The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan
(The Forest of Hands and Teeth # 3)
Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 384 pages
There are many things that Annah would like to forget: the look on her sister’s face before Annah left her behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, her first glimpse of the Horde as they swarmed the Dark City, the sear of the barbed wire that would scar her for life. But most of all, Annah would like to forget the morning Elias left her for the Recruiters.
Annah’s world stopped that day, and she’s been waiting for Elias to come home ever since. Somehow, without him, her life doesn’t feel much different than the dead that roam the wasted city around her. Until she meets Catcher, and everything feels alive again.
But Catcher has his own secrets. Dark, terrifying truths that link him to a past Annah has longed to forget, and to a future too deadly to consider. And now it’s up to Annah: can she continue to live in a world covered in the blood of the living? Or is death the only escape from the Return’s destruction?
One of the first zombie books that I really wanted to read last year was Carrie Ryan‘s The Forest of Hands and Teeth. I remember reading a review of it in Persnickety Snark, and after some hesitation (after all, the title felt a little too gloomy for my taste), I decided to get it to see what it was about. Suffice to say that it rekindled my love for zombies that I first had during days of playing Resident Evil with my brother, and introduced me to the sad and hopeless world of the Unconsecrated.
It’s hard to believe that a little over a year later after blogging about the first two books, I read and finished the third book in the trilogy. I’ve always been a fan of Carrie Ryan’s work. There’s a certain beauty in the way she writes despite the somber and hopeless mood, and I cannot helped but be sucked into the world of the Unconsecrated, where the living count the days before they turn into one of the shuffling mass of undead, hungry for human flesh. They aren’t exactly the best zombie books I’ve read, but they are very good novels IMO, living up to the zombie folklore and dystopia theme.
Spoiler warning: Spoilers from the first and second book will be in this review. Read with caution.
The final book in the trilogy, The Dark and Hollow Places picks up shortly where The Dead-Tossed Waves ended. However, instead of Gabry, Mary’s adopted daughter, we meet Annah, her lost twin, waiting for Elias to come back. To recap, Elias had left to join the Recruiters so he could earn money for him and Annah to get by in the Dark City. He also did this to find Abigail, now known as Gabry, to make up for his guilt in leaving her behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth years ago, taking Annah with her. Annah has lived with not only that guilt but also tried her best to be invisible after suffering from an accident, leaving her entire left side scarred for life.
Annah has been waiting for Elias to return for three years and on the day she decides to leave the Dark City to look for him, she sees a surprise: her sister. As she searches for her sister in the city, she meets Catcher who saves her. Mysterious Catcher who is immune to the Unconsecrated and knows about her past. It is with him that Annah is forced to face the ghosts of her past that she longed to forget, and decide if there is still hope in a world that has been pretty much dead for a long time.
What a ride The Dark and Hollow Places was. One thing that kept on going through my mind as I was reading this was: This is it. This is what I missed with all the “dystopia” novels I’ve been reading. As with the first two books, the world building was fantastic. I figured out where in the world the Dark City was based, and that just made everything more real to me. I loved how it was so easy to be immersed in the world and feel the same emotions that the characters were feeling. There was no need to explain why or how things happened, and you just believed in what the book says: the world is dead. The people are dying. The Unconsecrated will not stop until they get their fill of flesh. Perhaps it’s because it’s set so many years into the future, or maybe because the author used zombies. Still, reading this was a breath of fresh air amongst all the books that try but fail to be dystopia. It reminded me of why I fell in love with this sub-genre in the first place.
Other than the world building, I found the characters in this novel just as awesome. I think Annah is my favorite among all of Carrie Ryan’s heroines. She’s tough and broken at the same time, and the growth of her character in this book was a pleasure to read. She’s hardly whiny and she’s brave — probably even braver than Gabry or Mary. I also liked that the relationships Annah had with Elias, Gabry and Catcher were very developed. The romance was just right, and both characters have justifiable angst that made them hesitate with their feelings, making their coming together even more satisfying to read.
Despite some possibly dragging moments (just a little, really), The Dark and Hollow Places had me at the edge of my seat, especially in the last few pages. The ending, just like the first two novels, was kind of bleak, but still full of hope, leaving the readers wishing the characters well. This book delves into the idea that all of us are going to die eventually, with or without the Unconsecrated, and given this fact, what are we doing about it? Are we choosing to simply survive day by day, or are we choosing to live?
I know some of my bookish friends didn’t like the first book in this trilogy, and it kind of makes me sad that they wouldn’t want to read up to this book given their impression on The Forest of Hands and Teeth. The Dark and Hollow Places is probably my favorite of all three, and it is a very satisfying end to a beautiful zombie trilogy. I am definitely looking forward to what Carrie Ryan comes up with next. :)
My copy: Kindle edition
Cover & Blurb: Goodreads
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