A Dark and Hollow Star is a book that features my two big loves in life: queers and faeries. It’s as if Ashley Shuttleworth heard me shout “we need more queer faerie books!” and answered my call. This book was so much fun. With rich, complex world-building and entertaining, well-rounded characters, I couldn’t get enough. I’m always so excited for books that feature both sapphic and achillean rep, and I loved the casual queer acceptance in A Dark and Hollow Star. If faeries, fantasy, and gays sound like your kind of book, I’d recommend this one!
Choose your player.
The “ironborn” half-fae outcast of her royal fae family.
A tempestuous Fury, exiled to earth from the Immortal Realm and hellbent on revenge.
A dutiful fae prince, determined to earn his place on the throne.
The prince’s brooding guardian, burdened with a terrible secret.
For centuries, the Eight Courts of Folk have lived among us, concealed by magic and bound by law to do no harm to humans. This arrangement has long kept peace in the Courts—until a series of gruesome and ritualistic murders rocks the city of Toronto and threatens to expose faeries to the human world.
Four queer teens, each who hold a key piece of the truth behind these murders, must form a tenuous alliance in their effort to track down the mysterious killer behind these crimes. If they fail, they risk the destruction of the faerie and human worlds alike. If that’s not bad enough, there’s a war brewing between the Mortal and Immortal Realms, and one of these teens is destined to tip the scales. The only question is: which way?
Wish them luck. They’re going to need it.
If you know anything about me, you’ve got to know that I’m always on the hunt for impressive world-building. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy faerie books; you get to keep that urban fantasy element alongside a more magical world. There are so many different types of faeries, and I love books that make sure to include a wide variety of them, rather than just the hot humanoid ones. I’m happy to say A Dark and Hollow Star goes above and beyond with this. It combines so many different folklores and myths to create a faerie world very different from those I’ve seen before. It combines both the seelie and unseelie courts with the seasonal, and mixes in the immortal creatures of the wild-hunt, big powers like Fate and Luck themselves, and even some Greek mythology in the form of the Furies! You can tell how much time and detail Ashley Shuttleworth put into this world.
On that note, it did take a little while to understand what was going on. The book can slip into info-dumping on occasion, and although it was fascinating to learn about the little details, it did slow the pace. I’m generally a fan of slow books, especially when they’re part of a series, but I could see other people getting bogged down. I’m hoping the sequel(s) will pick up a bit faster now that we’ve been introduced to the world.
Without a doubt, my favourite part of this book was the characters. I loved all of the characters so much; they were all engaging and unique. Nausicaä was my favourite, the way she uses cruelty and anger as a coping mechanism to hide her desire to be understood? It’s top tier. I loved her dynamic with Arlo; I’m a sucker for the grumpy x cinnamon roll trope, and Arlo’s general loveliness melting Nausicaä’s hard-exterior was a delight to read.
Arlo herself is an intriguing character. What Ashley Shuttleworth does well is take commonly used tropes, such as the ‘chosen one’ and turn them on their head. There’s something special about Arlo, but the way she gained and used her agency was something I hadn’t seen before. I can’t say more though, no spoilers!
I also can’t get away without mentioning Vehan and Aurelian. I loved them a lot, and the trope of childhood friends to unrequited (but actually requited) love is fantastic. I can tell their relationship is going to bring me a lot of pain, and I can’t wait to see how the major conflict keeping them apart plays out.
A Dark and Hollow Star is a dark fantasy book, and there are heavier themes within it. It depicts topics such as mental health, suicide, drug use, and violence but handles them in a sensitive way that suits the world that it occurs in. I’m excited to see how these themes will continue in the next book. I also thought there was a perfect mix between these dark themes and light-hearted times. This isn’t a book that’ll bring your mood down, even if it’s not exactly a happy one either.
Finally, I loved how geeky this book is. All the references to games, anime, and D&D were so much fun; it’s just perfect geeky goodness that I’ll always love.
Overall, A Dark and Hollow Star is an exciting new dark fantasy series, filled with engaging characters, and unique worldbuilding.
CW (from the front of the book): anger, arson, blood/gore, body horror (minor), death of a child, depression, disownment, divorce, drug use/addiction, grief/grieving, human trafficking, poverty, psychopathy, stalking, suicide (past, off-page), suicidal ideation, toxic relationship/manipulation, trauma/PTSD, racism, violence/gun violence.
Recommend for: People who love Holly Black and Cassandra Clare’s books, people who love faerie books, people who want more queer urban fantasy, people who love books with lots of D&D references, people who want complex worldbuilding with lots of little details, people who love the romance tropes mentioned.
(Thanks to Netgalley and Hodder & Stoughton for providing an advance readers copy in exchange for an honest review)
About The Author
Ashley Shuttleworth is a young adult fantasy author born in Canada and currently living in Ontario. They have a degree in English Literature from Trent University with an emphasis on Milton and the Romantic Period, as well as a focus on Ancient History and Classical Studies. They’ve worked many jobs in their life, roles such as a bookseller for Indigo Bookstore, a barista at Starbucks, a teacher in South Korea, and a Wine Merchant for their local wine store. In their spare time they enjoy cosplay and gaming (particularly The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, and Kingdom Hearts) and adding to their ever-growing collection of prop swords. They’re also pretty big into winter sports like skating and skiing and driving back and forth between work without snow tires. Despite the fact that there are roughly 9000 fanfics on their computer, A DARK AND HOLLOW STAR is their first published novel.
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