Hello, lovely reader! I am glad to see you here for my spoiler-free review of The Hollow Places.
A couple of things of note:
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Next, Strange Lands Short Stories: Thrilling Tales, which features my short fiction: “Gemini Syndrome” is out. You can now buy it on Amazon — this is one of my favourite stories I’ve ever written so I would really recommend it!
Now onwards to the review of The Hollow Places.
I write & illustrate books, garden, take photos, and blather about myriad things. I have very strong feelings about potatoes.– Vernon’s bio from her website
A young woman discovers a strange portal in her uncle’s house, leading to madness and terror– The Hollow Places‘s Amazon page
The Hollow Places is a 2020 horror novel about a woman named Kara (nicknamed Carrot) who, fleeing a bad divorce, goes back to her hometown to help her uncle out with his museum of oddities.
When her uncle leaves her alone to mind the museum, Carrot finds that a hole has been knocked into a wall, revealing a hidden hallway. Accompanied by the barista from the cafe next door, Carrot explores the hallway and finds a mysterious bunker that gives access to a misty inbetween-land of portals leading to other worlds. But the place is also haunted by creatures seen and unseen — what will Carrot have to do in order to survive and protect her own world from these invasive monsters?
This was another knockout for me and, just like The Twisted Ones, I read The Hollow Places in one sitting.
Like her first horror novel, Vernon remixes a classic into something new — the classic being one of my favourite horror novellas of all times: The Willows by Algernon Blackwood.
Being very familiar with The Willows, I noticed the connections right away, but Vernon takes it in a very refreshing direction. It almost felt like the proper sequel to The Willows.
Vernon’s talent at creating loveable and relatable character shines in this novel. On top of that, she weaves together the horror and helplessness of cosmic-horror with an eerie, haunting atmosphere and gut-wrenching action.
Just like how the twisted enchantment of the willows won’t let go of Carrot, this novel doesn’t let go of the reader — at all.
Having read two of her novels back-to-back, I did notice some consistencies/reoccurring themes in Vernon’s writing, like her protagonists fleeing the end of a relationship at the beginning, faithful animal companions, snark, meta-humour, and the protagonists’ freelance careers and love of a good cafe.
Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. I will admit though, I enjoyed The Twisted Ones more just because it felt more visceral. Despite that, I would highly recommend this for fans of cosmic-horror as this is a thrilling ride laced with unrelenting anxiety and unforgettable characters.
x P.L. McMillan