This is a Spoiler Free book review for the first book in “The Hollow Star Saga”, A Dark & Hollow Star* by Ashley Shuttleworth.
A fast paced and magical Young Adult Urban Fantasy with a plethora of fantastical creatures and ship-worthy relationships between queer teens as they save the world.
Diverse, immersive, political, and unputdownable.
Graphic: Child death, Violence, Gore, Human Trafficking (not sexual), Stalking, Domestic Violence
Moderate: Drug use, Blood, Grief, Mental Illness
Minor: Suicide, Body horror, Racism, Medical Content
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.
-Synopsis from Goodreads
My Rating: (9.57/10)
Similar to the Shadowhunter Chronicles by Cassandra Clare and Sarah J. Maas’ series, there is a wide variety of characters in A Dark & Hollow Star. This increased the likelihood that most readers will find a character they can relate to. It is easy to root for the characters, because they are realistically written with flaws, ambitions, pasts, and unique personalities. There is a high contrast of characters who are a casually queer and don’t always make the best decisions.
There are a number of relationships within this story, which makes it highly palatable for a wide range of readers. To name a few, there are friendships, familial relationships, toxic/manipulative relationships, and more.
I ship Nausicaä and Arlo so hard that it hurts. I need them to get together at some point in the series. Also, Vehan and Aurelian, make me so frustrated in a good way. I need them to fix their relationship ASAP!
Lastly, Arlo’s battle with finding her place as a human and royal ironborn (fae) will read as highly relatable for most readers who have ever felt stuck between two worlds or like they don’t belong amongst those around them. Arlo is also unaware of her unique talents and worth, which is again highly relatable for many readers who may not see the beauty of their own wings.
I personally found the familial relationships in this story to be compelling and interesting. The sisterly love/hate, the parent and child disagreements (and even manipulation), the cousin best friends, and disapproving extended family all appealed to me personally. I can’t wait to join these characters in future installments.
The ever-changing and immersive locations these characters go are diverse and beautifully contrasting. From a cozy cafe in chilly autumn Toronto to an underground black market of magical beings in sweltering Las Vegas, this story keeps its readers wide eyed with curiosity and wonder.
Each location is well constructed with its own history, atmosphere, and creatures. No one can say this book bored them with a single location or dull setting.
I personally loved the contrast between seasons and locations. It is a fun adventure story that really sucked me in with its imagery and magic. I also love that this book can be enjoyed in any season due to its diverse settings.
This book is written phenomenally well. It is well paced, the language is accessible, the characters are believable, and the craft is well refined. There is not a single wasted scene, nor any glaring plot holes. Overall, this book is nearly perfect. Most readers could enjoy this book without complaint. Shuttleworth is dropping hints at becoming another consistent writer with stories readers can comfort read because they know what to expect, similar to Cassandra Clare.
Of note, this is not a book to just leisurely speed read. The world, politics, and cast of characters require the reader to really pay attention while reading, especially in the first half. So, if you prefer a more leisurely read, this book may not be for you.
This book was so easy for me to digest quickly, and I personally connect with the way it is written. Dare I even say the quality of writing is on par with Cassandra Clare, maybe even better.. but don’t tell Cassie I said that…
This book has a fast paced and enticing plot with a surprise D&D mechanic. It is not the most unique sequence of events. Although, it is still unique in style and its use of nerd culture. The plot may not be out of the box for Young Adult, but it is a book to just sit back and enjoy the ride. And it is an interesting ride at that.
I was tickled pink when the D&D aspects of this book became known to me during my reading. I did not expect that element, and it honestly took the book from a low 5 star to a solid 5 star for me. I thoroughly enjoyed every second of this first installment in the Hollow Star Saga.
Even if the plot points were predictable (for an avid reader), the world and characters make this book utterly unputdownable. Shuttleworth creates scenarios and relationships that leave the reader yearning to watch things unfold, even if they can predict the broad strokes. It is hard not to root for the heroes of this story, and the familiar plot is comforting.
It’s not always a bad thing for a story to be predictable. Sometimes it’s nice to sit back and watch a familiar story unfold.
I cannot wait for the next book in this series. I seriously want more and more of this world and the characters. Well done, Shuttleworth, well done.
Keeping in mind that the characters are a bunch of teenagers saving a world of magic, this book is fairly logical in the way the plot progresses and the characters develop. Yes, real and fictional teenagers make irrational decisions that can be frustratingly dumb, but at least it’s entertaining. Yes, things seem to happen in the characters’ favor at times, but Shuttleworth validates those plot points by including manifestations of luck, fate, and other deities.
I was never pulled out of the story to question the likelihood of what was happening. The characters acted how I expected and things unfolded in a logical sequence for an urban fantasy about teenagers.
For readers who enjoy Urban Fantasy with a heavier hand in the fantasy and enjoy stories with younger characters, this book is a must try. There is a decent balance of court politics, magic, real world problems, teenage angst, and adventure.
If you enjoy Cassandra Clare’s books or don’t because they don’t have enough plot, then this book is promising. A Dark and Hollow Star reads like a Cassie Clare book, but with much more balance between plot, drama, and characterization. It additionally, has much much more magic and politics than the Shadowhunter Chronicles, which some readers will prefer to the more teenage romance focus of Clare’s work.
I am a die hard Clare fan, but I know the Shadowhunter Chronicles don’t hold up for me as an adult. I read them as a teenager and have tried to keep up with Clare’s books as an adult, but they aren’t really connecting with me anymore. I think that is due to the formula Clare writes by for every book and my own increased maturity.
I really enjoyed Shuttleworth’s writing and heavier focus on plot and fantasy. But of course Cassie’s work will always have a nostalgia factor for me to consider. I am really stoked to have a new Urban Fantasy to auto-buy though. Thank you, Ashley Shuttleworth.
Thank you for checking out this review! If you enjoyed this piece, please consider checking out my other recent review for the Adult Dark Fantasy Novel Romance novel: A Fate of Wrath & Flame!
-Knight of Cups ❤
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