From the publisher—
S.T., a domesticated crow, is a bird of simple pleasures: hanging out with his owner Big Jim, trading insults with Seattle’s wild crows (i.e. “those idiots”), and enjoying the finest food humankind has to offer: Cheetos.
But when Big Jim’s eyeball falls out of his head, S.T. starts to think something’s not quite right. His most tried-and-true remedies – from beak-delivered beer to the slobbering affection of Big Jim’s loyal but dim-witted dog, Dennis – fail to cure Big Jim’s debilitating malady. S.T. is left with no choice but to abandon his old life and venture out into a wild and frightening new world with his trusty steed Dennis, where he suddenly discovers that the neighbors are devouring one another. Local wildlife is abuzz with rumors of dangerous new predators. Humanity’s extinction has seemingly arrived, and the only one determined to save it is a cowardly crow whose only knowledge of the world around him comes from TV.
What could possibly go wrong?
Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton is unlike any other zombie book I’ve read and I’ve read quite a few in my time. The story is told by S.T., a very well-educated crow (educated via the tv, internet and his human), and he first realizes something is wrong when Big Jim’s eyeball falls out.
Yeah, I know, sounds gross but…
This is the tale of how S.T. and his bloodhound, Dennis, set off to save the domestics who’ve been left behind, trapped, when the virus swept through humanity. Along the way, they encounter many other animals, wild and domestic, and a lot of them join in the mission. Most of the commentary is from our trusty crow but there are interludes from such creatures as an octopus and a polar bear.
There’s a great deal of humor and a few sad scenes that really tapped into my emotions but very little time is spent on gory zombie details so you don’t have to be concerned about that. This is all about the animals and the author clearly has a point to make, several points, in fact. BTW, this is not a kid’s or middle grade book despite all the animals, birds and sea creatures because S.T. can occasionally be foulmouthed and there are a couple of scenes in which animals get hurt (but even those have redeeming qualities).
The narrator, Robert Petkoff, does a great job with S.T.’s voice as well as a few others (especially the octopus) and his sense of pacing and comedic/emotional tones are spot on. My daughter read the print edition and was just as entranced. I know, Hollow Kingdom sounds, er, strange but I was completely captured and this is going on my list of best books read in 2020. A sequel, Feral Creatures, is in the works and I can hardly wait.
Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2020.