The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher
Titan, pb, £8.56
Reviewed by Mikaela Silk
Kara, a.k.a Carrot, is going through a tough time: she’s penniless, homeless, and getting a divorce. But when she moves in with her Uncle to help him run the ‘Wonder Museum’, she makes a discovery that causes all her other troubles to pale in comparison. The hole to another dimension seems sinister from the outset, and it only gets worse. She decides to explore this strange world with her neighbour Simon, but it isn’t until they find the remains of previous explorers that the horrible reality starts to finally reveal itself. Something is out there, and They can hear your thoughts; the more you think of Them, the easier you are to find, and if you are found then you best hope that They are hungry because the alternative…
This book was much creepier than I expected it to be. The entire narrative is taut with tension, and there was only one moment in the book where this relaxed enough for me to feel able to put the book down. Not that I wanted to put it down; I was hanging on to every word. Each element of the plot and setting is carefully crafted to fully immerse you in the details, yet the entirety of the picture is never revealed. As a reader, we see and understand only what Kara sees and understands, and she understands very little. This means that, even after finishing the book, my mind is still turning the events over in my head to try to make sense of them as though I lived them myself. I found this highly effective, but it does mean that this book is not for the faint of heart.
Although ‘The Hollow Places’ is definitely a plot-focused book, the characters were still reasonably well-rounded, with distinct personalities and believable backstories. If their traits and mannerisms came across as a bit stereotypical occasionally, then it is easily forgiven, especially with such an outrageous and equally loveable character like Simon. I think the main success with characterisation is how the characters interact with one another. Even in the depths of panic, Kara and Simon’s interactions still come across as genuine, and the bond between them is clear, as well as its gradual growth throughout. Uncle Earl is also a particularly intriguing character and, although he isn’t present for a large part of the narrative, he still manages to add a lighter comic-relief to the generally darker tones of the plot.
Overall I would definitely recommend this book, just make sure you set aside plenty of time to finish it in one sitting and don’t read it right before bed!