hollow sisters’ allure lies in their shadowy nature, with their past looming over them at all times. How they use this allure varies, but it always has a touch of the woody, smokey and forbidden truth of that fateful night.
This is one of those books that I just want to pour over and dissect thoroughly with fellow bookworms. Even now, I’m still thinking about the hollow heart of it all and how thoroughly it leans into the horror elements of fairy tales. Sutherland really surprised me with her skill, as I really enjoyed her contemporaries, but she proved that she’s equally as deft with other genres. It’s a labyrinthine story, but well worth the hunt. That being said, it’s also perfectly paced, meaning that you are constantly kept moving and bewitched.
House of Hollow is an utterly entrancing and enthralling story that will take you under its spell. Just ensure that you keep an eye on your surroundings, or you risk being lost within its world forever.