[Book Nook] ‘A Dark and Hollow Star’ is a Slow Burn that Builds to Fiery Frenzy

Book Nook is a little corner of Screen Queens dedicated to books. From book adaptations to book reviews this will be a place for readers of SQ to engage with the oldest form of entertainment, the written word.

Title: A Dark And Hollow Star

Author: Ashley Shuttleworth

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

A Dark and Hollow Star has the makings of becoming your new favourite modern fantasy. Set in a world where the fae and other mythical beings walk among us, Ashley Shuttleworth’s debut novel pulls you in with the promise of an exciting adventure.

The story follows four queer teens who each play a part in uncovering a dastardly plan. We have Arlo, our ironborn half-fae outcast from her royal family. Vehan, a dutiful fae prince and Aurelian, Vehan’s guardian (and crush). Also, our cover girl, Nausicaä, our tempestuous Fury exiled from the Immortal Realm due to her healthy appetite for revenge. As far as character-driven fantasy goes, A Dark and Hollow Star benefits greatly by featuring four great characters that you instantly want to root for upon meeting. 

The idea of a novel solely featuring queer characters in a world where queerness is a norm is enough to want to grab it off the bookshelf and run to the cash, but Shuttleworth gives us fully realized, three-dimensional heroes that we not only want to see succeed in solving the mystery but also want to see enjoy long-lasting love (please, Shuttleworth protect these darlings)!

When it comes to fantasy, there are a lot of different approaches and tastes. If you are a fan of a slow-burn that takes its time building the world and the characters within it before jumping into what is sure to be an anxiety-inducing adventure in the following books, then A Dark and Hollow Star is for you. Shuttleworth takes their time with having the reader understand the leads, their ambitions, their fears, and what they hold dear. Meanwhile, there is careful consideration in crafting the world, mapping out the Eight Courts of Folks and the arrangements made to have the magical realm exist among the human world. There is a war brewing between the Mortal and Immortal realms, and Shuttleworth puts down a solid foundation to guide us through the story.

Often the trouble with slow-burn fantasies is that the story and adventure are lacking in excitement because there is so much to set up, that is not the case here. We have a central problem that ties each of our characters together and builds upon the much larger issues at hand. A mysterious killer is on the loose and as each of our leads gets roped into the mystery, we as readers gain a lot. As this is a character-driven narrative, the mystery and action aid character development and world-building. All are fairly balanced and laced with an intoxicating need to read more. Folks, this is one hell of a page-turner. 

A Dark and Hollow Star is a great fantasy because there are fun characters, fantastic world-building, heart-melting romance and intriguing conflict. However, the true triumph is Shuttleworth’s absolute devotion to fully integrating queerness into the text and world. As more and more voices from the LGBTQ+ community get published in genre books, we as readers benefit from a plethora of rich text that unburdens us from cliched and often half-assed forms of representation. These characters aren’t queer to check off a box. Their queerness doesn’t sideline them or make them a point of mockery. Instead, queerness is the norm. 

The excitement burrowing in my chest for the next novel is almost too much to bear, A Cruel and Fated Light can’t come any sooner. 2022, where are you?  

Purchase A Dark and Hollow Star at your local bookshops or find an online vendor here.

by Ferdosa Abdi

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