Title: The Hollow Girl
Author: Hillary Monahan
Publication Date: October 10th 2017
Rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟
Five boys attacked her.
Now they must repay her with their blood and flesh.
Bethan is the apprentice to a green healer named Drina in a clan of Welsh Romanies. Her life is happy and ordered and modest, as required by Roma custom, except for one thing: Silas, the son of the chieftain, has been secretly harassing her.
One night, Silas and his friends brutally assault Bethan and a half-Roma friend, Martyn. As empty and hopeless as she feels from the attack, she asks Drina to bring Martyn back from death’s door. “There is always a price for this kind of magic,” Drina warns. The way to save him is gruesome. Bethan must collect grisly pieces to fuel the spell: an ear, some hair, an eye, a nose, and fingers.
She gives the boys who assaulted her a chance to come forward and apologize. And when they don’t, she knows exactly where to collect her ingredients to save Martyn.
Thank you for the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review!
Trigger warning for physical and sexual assault, rape, graphic violence, blood, gore, self harm.
“MAGIC IS IN THE HEART, NOT ON THE TONGUE.”
If I saw The Hollow Girl in a bookstore, I would never have picked it up. The genre, paranormal bordering on horror, isn’t one I particularly enjoy reading and the haunting cover puts me off more than it draws me in. But knowing that the book was set in Wales meant I obviously had to read it, and it’s one of those books that completely took me by surprise.
The portrayal of Romani culture, which is #ownvoices, is an aspect I really enjoyed reading about and is mentioned first in the author’s foreword. Monahan notes how ‘gypsy’ is a slur when used by outsiders and there is even a scene within the book that further reiterates this when a character is called out by the protagonist. Though some readers may initially find the pacing to be slow, it really allowed the voice of Bethan Jones (honestly, does a name get more Welsh than that?) to be established, seamlessly incorporating Romani words such as gadjo and diddicoy without the use of italicisation to signal cultural differences.
Bethan, or Bet,
or annoying girl, was a fantastic protagonist and the first person narrative was extremely compelling, allowing us to really empathise with and connect to her character. The rape and brutal beating, as well as everything leading up to it, was definitely one of the most difficult scenes I’ve ever read in a book. The author handles the subject in a respectable manner and a trigger warning is provided in the foreword, but it should still be received with caution.
In the wake of her assault, Bethan seeks revenge on the five boys through her magic but doesn’t relish in causing pain and suffering on her attackers. She struggles with the trauma of that fateful night and knowing that some of her actions proceeding it are immoral ones. All in all, her arc was empowering and her courage was heart-warming.
As was her relationship with Martin, who drew her portraits and defended her and learnt from his careless mistakes. And with Drina, who was as equally strong and fierce as her apprentice. Even Silas and his cronies, despite my dislike towards them, were well fleshed-out as side characters.
Overall, I loved this book a lot more than I thought I would. From its dark exploration of difficult themes to its captivating voice and characters you can truly root for, it serves as a reminder to never judge a book by its cover
or genre. Definitely a new favourite of mine and a spectacular read for a spectre-cular month.