Carrie Ryan

Gollancz (2011)

ISBN: 9780575094840

Reviewed by Tehani Wessely

Annah, left abandoned in a city under constant threat from the plague of undead that began generations previously, finally decides she needs to move on. It’s a dangerous choice, but no more so than inertia. On her way to somewhere new (but unknown and unlikely to be safer), she is confronted with the ghosts of her past, and her world is again turned upside-down.

There doesn’t appear to be a series title for this trilogy, which began with The Forest of Hands and Teeth, sort of continued with The Dead-tossed Waves, and is supposedly concluded here in The Dark and Hollow Places. I say “supposedly” concluded because to be truthful, the series doesn’t feel finished with this book. It’s been marketed, but not jacketed, as a trilogy (at least in Australia) and I feel that each of the three books actually stands up pretty well as an individual story. Which makes me curious as to why market this book as the last of three? I would be very surprised if this actually is the final book Ryan publishes in this world, and the ending is certainly open to another.

The Dark and Hollow Places is a book of constant tension – as with the earlier novels, the ever present threat of the Unconsecrated (zombies) is inescapable. There is no possibility of escape or redemption if the Unconsecrated take hold, and that is what Annah lives with every day.

Annah herself is an interesting character. While I found some of the story to be a little unbelievable, I did feel her behaviour in the book accurately reflected how she was described – she is a survivor and she does what it takes to stay alive.

To be honest, I would have preferred this, and all the books, without the male/female relationships – they all feel quite forced, and not at all realistic even given the context they are presented in. The main character in each book is, on her own, interesting and powerful, even when made to feel otherwise by those around her – I wish the author hadn’t felt the need to shoehorn in boy/girl relationships that really seem to get in the way of the story, and detract from the strong characters she created.

I didn’t really love any of this series – the first was probably the most readable, because of the premise and the pace. The second, and this one, seem to suffer somewhat by comparison – not being as well-paced – and also in terms of believability. I particularly had trouble with the idea that Annah and Elias could have survived at the age they did, and that Annah could then survive three years on her own, given the way the society is described, as well as how they struggled to live even when together. My favourite part of this book is towards the end, which I won’t discuss, but it really showcases what I would have liked to see more of in Annah throughout the story, rather than just at that point.

That said, it will no doubt appeal to the target young adult audience, with the action and darkness making it something I would recommend to both male and female readers of fifteen or so.