Spoilers throughout the whole review!
So your husband asks for a divorce and you’re a graphic designer with not a penny in your pocket. What do you do? As everyone knows, to get over a divorce and move on with your life, you have to move into your uncle’s museum of curiosities and taxidermy and then stumble into a portal to another dimension that contains horrible creatures. Because, if your toe hurts, the best way of getting over how much it hurts is to cut your head off slowly with a dull saw.
Kara, or Carrot, is the divorcee in question, who discovers her problems are truly mundane compared to these creatures from this other dimension that want to eat you (and that’s only if you’re lucky). In The Hollow Places we follow her journey towards this realisation. And it’s a wild ride. Reading this book was like listening to a friend tell a story. No dramatic language flourishes or deep poetic metaphors. Just down to earth, like a conversation over coffee. This would normally annoy me; why not make more of an effort? But it is balanced by an intriguing plot and the description of a terrifying place that reminded me of Annihilation. Scratch that: the friend is not telling a story. She’s telling you about the nightmare she had last night. Because that’s what that place reminded me of, a nightmare you can’t wake up from.
That’s not to say that the book was scary, per se. It was rather unsettling, like getting stuck in an elevator or walking into a room and knowing that something has been moved while you were out but you don’t know what. Maybe the main idea wasn’t terribly original, but the particular setting, some elements and the overall execution certainly were (even though some parts were predictable). It was also surprisingly funny at times. Kara was a very likeable character, easy to empathise with; it is always refreshing to read about characters that find inner strength despite being scared shitless, and fighting with whatever they have available (which is not always much). The next door barista and friend, Simon, was also a cool dude, although his part in the story was phased out towards the end.
This is the second book by T. Kingfisher that I read (the first one being Summer in Orcus) and I enjoyed both of them very much.