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Review: These Hollow Vows by Lexi Ryan

Review: These Hollow Vows by Lexi Ryan

‘Brie hates the Fae and refuses to have anything to do with them, even if that means starving on the street. But when her sister is sold to the sadistic king of the Unseelie court to pay a debt, she’ll do whatever it takes to get her back—including making a deal with the king himself to steal three magical relics from the Seelie court.

Gaining unfettered access to the Seelie court is easier said than done. Brie’s only choice is to pose as a potential bride for Prince Ronan, and she soon finds herself falling for him. Unwilling to let her heart distract her, she accepts help from a band of Unseelie misfits with their own secret agenda. As Brie spends time with their mysterious leader, Finn, she struggles to resist his seductive charm.

Caught between two dangerous courts, Brie must decide who to trust with her loyalty. And with her heart.’

These Hollows Vows follows Abriella (known as Brie for the most part) on her journey to attempt to rescue her sister, who has been sold into slavery in the world of the fae. Both Brie and Jas have been fending for themselves since they were young, with Brie doing her best to take on the role of protector and provider, with varying degrees of success. She finds herself an able thief, if not entirely certain of just how she manages to get away with what she does, and makes some questionable choices in the targets she chooses to steal from, but what she has of a moral code means she seems content with taking risks to ensure that those she cares for have enough to survive. In the battle between the faerie courts that she finds herself involved in, she has to learn to navigate a world of politics that she has little true information about and lots of different versions of stories instead, leaving her to attempt to work out who is telling her the truth – or the closest to the truth that she needs – that will let her get her sister back.

I enjoyed the political elements of These Hollow Vows, and learning about the relationship between the fae and humans, the latter considered important only insofar as concerns the fae’s survival. The fae have little regard for humans as individuals or beings with their own lives, hopes and dreams, and only entertain the idea of valuing humans until the point that they have got what they need from them. It’s indicated that to be bound to a faerie is to lose independence and worse, and though there are questionable attempts to dress it up romantically, this is only something that paints both of Brie’s romantic interests in unpleasant lights. Neither of them are ever really honest with her, and though Finn is perhaps more open in his indication of why he is not a good idea, Sebastian’s supposed ‘honest and caring’ attitude continues to fling up red flags throughout the book. No-one in the story can really be trusted to be truthful, not even Brie (whether with herself or with others), and it’s easy to see how, eventually, she has to try and make the best of a lot of bad options and try to live with the decisions she makes.

It seems that Brie’s biggest flaw is that she doesn’t ask enough questions, be they about herself or what is happening around her. She often fixates on the appearance (and there are many comments from others about her own) of those she is interested in and tends to avoid making sharp enquiries that might help her. This is not to say that she would necessarily get the answers she needs, and she might well not ask particular questions so as to avoid exposing what she doesn’t know and putting herself at further risk, but it sometimes feels as if there is a lot that she is more wilfully ignorant about, which is a bit at odds with her supposed skill as a thief. She is given quite a few leading, expository, statements from other characters that she doesn’t really follow up, though many of these are quite early in the narrative and seem more for the reader’s benefit than hers.

The use of prophecy or far-sight as a plot device is well executed, which makes the choices that more than one character makes in the second half of the novel all the more impactful and, I hope, promises that the effects of the decisions will be felt in the next book. If I’m honest, Brie’s task to obtain the magical objects reads as though it is responsible for the lulls in action in the story’s middle, and though it is clearly the device designed to keep her involved with both courts and keep her at the Seelie court, it feels less important than her plot threads with other characters, particularly the Unseelie. On the whole, the plot is sound, but there are moments when it is best to not study the behaviour of some characters too deeply, or the practicalities of how certain events unfold. It’s an enjoyable read, particularly in its conflict and secrets, and its more minor characters are well developed, each lending something to the story.

These Hollows Vows is a fun read for fans of the fae, though it struggles a little with exposition and pacing. There are plenty of unanswered questions and surprises by its conclusion, which make it easy to look forward to the second instalment, which is said to be arriving in 2022. Thank you to Hodder and Stoughton for sending me a copy for review.