You heard it here first: Lexi Ryan’s These Hollow Vows is going to be your new fantasy romance obsession this summer.
Ryan is best known for her contemporary romances and These Hollow Vows actually marks her first foray into the world of YA fantasy. But she tackles the transition with ease, crafting a fast-paced propulsive tale full of faeries, magical artifacts, forbidden attraction, hidden histories, and twists that will leave you turning pages well past your bedtime.
Not that I am projecting or anything. But this truly is a book where the marketing materials weren’t kidding – if you liked the complex worldbuilding of Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses or the difficult faerie princes of Holly Black’s The Cruel Prince? This is a book you need to run, not walk to pick up.
The story follows Abriella, a human girl who despises everything about the world of faerie, as well as the Fae who live in it. But when her skills as a thief can no longer keep up with the family debts their mother left them with, her younger sister Jasalyn is sold to the Unseelie Court by their cruel aunt. The only way Brie can get her back safely is to make a deal with the Unseelie Shadow King to steal three magical items for him in exchange for her return. Items that can only be found at the rival Seelie Court, and which its queen will be loath to give up.
In order to gain entry to the golden queen’s hall, Brie must pose as a mortal girl hoping to be chosen as the Seelie prince’s future bride. But things get complicated when Brie not only struggles to locate the items she seeks but finds herself drawn to Ronan, the future Seelie king – and to the renegade shadow prince named Finn who’s working to take back the Unseelie throne.
Love triangles are pretty standard fare in YA fantasy, but Ryan manages to make both sides of this romantic equation compelling. Both Finn and Ronan are good for Brie in different ways, and neither is entirely what they appear to be. Her attraction to both is genuine and understandable, and their relationships are deftly handled. Readers may find themselves torn between these two men at various points in the story, particularly as we learn more about them both – and more about the complex politics of the world they inhabit.
You’ll be largely left to suss out the complexities of Seelie vs. Unseelie royals and politics on your own throughout much of this story, but our ignorance as readers often mirrors Brie’s within the world of the story, which means that the realizations – of curses and betrayals and true identities -hit us as hard as they do her.
Brie is an appealingly stubborn heroine that will feel familiar to YA readers. Her insistence on saving her sister at all costs leads her to make some fairly disastrous assumptions and occasionally worse choices, but it’s a motivation that’s easy to understand.
Unfortunately, however, her elationship with her sister is, unfortunately, annoyingly basic and Jasalyn is sold/turned into an object for Brie to save so early in the story that we never know much about her for her own sake. (Instead, Ryan likes to tell us how important Jas is to Brie because she represents the purity and hope that the elder Kincaid sister no longer feels she possess.)
All that said, These Hollow Vows is an exciting, exhilarating read with the sort of ending that will leave you immediately clamoring for a sequel.
These Hollow Vows is available now. Let us know if you plan to give it a look!