This was the Illumicrate book of the month for February and I decided to join the group readalong on Goodreads – and I’m glad I did! Both glad I joined a group readalong (it was fun!) and read this book (it was also fun)! If you like a good fae story, check this one out.
Title: A Dark and Hollow Star
Author: Ashley Shuttleworth
Series: A Dark and Hollow Star #1
Genres: Urban fantasy, LGBTQ+
This one is marketed as The Cruel Prince meets City of Bones, and while I normally hate comparisons, I have to agree that is pretty accurate. I love both of those series and have high expectations of both of them, so of course I went into this one a little cautiously.
One great thing is this book has content warnings in the beginning and quite a few of them! I wish more authors did this – content warnings shouldn’t be a secret.
I listen to most books as audiobooks, but I decided to start off this one listening AND reading along with the physical book and I’m very glad I did. There is a LOT of information at the beginning of this story – an info dump, for lack of better terms. We’re given a lot about the world, characters, Seelie/unseelie/fae courts and a whole lot else I can’t even remember. It’s a lot. Reading this in print for the first ~50 pages really helped me focus for the remainder of the book.
This is the story of four queer teens who all know about human deaths that are occurring, but nobody in the faerie courts seems to care. I loved getting to know the background of all four of them – Nausicaä, an immortal Fury, Arlo, an iron-born half fae, Vehan, a crown prince, and Aurelian, his best friend turned bodyguard.
I’ll tell you right now, my knowledge of fae and their courts are…minimal, at best. I don’t know fae lore. Anything I learned, this book told me and it was confusing as heck. It wasn’t super important in my opinion, so I just accepted information as it was given to me. This book isn’t too political, so don’t fear about that!
I loved seeing these characters interact in their regular lives and eventually all come together. It took a while, but it does happen by the end! Their friendships are everything. Don’t let the length of this book daunt you – I found it went very quickly as we switched between perspectives almost every chapter.
I laughed out loud at multiple points throughout this book! There are so many pop culture references that I enjoyed, including Pokemon. Content warning, there are at least 2 Harry Potter references in the book (unfortunately).
Now, onto the representation:
Nausicaä – she/her – lesbian
Arlo – she/her – questioning – author confirms she is pansexual in book 2
Vehan – he/him – bisexual
Aurelian – he/him – gay
There is a minor character we meet halfway through who is genderfluid and uses they/them and expresses that in the story.
This book is heavy in suggestions of romance, but very little romance actually happens – don’t go into this thinking there is a lot of kissing – sadly, there is not. More like pinning after one another and knowing you can’t have the person you want.
I got major Fullmetal Alchemist (manga/anime series) vibes towards the middle and ending of this book and I was LIVING FOR IT! I love that series completely, so the familiarity of the themes really made me feel welcomed and like I was in familiar territory – which I won’t spoil but…. just saying, if you like FMA, you’ll vibe with this!
The majority of this book is set in Toronto, Canada which I enjoyed! That isn’t a setting I see often, and there are landmarks that are mentioned – I’ve visited Toronto once, and only have vague memories of it – but you locals will love it!
Overall this was a fun read that I didn’t want to put down, I was always eager to know what was going to happen next! I became attached to these characters and can’t wait for the sequel, scheduled to be out in 2022.
As mentioned above, I mostly listened to this one (since it has 4 narrators, one for each POV!) but I started out reading the print together with listening. That helped me tremendously to understand the names of characters/places/terms. I do highly recommend this as an audiobook, but I also recommend looking at the print or else you may be very confused.
I ended up listening to this on 2.5x speed for the majority of it, surprising even myself! Arlo’s narrator in particular has a smooth voice that was easy to listen to on fast speeds. For the other narrators sometimes I slowed down to 2.4 or 2.45x.
If you’re looking for a fae story set in modern time Toronto, this is the story for you! I admit I don’t read much urban fantasy but I really enjoyed this one! I’m giving it a 3.75 stars and rounding up to 4 on Goodreads. I had a lot of fun with this fae story with queer teens and am looking forward to the sequel! This series is going to be a duology, so there’s just one more book to go, set to release in 2022 as of now.