Pros: Fantastic approach to a wonderful premise; in-depth characters and relationships; hysterical dialogue
Rating: 5 out of 5
The Hollow is the second book in Nora Roberts’s Sign of Seven trilogy. I ended up reading it first; it stood alone surprisingly well for the second book in a trilogy, but there were definitely some pieces missing, and I highly recommend reading the series in order. Blood Brothers is the first book, and it’s a fantastic read.
To recap from the last book: Three boys, Cal, Fox, and Gage, accidentally release a demon on their tenth birthday. Every seven years thereafter, for seven days around their birthday, the demon haunts their town. It infects people with madness, causing them to harm and kill each other and themselves. When the week is over, most people don’t remember much of what happened. The three do their best to protect their town, but the demon’s getting more powerful—and they’re fighting a losing battle.
It’s been 21 years since they first released the demon. Quinn Black, a writer, has asked to interview Cal for her research into the ‘phenomena’ surrounding the Hollow. Desperate for a new perspective, he agrees to her request. Before he can even talk to her, she glimpses the demon—and as far as he knows, she’s the first person outside of their group of three to do so. Soon she’s joined by another outsider, Layla, and Quinn’s friend Cybil. All three seem to share an odd connection to the town, the demon, and the men—who soon realize they have no choice but to share their knowledge in the hopes of defeating the demon.
While Blood Brothers focused on Quinn and Cal’s connection and the initial steps in researching the phenomenon, The Hollow takes on Fox and Layla’s attraction to each other. This is hardly a rehashing of what happened between Quinn and Cal; Fox and Layla are extremely different people than their friends, they behave and react very differently, and their relationship is entirely different. The six friends dig deeper in the course of their research, finding out more about their ancestors and about Giles Dent’s plan for them. The demon also ratchets things up a notch, moving from simply trying to scare them away to actively trying to harm or kill them.
Many of the things that made Blood Brothers so wonderful continue in The Hollow. These are characters that refuse to curl up and die even when they are terrified—they buckle down and insist on fighting back against the evil they face. There’s a particular quote from this volume that best exemplifies the attitude I’m talking about, and the approach that I love:
As she rounded the curve, she saw the huge black dog hunched in the middle of the road a few yards ahead. Meeting its eyes, Cybil checked the instinct to slam the brakes. “Better hang on,” she said coolly, then punched the gas instead.
It’s a riot getting to meet and interact with Fox’s “hippie” family. Each of his family members is incredibly memorable in their own way, and they’re all unique. I particularly enjoyed, as a reader, the relationship between Fox and Layla for its unusual nature. Layla’s struggling with coming to grips with what’s happening. Of all the six, she’s the one who was least prepared for what’s happening. She’s a practical, organized person who’s never encountered the supernatural before the events of Blood Brothers. It’s interesting watching her come to grips with what’s happening, learn to turn her skills to work for their cause, deal with her own unusual abilities, and come to terms with Fox’s equally strong personality. They’re both very compassionate people, but they’re also both determined individualists. I love that they butt heads without reducing themselves to the usual romance cliche of fiery overreaction and temper tantrums.
The demon has definitely stepped up its campaign of terror against the group, and has moved to actively trying to harm them. This steps up the tension and level of action from the first book—no second-novel drop-off for this trilogy! There’s just as much humor, entertainment value, and quotable lines as well. Quinn and Cal definitely don’t drop off the face of the earth even though they’re no longer the focus characters, so if you’re looking for more material on them I don’t think you’ll be too disappointed. Finally, while the books in this trilogy aren’t stand-alone stories but rather parts of a whole, Nora Roberts has a talent for weaving enough information into her books that they never feel incomplete. If you don’t remember every detail of book one when you get around to book two, that should hardly be a problem. Now for the hard part—it’s tough to wait for book three!