Audiobook Review: Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy, Humor, Dystopian
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Hachette Audio (August 6, 2019)
Length: 10 hrs and 11 mins
I confess, I almost passed this book over at first because I was afraid its particular style of quirk and humor would be a little too over-the-top for me. Thank goodness a couple of reviews from bloggers I follow ended up changing my mind and made me decide to give Hollow Kingdom a try after all. This was hilarious and oh so much fun. Even some of its extreme whackiness couldn’t get me down.
For one thing, I thought after years of reading all kinds of zombie fiction I could get my hands on, I’d seen everything, but clearly I was wrong. Yes, Hollow Kingdom is a zombie book, but I guarantee it’ll be unlike anything you’ve read before. Have you ever wondered, when the world goes to hell in a handbasket in all these zombie stories, what happens to the animals after civilization crumbles and all of humankind has become the mindless walking dead? Well, this is what this novel is about. Not only are animals the primary focus of the story, they are also its stars. Our protagonist Shit Turd, abbreviated S.T., is an appropriately crass and potty-mouthed crow who leads us through this apocalyptic narrative. His best friends are Dennis, a dim-witted but sweet old bloodhound, and their owner Big Jim, who raised S.T. as a hatchling and taught the little bird all he knew. Humans, for example, are called MoFos because that’s what Big Jim calls other people all the time.
Things couldn’t have been better for the three of them, living a happy and simple life in Seattle. But then one day, Big Jim’s eyeball falls out. That was when S.T. knew something was wrong, even before his owner tried to take a big bite out of him. All around them, the city is descending into madness, with all the MoFos of the world turning into hollow, ravenous shells of what they once were. Escaping into this terrifying new reality, S.T. and Dennis find out from the local wildlife what is going on before deciding that their new mission in life is to liberate all the household pets and other helpless animals now trapped behind locked doors, gates, enclosures.
What made this novel such a blast was the voice of S.T., who has a very human spirit but is a crow through and through. Relatively speaking, the story was a bit light, though you can never feel it because S.T.’s personality is big enough to fill the whole book, as it were. Everything that came out of his mouth was a riot, from his observations of the world to his personal philosophies on life and lessons he’s learned from watching TV with Big Jim. This plucky little bird also loves his creative and colorful insults and sometimes his snark can be a bit much, though he never failed to make me laugh out loud. However, beneath that rude-talking exterior is a real softie, and the way he sticks by Dennis like a protective older brother is a testament that. Never mind that we’re talking about a crow and a dog here; the two of them are easily topping my list of favorite book buddy relationships I’ve read this year.
The point of Hollow Kingdom was to also put the focus on the animals, and in this respect, the story did not disappoint. Between chapters, we sometimes get these short little interludes which show what else is happening around the world, all from the POV of animals. Author Kira Jane Buxton must be quite the animal lover herself because she somehow managed to capture the mannerism and behaviors of all these creatures so well, whether it be a domestic cat or a polar bear. In this world, animals also interact with one each other through something called the “Aura”, an almost mystical-like force that collects all their communication cues and transmits them out like the internet—a very cool idea.
I hesitate to say much more because I don’t want to risk spoiling anything, and also because this is one of those books you have to experience for yourself to really know whether it’s for you. That it is highly original and unconventional is obvious, I think, and like I said, this is not your typical zombie story. I don’t think it’ll be for everybody, simply because humor is so subjective, and S.T.’s voice also might be too explicit and brassy for some. Still, if you don’t mind it, there’s definitely sweetness and warmth aplenty to be found if you dig a little deeper, like themes of love and loyalty, lessons of life and death. There are moments that will make you laugh and make you cry. And it will also make you appreciate the animals around you all the more. Bottom line, this was a seriously entertaining read and I’m glad I gave it a chance.