a dark and hollow star – ashley shuttleworth | review

A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth

Series: A Dark and Hollow Star #1
Published February 23rd 2021 by Simon Pulse
Age Range: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy, LGBT
Representation: Pansexual, Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, Genderfluid characters


Rating: 4.5 out of 5.


Choose your player.

The “ironborn” half-fae outcast of her royal fae family.
A tempestuous Fury, exiled to earth from the Immortal Realm and hellbent on revenge.
A dutiful fae prince, determined to earn his place on the throne.
The prince’s brooding guardian, burdened with a terrible secret.

For centuries, the Eight Courts of Folk have lived among us, concealed by magic and bound by law to do no harm to humans. This arrangement has long kept peace in the Courts—until a series of gruesome and ritualistic murders rocks the city of Toronto and threatens to expose faeries to the human world.

Four queer teens, each who hold a key piece of the truth behind these murders, must form a tenuous alliance in their effort to track down the mysterious killer behind these crimes. If they fail, they risk the destruction of the faerie and human worlds alike. If that’s not bad enough, there’s a war brewing between the Mortal and Immortal Realms, and one of these teens is destined to tip the scales. The only question is: which way?

Wish them luck. They’re going to need it.


trigger and content warnings:
  • anger, arson, blood/gore, body horror (minor), death of a child, depression, disownment, divorce, drug use/addiction, grief/grieving, human trafficking, poverty, psychopathy, stalking, suicide (past, off-page), suicide ideation, toxic relationship/manipulation, trauma/PTSD, racism, violence/gun violence
  • taken from ashley shuttleworth’s goodreads

With A Dark and Hollow Star being the first book, Ashley Shuttleworth made sure readers have a basic idea of the magic system of this faerie world. The world is made up of four divisions of folk-based on the seasons, in the Seelie and Unseelie courts. A fae can be either a sidhe or a lesidhe. The former works with elements while the latter is tied to the aether.

The author brilliantly unspooled the plot while layering upon the history of places and people. Other than fae magic, there’s alchemy as well. After a certain event in the past, the High King actually banned the practice of alchemy by the ironborn. All I can think is “how is this book continuously expanding and including more concepts, ideas and things?” I was never bored.

“The heart does not forget as the mind so easily does.” 

⚔️ Nausicaä Kraken: fallen Fury
To revenge a sister’s death, Alecto caused the death of mortals who weren’t supposed to die soon. As a result, stripped of her rank and name, Alecto was expelled to the realm of mortals to become Nausicaä. Banished without any power, Nausicaä still managed to wreak havoc with her lethal, grumpy, sword-wielding self.

⚔️ Arlo Jarsdel: ironborn (human + fae)
Being part of the royal family didn’t mean that Arlo was automatically granted her fae citizenship. On the verge of having her memories of the magical world wiped and sent to live as a human, Arlo was given a choice of deferment until she turns 26-years-old for another weighing. If her powers manifest by then, Arlo will get her citizenship.
All she wanted was to be a full-fledged fae and not be judged for being half-human. Most of the time, Arlo was uncertain about who she was. Never truly belonged anywhere, Arlo didn’t feel like she can do anything great.

⚔️ Aurelian Bessel: Seelie Autumn
Aurelian’s quieter and more observant which balances Vehan’s more vibrant personality. Steward to his best friend, Vehan, who Aurelian is in love with but knew nothing could ever blossom out of it.

⚔️ Vehan Lysterne: Seelie Summer
Kind and understanding with an easy smile, Vehan’s well-loved by his people. Although he has a happy-go-lucky disposition, Vehan isn’t happy about life because he consistently felt manipulated, targeted, and used. Regarding Aurelian, Vehan is guilt-ridden. Unable to do anything about Aurelian’s shackles to the Seelie court of Summer, Vehan couldn’t bring himself to confess his feelings.

In the first half, a connection between Nausicaä and Arlo, and between Vehan and Aurelian was established. Neither duo group will meet each other until the second half when these four were both drawn in by the villain. Despite being different in personalities, Nausicaä, Arlo, Vehan, and Aurelian worked really well together, and their banter was always a delight to read.

“Oh, wow, easy on the love confessions, Aurelian. I’m flattered, really, but I’m afraid–as I’m lesbian–you’re not exactly my type.”
“I’m afraid, as I’m gay, you’re really not mine, either.”

Gender and sexuality were effortlessly incorporated into the story and characters. All the four perspective characters are queer, and readers meet a gender-neutral character that uses xe/xem pronouns. Deities are genderfluid entities with the pronouns of they/them.

Utterly floored by my enjoyment of A Dark and Hollow Star, and the good news is that it has expanded into a saga from a duology! I have a feeling I would need a recap on book one once I start book two. So many things happened. The ending was insane. A solid debut and brilliant fae novel! I can’t wait to explore the subsequent books in this series.

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