ARC Review: Hollow Empire by Sam Hawke

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Got a little behind last year and ended up pushing this one back a few months and I’m glad I was able to do so and come back with fresh eyes because it was So. Good. Like City of Lies, this one hooked me from the start, though familiarity from the previous book with Jovan, Kalina, Tain, and Hadrea helps things get moving faster.

One of the things I loved about City of Lies, and I continue to love in this installment, is the pacing. It starts slow, with small, seemingly unconnected events. But nothing is truly small or unconnected, which Kalina and Jovan slowly realize as the web weaves tighter and tighter around them. The pacing speeds up until I was racing through the chapters, desperate to find out how it all fit together and how it would end. And it was genius of Hawke to use Kalina and Jovan this way – splitting them up so they each discovered vital pieces of the puzzle but couldn’t understand the significance without the pieces the other had discovered. That definitely ratcheted up the tension, as they were frequently physically separated. The ending was truly breakneck speed and left me breathless at its abrupt ending. Because it doesn’t feel like an ending, not really. It feels like more is coming just beyond the horizon. I certainly hope more is coming, because an ending to a series this was not.

Dija was a wonderful addition, especially as she brought out a side of Jovan we didn’t really get to see in City of Lies. She’s smart and clever and determined to help, even though she’s still young. I loved seeing Jovan struggle with his duty to both protect Dija as her Tashi but also to repeatedly poison her in the course of her training. Not, I think, an easy thing to do.

Another of my favorite things about this book (and City of Lies, but it’s even more prominent here): Jovan and Kalina are strong and brave and courageous characters even with their personal struggles. Jovan battles severe anxiety and compulsive behaviors; Kalina’s body never recovered from the poisonings when she was being trained by their Uncle Etan and she frequently is forced to rest because her body threatens to give out. Despite this, they are never treated as heroes despite their disabilities but their disabilities are just… secondary things about them that they don’t let hinder their mystery solving. Yes, other characters sometimes look down on them or distrust them partly because of those disabilities, but most do not.

I cannot wait to continue this story and read more of these characters – especially after that ending.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Random House UK / Bantam Press for providing an e-arc for review.

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