The Hollow Girl by Hillary Monahan

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Thank you to Netgalley and Delacorte Press for sending me an early copy

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.

So this book means a lot to me. I admit that I requested it without knowing much about it, I don’t think I even read the proper synopsis. I was approved, I started reading and just by reading the author’s note at the beginning, I knew I was in love. Then, the best thing happened. I found out that the book was set in Wales. An actual fictional book set in my country featuring the name of my city (in Welsh!) I could have cried. This is something I haven’t seen before and I immediately took to Twitter to thank the author. Another aspect that made this book super important to me was the fact that both the author and the main character, Bethan (Welsh name!!) have a very close relationship with their grandmother. My nanna is sadly no longer with us but she was my best friend and my mentor, not in witchcraft, but in life. Regardless of whatever happened in this book, I knew that it would always have a special place in my heart.

As the synopsis suggests, we follow the story of Bethan, a Romani who lives with her grandmother, Drina and is training to be her ward. Alarm bells probably started ringing when you saw that this book was based on the Roma, but it is done very respectfully (and the author speaks about this at the start) and the word ‘g*psy’ is challenged in text as being a slur and is only acceptable amongst Romani people. Whilst selling her grandmother’s herbs and spells in the nearby market, Bethan meets Martyn, a half-Roma guy who immediately makes her feel something she hasn’t felt before. However, one night, Bethan is raped by fellow Romani, Silas and his sidekicks. The rape happens ‘off-screen’ so it isn’t in detail. The author also mentions this at the beginning so you aren’t surprised and triggered by this. During this event, Martyn is also beat to death by the boys and Bethan decides to follow in her grandmother’s footsteps and delve into a world of dark magic to bring him back whilst wrecking revenge on the boys.

Bethan was everything to me. She was strong, she had strong morals (especially to her people) and she’s just desperately human. Seeing her character develop from start to finish was amazing. Her assault changes her massively. Not only because sexual assault would obviously affect you but amongst her people, she is worried she will be seen as impure. Bethan also has a birth mark covering half of her entire body and is encouraged to hide it so outsiders won’t curse her. What meant the most to me, as I’ve mentioned, is her relationship with her gran. It reminded me a lot of the relationship I had with my nanna (although my nanna wasn’t as scary as Drina.) They support each other throughout the book. This isn’t a novel where our protagonist kind of decides she doesn’t need a parental figure and does her own thing. There’s a huge amount of respect in their relationship and it’s clear that despite Drina’s hard exterior, she loves Bethan unconditionally.

The story itself is marketed as a horror/paranormal and yes, this book was super creepy. There’s a scene that really gave me goosebumps (warning if you’re creeped out by scarecrows) but it is so well-written and visceral. I’ve read quite a few books about witchcraft so I’m not going to say this is anything original but I was still super invested and seeing what Bethan and Drina were capable of was really amazing. All of the people respect and fear Drina, even the Chieftan but he’s a different bloody story. I loved the domestic moments between Bethan and her grandmother and their little funny moments, especially when Bethan is eavesdropping and Drina finds out and pours water through the window and onto Bethan’s head.

I’m going to bring this review to an end because I know I’m rambling. Finding a book set in your country is always a nice feeling and I’ve finally experienced it and I freaked out (as my Twitter and Instagram followers know) but even taking away that aspect, I still thoroughly enjoyed the story and read it in one sitting. I messaged the author asking if it’s a standalone and she said yes. I’m sad because I loved this book so much but satisfied because everything ended the way I thought it should have. Overall, I’d recommend this book if you like horror/paranormal, lovely familial relationships, revenge best served cold and a look into the Welsh Romani culture.

*This book will be released on October 10th, 2017*


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7 thoughts on “The Hollow Girl by Hillary Monahan

  1. Pingback: Best books of 2017

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