A dark, twisted modern fairytale of sisters, secrets and strangeness.

Krystal Sutherland’s House of Hollow is a brilliantly-executed modern dark fairytale told from the point of view of seventeen-year-old Iris Hollow. Iris and her two older sisters, Grey and Vivi, disappeared without a trace from a street in Edinburgh when they were children, only to be returned, stark naked and hungry but apparently unharmed, exactly one month later to the same street. It’s ten years since their unexplained absence and Iris is used to the strangeness that follows her and her sisters around, although it has lessened since both her sisters left home. Now that she’s the only Hollow sister left living with their highly protective mother, Cate, Iris has tried her hardest to be normal: a normal high schooler living a regular life and planning for a bright ordinary future. But then Grey goes missing, leaving behind a series of strange grotesque clues that only Iris and Vivi can understand. To find grey they must unravel the mystery of what happened to them as children and find their older sister before the sinister figure chasing them catches up, or they might all disappear again forever.

This is a brilliantly-written, tense, scary, alluring book, balancing and dipping along lines of horror, fantasy, thriller, and mystery. I read it in one day, staying up to the wee hours because I just had to know the answers to the strange, horrific questions that were raised as the story progressed: did Grey really remember where they went and what happened to them as children? Why do waxy white flowers that smell of death grow in odd places around them? Why do all three sisters have the strange and terrible power to compel people to do their bidding? Thankfully, all these questions and more were answered by the end of the story, but the slow burn to reach these answers is excellently paced, a breadcrumb trail leading through a forest of tension and sinister strangeness. Sutherland has crafted a masterful tale that brings a dark and twisted fairytale into our own world, granting the sisters just enough difference to be mysterious and unsettling, but keeping them grounded with sibling wisecracks and sick burns in the middle of otherwise edgy, serious scenes.

Sutherland weaves many strong themes through the story: grief, fear, obsession, the realities and pitfalls of fame and beauty, and the painful loss of missing persons who may or may not return. I’d recommend this work to lovers of spec fic, thrillers, dark fairytales, and stories of sibling bonds.

This review was first published on ArtsHub.

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