T. Kingfisher, aka Ursula Vernon, is one of today’s most versatile and inventive writers. Her graphic novel, Digger, about the fantastic adventures of a female wombat engineer, won a Hugo award. It has been followed by a prolific number of works ranging from illustrated books for young children (the “Dragonbreath series”) to full-length novels for grown-ups. All of them share a delightful, quirky humor, even those that are, like The Hollow Places, billed as horror novels.
While there are certainly images in The Hollow Places that are a bit disturbing, I did not find it any creepier than the average fantasy or science fiction adventure. Perhaps this is because I found both protagonists, Kara (a recently divorced graphic designer) and Simon (a gay barista who dresses for adventure in camo shorts and fishnet stockings), totally approachable and hilarious. Or maybe it was because when the taxidermy in the “Glory to God Museum of Natural Wonders, Curiosities, and Taxidermy” finally comes alive, as you know it must, many of the stuffed things actually try to help.
The world discovered behind one of the walls of the Wonder Museum is eerily beautiful. Kingfisher’s descriptions of both the world and the non-creatures who inhabit it are very well-written and very different from any of the many places I’ve visited in my decades of reading. I also loved Kara and Simon’s disbelieving but practical attitude toward the other world they discover, and I loved the way their relationship developed into a true, non-sexual friendship.
If you read this book, which I highly recommend, you’d best stop right after Chapter 10, because you should not proceed to Chapter 11 unless you are prepared to stay up all night.