Review: HOUSE OF HOLLOW by Krystal Sutherland (2021)

Genre: Young Adult Horror
Year Release: 2021
Source: Physical copy

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content warnings: Body horror, vomiting, child abduction, suicide (graphic), sexual assault (discussed)

Years before the story starts, three sisters went missing on New Year’s Eve, only to return to their parents with white hair and black eyes without a clue where they went or what happened to them. In the present, Iris is doing all she can to be a normal teen while her oldest sister, Grey, is a global fashion powerhouse, and her older sister, Vivi, traipses across Europe as a rockstar. When the sisters are supposed to reunite, Grey goes missing, and Iris and Vivi stumble down a horror/fairy tale rabbit to get answers to both Grey’s disappearance and the truth about their past.

This strange, scary adventure is a fantastic exploration on the layers of messiness when it comes to femininity, identity, in family with fabulously double-edged prose that’s equally unnerving and beautiful.

The characterization via aesthetic of this book is something that really delighted me. There is fashion, there is rock and roll, and there are occult rituals ending in literal magic. All of it is a mess, but there is a depth that’s explored in every scene. No stone gets left unturned, so if you find yourself a little disoriented, keep reading. It all fits together in the end.

So many moments had me reading wild-eyed. There’s every interaction with the bull-skull man, there’s the discovery of corpses, and there’s the way that flowers bloom and rot underneath people’s skin. It’s unsettling, but it works so well. Nothing in this book is shown through rose-tinted glasses, especially not the magic.

But what specifically stood out to me was how Sutherland plays around with several feminine archetypes in all the women. It’s multi-faceted and nuanced, with Iris being the naïve one, Vivi the wild child, Grey the bitch, and Cate the mother. Seeing these different personalities collide and collaborate made for a lot of great tension that had little to do with genre tricks. The characters are in no way one-dimensional, but recognizing the tricks used and tropes leaned into makes for some very fun reading.

This book lures you in with an exploration and then grabs you by the neck with its body horror and fairy tale magic gone horribly, terrifically wrong.

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