James Brogden’s The Hollow Tree is a fantasy novel that dips into the realm of adventure and horror.
Protagonist Rachel gains a new approach to her life when she loses her hand in an unfortunate accident. She must learn to adapt to how this loss changes her daily life and relationships, while also fathoming how her “dead” hand can reach into another, darker world- and what lurks within it. Plagued with nightmares and sensations, Rachel eventually learns that the veil her missing hand can reach through is able to bring forth those lurking things- in this case, the local legend known as Oak Mary, a woman found buried in a tree years earlier. Now, this not quite dead, not quite alive woman and Rachel must figure out who she is beyond the legends and stories surrounding her, while combating the more vicious beings that want her back in the tree.
Rachel is a smart woman and she’s a refreshing protagonist to follow along with. She’s strong- she didn’t wallow in her accident or injury. While she remained human with her reactions and experiences, she didn’t suffer from the overused ploy of defeated-woman-finds-new-meaning. We met a quick witted smart ass and we kept company with a quick witted smart ass until the yet. However, her character remained on the same level throughout the story. We didn’t get to know Rachel before her accident, and therefore couldn’t judge how she was before the events of the story unfolded. She didn’t surprise or make interesting choices. There was no great change in her, nor was their a questioning of character. This made for a lax adventure when solely focusing on the evolution of the main character. She’s a nice gal- readers just want to feel like she’s real.
Syntax is medicated and one note. Rachel is very funny and the dialogue was enjoyable but the speech could have been amped up during moments of tension or action. The dialogue felt streamlined to avoid fluffiness. It’s okay to give us a mouthful- if it’s worth chewing on, we’ll keep biting.
The fantastical and real worlds were talked about vividly with expertise. The introduction of the Three Deaths/Men is when the subject matter started to feel strained. We didn’t have enough background on this world to care about these characters to suddenly thrust the mic at them. Their presentation also felt like it came out from left field and violently changed the feeling of the story altogether.
The darkness of the novel (woman buried in a tree, dead hand, the lore, etc.) was what initially drew me in but the plot wavered from that and comfortably settled into its new title of fantasy. The concept itself is interesting and opened up a barrel of ideas on how things could turn out. They didn’t take to the course that I had dreamed of, but that doesn’t discredit the direction it did end up in. Readers who find excitement in other dimensions and different personifications of death in literature will find solace in this work. It’s a lengthy novel that spends a lot of time with its lead and describing her surroundings, something that the author vividly conveys for the readers who’ve never been across the pond. Due to its subdued mood, the unraveling of events doesn’t muster up much suspense or drama for those who seek that out in their reading entertainment.
The Hollow Tree is now available for purchase below.