Crows are one of my favorite animals — harbingers of change, trickster deities in most mythos and wicked smart. They are just awesome birds. When I initially found Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton, I couldn’t wait to dig in — a zombie apocalypse book told from the perspective of a crow? How cool!
It was pretty cool but you need to go in with the right expectations. If you go in expecting the visceral experience that you get from World War Z, you might be disappointed. But if you are looking for a fun story with a unique take on what’s generally a pretty static genre, you can’t go wrong with Hollow Kingdom.
The entirety of the story is told from the persepective of a domesticated crow, named, Shit Turd. He’s most often referred to as “S.T.” throughout the book, which I think was a good stylistic choice. The story follows S.T. and his companion Dennis as they try to make sense of their new world and preserve the legacy of the Mofos (how S.T. refers to humans). It’s worth pointing out here that all the other animals refer to humans as the “Hollows”, hence the name “Hollow Kingdom.”
I really enjoyed the story–there are were some elements that I loved — like every reference to squirrels (including one zinger at the end of a chapter that had me laughing so hard I was crying). There were well crafted, very suspenseful moments throughout the story mirrored with moments that pulled on the heart strings — like the very small but heart wrenching story arch about a pet Dennis and S.T. rescued.
All that said, there were some aspects of the story that were predictable. There were things that happened towards the end of the book that I had called out in the beginning. Some of the characters were a bit formulaic as well and felt not one-dimensional but a little less than three-dimensional. It felt like sometimes the characters acted in the way to set them up to move the story along, as opposed to how that character would act on their own.
Finally, the moral of the story was heavy handed. The message is good and generally a solid underlying theme but where I want the theme to be a slight feather touch, I felt like Buxton came at me with the sledgehammer. I felt preachy and inelegant at times as opposed to underlying the story.
In the end though, those minor quibbles aside I really enjoyed Hollow Kingdom. It has moments of genuine heart and laugh-out-loud humor and a wholly unique take on the end of the world. It’s a feelgood story about the end of the world where we are all dead, and I recommend you give it a read.