Moving from poison and treachery to war and witchcraft, Sam Hawke’s Poison Wars continue with Hollow Empire, a fabulous epic fantasy adventure perfect for fans of Robin Hobb, Naomi Novik, and Scott Lynch.
Poison was only the beginning…. The deadly siege of Silasta woke the ancient spirits, and now the city-state must find its place in this new world of magic. But people and politics are always treacherous, and it will take all of Jovan and Kalina’s skills as proofer and spy to save their country when witches and assassins turn their sights to domination.
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.
Hallow Empire has been a sequel I’ve been looking forward to for years now and I’m so excited to say I loved this! This book has everything I loved about it’s predecessor, City of Lies: suspenseful buildup, loveable complex characters, excellent worldbuilding, and just improved it all! City of Lies also holds a special place in my heart for being one of the first ARCs I received after starting this blog, which makes me all happier about Hallow Empire.
Oh where even to begin. Let’s start with the pacing. Like City of Lies, Hallow Empire starts with fairly slow, suspenseful pace as Hawke sets the scene and establishes the various characters. Also like City of Lies, however, this pacing gradually picks up until you’re knee-deep into political intrigue and absolutely unwilling to put the book down because you have to know more. With every new mystery solved comes two new questions to take its place and the reins simply never let up. There’s a fine balance between over-detailing events and giving the reader just enough information to keep them by the seat of their pants and Hawke successfully rides that line the entire way through.
With Hallow Empire, the world of Silasta has expanded to welcome in diplomats from her nearby, and much larger, sovereign neighbors. As I read, I was in awe at the richness and cultural details of both Silasta and her neighbors. We learn about the linguistics, the food, gender stereotypes and norms, and so much more. These countries, and Silasta especially, really feel like they’ve been brought to life in my mind. A common complaint I have with epic fantasy novels is that the worlds feel “empty” or their cities devoid of people aside from those useful to the main characters. Here, Silasta bustles with life and wonder and all the issues plaguing a major city.
Returning to the minds of Kalina and Jovan, was, too, a delight to read. I’m generally more of a ‘grey, morally-questionable character fan’, but Kalina and Jovan are just so damn likable, so well written that I can’t help but to love them. I loved seeing Kalina’s newfound determination and activeness, loved seeing her take action despite being put in situations where being female put her at a disadvantage because sexist assholes. I loved reading Jovan’s self-doubts, his battle between serving his country and his panics because ‘oh god he’s putting a child in harm’s way’. My Jovan/Tain ship has not sailed yet but that’s okay, I can wait.
Overall, I rate this book a 5/5. I adored City of Lies, and I was delighted with Hallow Empire. Hawke has really outdone herself with this amazing book packed full of political intrigue and delightfully complex characters.
r/Fantasy Bingo Squares:
- Optimistic SFF
- Novel with Chapter Epigraphs (hard mode)
- Novel Published in 2020
- Feminist Novel
- Novel Featuring Politics (hard mode)