By: A.J. Vrana
Publisher: The Parliament House
“Don’t lose your way, she heard the wind hiss an ominous spell, or there’ll be hell to pay.”
A.J. Vrana, The Hollow Gods
A.J. Vrana’s The Hollow Gods is a perfect blend of fantasy and horror, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The two genres were so creatively interwoven, the prose flowed naturally. As an impressive debut novel, The Hollow Gods is a unique and well-crafted story. It follows 3 main protagonists, Miya Delathorne , Kai Donovan, and Dr. Mason Evans and the events that unfold in the town of Black Hollow. From the start, you get a very creepy vibe from the town. There was something a little “Stepford Wives” about it and at first, I just could not place what was off about this seemingly quaint little town. It was almost too perfect, but there was an underlying darkness. Miya has lived there her whole life, Kai is a mysterious, angry young man, and Mason travels to Black Hollow for a reprieve from work, thinking it will be the perfect get away. The town is surrounded by woods, a place few will venture into. Unfortunately, every so often, young women venture in, come out dazed and confused a week later, only to be murdered not long after. Black Hollow is in fact a dangerous town with dangerous people.
A small town surrounded by dark woods-a recipe for horrific legends to be born. Here in Black Hollow is the Dreamwalker and her wolf. Naturally, any young woman who goes missing must have been possessed by the Dreamwalker. Through various turns of events, Miya, Kai, and Mason’s lives will become intertwined. Miya has no fear of the forest, it has called to her since she was a child. Kai is continually angry and dangerous, and he meets Miya at the edge of the forest in an old playground she frequents to find peace. She has no fear of him, and knows the dark secret he harbors. Mason is drawn in by the mystery of the missing young women, their untimely deaths afterwards, and the legend of the Dreamwalker. The realm of dreams comes alive when Miya and Mason sleep. They enter a world and are shown events that seem familiar and frightening all at once. The story is told in each chapter from the perspective of the 3 characters. It made it interesting to see the events unfold as each of them see it. The switch in perspective is never confusing and, in fact, I liked how I was able to see how each character perceived the events. In this impressive debut novel, AJ Vrana has given the reader a page turning mixture of fantasy and horror. I highly recommend The Hollow Gods.
Summary (from NetGalley)
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?
Miya is a strong female protagonist. She is fearless, curious, but at the same time frightened of what could be her destiny in the history of Black Hollow. When presented with obstacles, she confronts them head on. Miya is not afraid of Kai, the woods, nor the legend of the Dreamwalker. At first, her dreams do frighten her. However, the more she learns and is shown in the realm of dreams, she begins to understand the underlying dangers in Black Hollow.
Kai is at first very mysterious, dangerous and angry. He is the bad boy we all love, but avoids the trope given his secret. I will not delve into that as it would bring up spoilers. I will note that Miya and Kai are drawn together in a way that involves the long history of Black Hollow and the horror of its past.
Mason Evans, given is scientific background, begins to investigate the legend of the Dreamwalker. While he comes to Black Hollow for rest, he is drawn into what is strange town hiding horrific secrets. As this unravels, Mason is inexorably drawn to Miya and Kai as the three try to untangle the web of what is happening. Mason rounds out three characters. We have the fearless Miya, the dangerous Kai, and Mason, the rational thinker who tries to bring order to the entire situation.
Pacing and Prose
The pacing of this book was very well done. The unraveling of the darkness shrouding Black Hollow is never rushed, nor does it lag. There were no times I felt the prose was mere filler and did not advance the story. I thought the perspective of the chapters of from each character was absorbing. Although the events are shown through each of them, it is not repetitive due to their view of what is happening. This was a strong point in the telling of the story.
The pacing was excellent. The book starts out right away with finding a young woman who has wandered into the woods, comes out, and is found by Miya. From there, the characters tell the story, are drawn to the realm of dreams, and begin to understand just how dangerous Black Hollow can be. The story keeps the reader on edge, and I feel that is mainly due to the different perspectives of Miya, Kai, and Mason. All of them equally advance to plot and are equally important. Nothing is wasted on empty prose that is “filler” for the story.
The Hollow Gods is an excellent debut novel by A.J. Vrana. The incorporation of fantasy and horror was a perfect mix of the two genres, creating a page turning story of Black Hollow. The horror of the town and its people was well done as it was contrasted with a seemingly idyllic “perfect” small town. The realm of the Dreamwalker was both elements, and as the story unfolded, the reader was drawn in and ultimately finds the truth. Miya, Kai and Mason were well-developed characters, and completed each other with their personality traits. This allowed for the story to move forward at an even pace and reveal the secrets. Overall, this was a very enjoyable read and I would highly recommend it to fans of fantasy, horror and mystery as well.
Find out more about A.J. Vrana on her website at https://thechaoscycle.com/
My thanks to NetGalley for providing me with an eBook in exchange for an honest review.Follow Me on Social Media