House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland
Published March 30th 2021 by Penguin Random House Australia.
A dark, compelling contemporary thriller with a sinister folktale twist – think Gone Girl meets Two Can Keep A Secret by way of Stranger Things.
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 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. They have insatiable appetites yet never gain weight. People find them disturbingly intoxicating, unbearably beautiful and inexplicably dangerous.
But now, ten years later, seventeen-year-old Iris Hollow is doing all she can to fit in and graduate high school on time – something her two famously glamorous globe-trotting older sisters, Grey and Vivi, never managed to do. But when Grey goes missing without a trace, leaving behind bizarre clues as to what might have happened, Iris and Vivi are left to trace her last few days. They aren’t the only ones looking for her though. 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.
I’d been kind of hesitant to try House of Hollow when people started talking about it pre-release. I’m definitely not a horror reader—that sort of stuff usually makes my anxiety flare up really badly. But I love books about sisters, and ones set in Scotland as well so I decided to give it a chance.
I completely loved it. I don’t know that I’d personally categorise it as horror, to me it felt more Gothic rather than anything else. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that I really enjoy Gothic novels. How can I love Gothic novels but not enjoy horror? I don’t know either, there’s a lot to unpack there. Anyway, there are some kind of gruesome bits, I guess, but that just didn’t really scare me. I think, as well, there’s a bit of mystery and darkness to this that really made it feel different for me.
Anyway, enough about genre. Let’s talk about the actual book. We’ll start with the few things I didn’t enjoy, the things that kept this from being a five star. For one, there’s no real romance in here. I enjoy YA without romance as someone who wasn’t interested in relationships as a teen—it feels very realistic, but I’d seen a tweet about this being sapphic and I was so prepared for that. I’ll talk more about this bit in a minute. Secondly and lastly, really, I felt like the pacing was a little off—everything happens extremely quickly, but it also feels like it drags. I believe this is a standalone, but I think the pacing could’ve been fixed by moving a few things into a sequel.
I want to talk about the characters next. They are kind of a weird bunch. On one hand I felt a little disconnected from them, but at the same time, I was intrigued by their personalities and relationships with one another. Let me say it here—Grey is straight up one of the worst characters ever. The only character I think I genuinely liked was Tyler, he mostly functions as comic relief slash being a way to show how strange the sisters are, but he was enjoyable to read about. Again, the way these characters would be fleshed out in a sequel…
Finally, I want to talk about the atmosphere. One of the reasons I love Gothic novels so much is because I love books where the atmosphere or the setting feels alive. This obviously has a very creepy and dark atmosphere to it and I thought that was a lot of fun. I wish we’d gotten a little more detail to it because it really was incredibly interesting.
I think if you’re a fan of something like Mexican Gothic or the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning, then you’d really enjoy this one.