In the young adult novel Black Hollow, 12-year-old Jessica Bannerly is transported by a portal located in a mysterious well to “a place of childhood, of magic and of dreams.” There she lives in the Silver Glade with other children sent to this world by “supernatural means” who have created a home together. The glade is protected by a herd of winged unicorns — in particular, a unicorn named Sapphire.
All seems well in the glade until a series of intrusions by glowing-eyed rats, a vampire and a werewolf alert the children that the evil wizard imprisoned by the unicorns is reawakening. The wizard plans to use the unsuspecting Jessica in his escape. Plot twists from this point are instigated by the wizard’s machinations, which the children and Sapphire do their best to counter.
In Black Hollow, MP Ashman has created a nail-biting plot using some of the best elements of fantasy. The novel is dark, spooky and atmospheric and takes some unexpected narrative turns. As a whole, however, the book leaves the reader unsatisfied because many plot lines are unfinished and characters aren’t fleshed out. It’s as though the author, in his urgency to create suspense, rushed by many of the details that make a novel a vivid, breathing world.
Readers will wonder, for instance, what happened to Ambrosine, the vampire who befriends Jessica, or the connection between a renegade unicorn and the dark wizard. Why did the wizard become evil, and how did Ambrosine lose her parents? More detail and some chapter breaks would make this book a much better read, though diehard young-adult fantasy fans may look past these problems and enjoy the story.
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