Welcome to my stop on The Hollow Gods book tour hosted by Storytellers on Tour! You can find the full schedule for this tour here. Also, stick around to the end of this post for a giveaway! As always, thanks so much to Justine and Timy at Storytellers on Tour for organizing this book tour and allowing me to take part.
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?
Series: The Chaos Cycle Duology, #1
Author: A. J. Vrana
Published: July 28, 2020 by The Parliament House
Length: 409 pages
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Horror
Age: New Adult/Adult
The Hollow Gods is a horror mystery set in a small, superstitious town where girls often go missing and, even if they do return, end up dead. It’s told from the perspectives of three characters: Kai, a sort of alpha male who really just has been fending for himself for way too long (and is possibly possessed); Miya, a college student that can’t seem to find her place in the world; and Mason, an oncologist (cancer doctor if you’re stupid like I am) who is haunted by some bad decisions he made in caring for a patient.
Kai might be fairly stereotypical, but I still really enjoyed his character and the sass that he and Miya threw back and forth. (Also, his full name, Kai Donovon, inevitably reminded me of The Vampire Diaries every time it came up.) As for Miya, I found her struggles relatable along with her desire to investigate things but also not end up dead. Mason is the only one of the three main characters who didn’t really work for me. I just never felt for him as much as it seemed I was supposed to and didn’t see his place in the story. Most of the time when I was in his POV, I was eager to get back to either Kai or Miya.
One thing Vrana did very well in this novel is making the people and the small town setting feel authentic, despite the supernatural aspects going on. The great dialogue, including characters’ inner dialogue, definitely contributed to this. It was also refreshing how skeptical some of the characters were. They didn’t accept supernatural explanations any easier than I did (and often actually took more time to come to terms with them than I did because, you know, I was expecting a fantasy story).
The major thing that kept me from liking this novel more was that I didn’t get the payoff I was hoping for. Most of the novel is spent building up the mystery of what exactly is going on and even keeping certain facts that the characters know secret from the reader in order to keep us from guessing too soon. Unfortunately, for me the ending didn’t quite warrant this tension. There wasn’t any great surprise and things were left a little ambiguously, which I don’t always mind but in this case did feel unsatisfying.
Overall, I really enjoyed the experience of reading this novel. The atmosphere and characters were amazing. The focus on local folklore made for a deliciously unsettling mystery and for the most part the supernatural elements were gripping. Unfortunately, the plot fell a little short of what I was hoping for, but that definitely doesn’t seem to be the case for everyone. If an atmospheric, character-based, small town dark fantasy sounds up your alley, don’t hesitate to give this one a try!
About the Author
A. J. Vrana is a Serbian-Canadian academic and writer from Toronto, Canada. She lives with her two rescue cats, Moonstone and Peanut Butter, who nest in her window-side bookshelf and cast judgmental stares at nearby pigeons. Her doctoral research examines the supernatural in modern Japanese and former-Yugoslavian literature and its relationship to violence. When not toiling away at caffeine-fueled, scholarly pursuits, she enjoys jewelry-making, cupcakes, and concocting dark tales to unleash upon the world.
Enter the giveaway for a chance to win your choice of a poster inspired by The Hollow Gods!