The once great city Altburg is a festering wound in the kingdom of Lochmeria, and its exiled prince returns on a quest to find his father and brother. A few humans remain, but most of the residents are shambling demons, and as Greston grows in wisdom and ability he makes it his mission rid his home of evil.
When Prince Greston was a child the city of Altburg was overrun by demons, so he and his mother fled to an island haven. All he knows of his father and twin brother, Germund, are rumors. Now a man, Greston approaches the city with more questions than answers. Where did the evil come from? What happened to his family? Can the city be redeemed? While a few humans remain, eeking out a living within the city walls, they are severely outnumbered by monsters.
Greston goes through a series of trials, escapes, and battles, and as he does so he doesn’t gather much information. But he does learn something of magic and combat. As he progresses, his quest changes from finding his father and brother and shifts to ridding the city of the demons. Along the way he encounters many allies and enemies, and though he’s bold, he’s also naïve. If he’s going to survive, Greston will need to learn how to operate in a brutal environment.
Author Jordan Allen clearly draws inspiration from videogames and chivalric romance, which gives The Hollow Kingdom an usual flavor. At times it feels like watching someone else play The Witcher 3 (which is fine by me, since I suck at videogames), and at other times it’s like reading Sir Gawain and the Green Knight set in a fantasy land. Whether or not this novel will appeal to you depends on how much you like those things. But for my time and money, I appreciate some good, old fashioned, heroic adventure with clear-cut good and evil.
Many, many characters come and go (and come back) throughout the course of the story. Most noteworthy, of course, is Prince Greston. He’s brave and strong-willed, but lacks street smarts. Fortunately, he’s anchored by a strong sense of purpose and dignity, which allows him to grow without losing his way.
Also worth mentioning is Hurm, who serves as Greston’s guide. The cursed, masked man appears whenever Greston needs direction, information, or a swift kick in the motivation, but may have ulterior motives.
It’s your traditional medieval fantasyland, though we only see a very small part of it. Much like the world of The Witcher (the game, more than the books and TV series) Lochmeria has monsters lurking in every swamp, shadow, and shack. There’s magic, but we aren’t dealing with Sanderson levels of precision or lit RPG laziness. Good is good. Evil is evil.
None per se, though the demonic infestation feels like an analog for wokeism.
Lots of violence, severed limbs and stomped demon heads. But nothing stomach turning.
Who is it for?
Like I said before, The Hollow Kingdom is for videogame aficionados with a taste for Arthurian romance. It’s also for readers who aren’t interested in moral ambiguity and want a simple story of good and evil.
Why read it?
It’s a quick read, with a hero who isn’t a Mary Sue, but is noble. The frequent battles are creative and well-written, while a few illustrations enhance the overall experience. More than that, there’s a sincerity between the lines that keeps the pages turning.
Good review. Book bought.