So, one day when I walked into Barnes and Noble, I told the salesclerk I was looking for fantasy and sometimes dipped my toes into demon themes. She highly recommended House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland but said it was a bit scary. I was nervous and hesitant to purchase it, because I don’t like horrors, but this was a strong 4.9/5 contemporary standalone (written in first person past tense narrative.) I’m not sure if it’s horror or fantasy but I bet fans of both would like it. Also, I might add the cover was instantly breathtaking even though I usually don’t like faces on covers. Think of this as a mix between The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, Layla by Colleen Hoover and The Keeper of Night by Kylie Lee Baker.
Iris needed to learn how to settle into her own skin, wink wink, and not idolize her elder sister as much. Her character arc eventually led her to accept that she had her own way of doing things and didn’t have to follow in her sisters’ footsteps but form her own path. This wasn’t the central focus of the story, since the setting and eerie vibe took center stage. The rotten, creepy yet vivid prose were the best part. The part that I’d change was one question at the end not answered, but maybe ambiguity was best.
Here were some of my thoughts while speeding through this quick reading:
The prologue gave us an insight to how Iris viewed her strangeness, and how she only wanted to be seen as unremarkable, even though she was far from it. Odd darkness seemed to occur around her and her two older sisters and I was excited to find out why.
The eerie vibe in chapter one was right on track with the secret feeling, the unknown past, the odd message and possibly being watched.
In chapter two we learned a lot about Iris’ family but not as much about her despite she being the main character. The private investigator and hidden police reports of the incident from when she was seven made it look like she wasn’t even the same girl as the one who had been taken or gone missing long ago.
Some of the strange behaviors were shown like the abnormally large appetite. So I needed to know what was up with the weird smelling perfume and the mystery was eating me alive. How could they control people with their kisses? Why would they sleep with their fingers rested on their sisters’ pulses? What was the story about the matching scars? What about their gifts to feel each other’s presence? I appreciated that Iris asked the same questions I was so we were on the same page of uncertainty. I needed to know what these strange flowers mean!!!
Warning: At page 84 things turned a little more gory and detailed.
The halfway concept was intriguing but nothing drastically new in fiction. It was the dark, creepy vibe that made the halfway so entrancing.
The mid-point of this book surprised me since I assumed what happened would be later. At this point I was certain tons of new surprises would attack me and I happily went along for the ride.
Eventually, I questioned what was real versus fake or if psychosis played a role raised the stakes. Were the characters even there or was the story so far imagined by someone? Were the characters maybe one person? What about the layers? What about the bugs? I kept shivering, hoping I wouldn’t have nightmares. That was a strong incentive to finish reading it faster so the scariness would be done. Sidenote: I loved that Tyler was the much-needed comic relief that grounded me.
I flew through the second half of the book. The ending was overall satisfying with only one big question left unknown which seemed purposeful to have the reader fill in the blanks on their own. I highly recommend this book but be warned of the spook factor.