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  • Writer's pictureThe Fiction Fox

Review: House of Hollow - Krystal Sutherland

Genre: YA Fantasy Published: Hot Key Books, April 2021 My rating: 2.5/5 stars

“Some people go missing because they want to; some go missing because they’re taken. And then there are the others—those who go missing because they fall through a gap somewhere and can’t claw their way back.”

House of Hollow is a modern dark fairy-tale, that puts a contemporary spin on the age-old changeling mythology.

10 years ago; three young girls went missing without at trace. A month later, the three sisters returned as suddenly as they’d vanished without any recollection of what happened. Each of them unharmed, but for a crescent shape scare at the base of their neck, their dark hair having turned white, and their blue eyes having turned dark. These strange happenings lead their father to a single conclusion: whatever returned to his house, they aren’t his daughters…

Ten years later, Vivi, Iris and Grey have tried to pick up a “normal” life. When the oldest sister Grey goes missing again, their dark past comes hurling back fast to catch up with them.

Krystal Sutherland is a master of atmosphere and captures the “dark-fairy-tale-vibe” perfectly with this story. House of Hollow reads like it would be out of place in a classic Grimms collection, only with a modern twist. It’s eerie, mysterious and filled with some great imagery that will stay with you for a long time.

Because it reads so much like a fairy tale, it feels quite predictable and familiar, and unfortunately didn’t add too much to the genre for me. The characters, like is common in fairy tales, aren’t quite as well developed as I would’ve liked, the story is one you’ve heard before and the whole thing (descriptions and story alike) becomes repetitive over time.

Lastly, this book indulges in a major peeve of mine within the YA genre. I’m not sure if I’m alone in this, but I’m very much over the trope of the emphasis on our female-YA-protagonists beauty, and the “power and danger” within that beauty. Especially when that beauty is invariably described as being a 5’11 ft, blonde, white, angular-bodied, traditional runway-model, whom defining feature throughout the story is being “achingly beautiful, but dangerous”. It feels like such an archaic and slightly misogynistic trope that I always feel uncomfortable when it’s so heavily present in YA-fiction.

Then there’s the addition that our perfect-bodied-protagonists are always hungry and frequently consume massive amounts of food “without ever gaining an ounce of weight”. There’s even a scene where the girl stands before a mirror after one of her binges and wonders where all the food went, as “there isn’t so much as a bulge in her stomach”. This whole dynamic is icky to me, and although Sutherland is far from the only YA-author to use this trope, it was so heavily present in this book that I felt like I had to call it out.

In conclusion: this is a fine modern fairy tale, that isn’t without its fair share of problems. Part of which come with the genre, part of which I wish would have been avoided.

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