Book Review: “We Who Hunt the Hollow” by Kate Murray (@katemurray @HardieGrantCP @ReadingsBooks @EasternRegional)

We Who Hunt the Hollow (Hardie Grant Children’s Publishing, March 2022) by Kate Murray

This is the fifth in a series of six reviews featuring the 2022 Readings Young Adult Book Prize.

If you like Disney’s animated musical fantasy Encanto (“We don’t talk about Bruno, no, no, no…”), then you will surely enjoy We Who Hunt the Hollow, debut YA novel by Melbourne-based New Zealand author Kate Murray.

Like the Madrigals, Priscilla Daalman’s family members are gifted with special powers. As the 17-year-old protagonist explains, hers is a dystopian world suffering from eternal storms caused by climate change. Worse, evil monsters have arrived as invaders from another universe.

The entire Daalman Family are Hollow Warriors, legendary monster hunters as humanity’s last line of defence. Yet, like Mirabel, Priscilla sees herself as being inept and incompetent, her ability to sense the monsters hardly a match to those who can defeat and destroy them.

In a desperate attempt to live up to her family’s legacy. Priscilla performs a ritual to increase her power, with devastating results. Not only can she now summon the monsters, but she tries to hide this dangerous power and ends up putting her family in danger.

As can be expected, We Who Hunt the Hollow is a captivating story packed with thrilling actions, terrifying beasts, fierce warriors and highly intelligent animal familiars, and fascinating superpowers and cutting-edge gadgets. There is as much science fiction here as fantasy, with flying vehicles and magic-like teleporting and telekinetic powers side by side.

Particularly awesome and authentic are depictions of Priscilla’s family life, which is chaotic yet comfortable, full of love, fun, and mutual understanding and support. In the author’s words:

“I knew I wanted the story to be a feminist one, with a lot of female characters. I pulled inspiration from the Amazons of Themyscira and Wonder Woman, that concept of fierce warrior women, and I also pulled inspiration from [Alice Huffman’s 1995 novel] Practical Magic for that cosy witchy family vibe.”

But, at least to this reviewer, there is also a fair bit of the X-Men and even American YA author Neal Shusterman’s Arc of a Scythe series in this book. Specifically, as Lord Acton famously said in 1887: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolutely power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”

Like Magneto and Scythe Goddard – and, evidently, like Lord Voldemort and Gellert Grindelwald before him – the Renegades in We Who Hunt the Hollow are convinced that those with superpowers should rule the world instead of serving it, and they will do everything to achieve this arrogant ambition.

The introduction of this “rebel” element makes the world of Hollow Warriors realistic and complex, adding a philosophical touch to an otherwise entertaining story. This subplot also has considerable impact on Priscilla’s journey of self-discovery, an example of how confidence and self-esteem needs to come from within.

With that said, Priscilla is a highly relatable character who is honest and full of compassion. It is her devotion to family, not her superpower, that makes her a superhero in their eyes.

Note: This book review was originally published under the title “Action-packed journey of self-discovery” by Ranges Trader Star Mail, January 17, 2023, P.14.

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