Genre: Contemporary Fantasy/Horror Age Range: YA Star Rating: 4 stars Series: standalone CW: body horror, sexual assault, (potential?) self-harm
Seventeen-year-old Iris Hollow has always been strange. Something happened to her and her two older sisters when they were children, something they can’t quite remember but that left each of them with an identical half-moon scar at the base of their throats.
Iris has spent most of her teenage years trying to avoid the weirdness that sticks to her like tar. But when her eldest sister, Grey, goes missing under suspicious circumstances, Iris learns just how weird her life can get: horned men start shadowing her, a corpse falls out of her sister’s ceiling, and ugly, impossible memories start to twist their way to the forefront of her mind.
As Iris retraces Grey’s last known footsteps and follows the increasingly bizarre trail of breadcrumbs she left behind, it becomes apparent that the only way to save her sister is to decipher the mystery of what happened to them as children.
The closer Iris gets to the truth, the closer she comes to understanding that the answer is dark and dangerous – and that Grey has been keeping a terrible secret from her for years.
Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
HOUSE OF HOLLOW is a slim book that nestles between horror and fantasy, full of strange men with bull’s head stalking the Hollow sisters, their unusual compulsion over others, and flowers growing out of bodies.
I am a very squeamish person by nature. Fine with blood (treated enough scrapes etc as a netball coach that I have to be fine with it), but injuries to do with bones and muscle? Let alone the thought of flowers growing from people? (Plus there were flowers growing from FEET, and I hate the idea of feet injuries more than pretty much any other limb-related injury after a lot of personal injuries.) Therefore, I don’t often read body horror, and yes, I was rather creeped out at points, but the atmosphere kept me going.
It is such a creepy little book, a slow mystery progressing also with an increasing sense that something is very much not right. It makes for a compelling read, even as I winced through some of the body horror bits. I wanted to know what had happened to the Hollow sisters 10 years ago, and what had happened to Grey now.
There is also an exploration about women’s bodies – the harassment they get for just walking down a street, how some make their body into a tool or weapon, how others hide their body, how a woman or girl’s disappearance can be written off by the police, how they’re blamed for what happens to them. Given all the events earlier this Spring around assaults on women, it felt starkly relevant – and more than a little unsettling. All the precautions Iris took were ones I’ve taken many times.
It made it all darker, shining a light on what can happen through a fantasy/horror world. It didn’t erase the reality of what happens, but rather the repulsive and eerie, yet fascinating other-worldliness acted like a metaphor for the media’s fascination with the subject and the way they talked about it.