Vandriel: Meet My New Favourite Novel

Caroline Vandriel’s monthly book review

File Photo.

Kira Jane Buxton, wherever you are in the world, my hat’s off to you for penning the brilliant novel, “Hollow Kingdom.” If I were still a high school English teacher, I would insist that this novel be studied in class for its timeless themes and masterful use of the English language. How can something that contains zombies be so poignant, lyrical, funny and tragic all at the same time? Three-quarters of the way through I wanted to read it again and within the last ten pages I determined that I had to buy my own copy to read whenever I wanted a good chuckle or cry.

Yes, it has zombies, which was what prompted me to place a request for the book in the first place. I thought a little dark, mindless reading would be a good way to pass a wet summer day. Initially I thought the zombie aspect was merely a MacGuffin, a device to incite the plot, but then disintegrate. However, despite their generally low-key presence, the zombies pop up to affect the plot again and again. Indeed, one of the themes is the collapse of the human race.

The narrator also piqued my interest: a foul-mouthed, domesticated crow who would rather be human. Again, what starts out as one thing in the novel, morphs into something entirely different. The crow, S.T. (whose full name is not printable in polite newspapers) is a self-centered, cowardly little beast whose character improves vastly under the pressure of circumstances. His trusty steed, a blood-hound named Dennis, who alone of all the anthropomorphized animals in the book doesn’t communicate, tugged at my heart-strings so much that by the end that I had to put the book down and cuddle my squirming cockapoo for a full five minutes.

The plot starts fairly slowly, with enough oddities to ensure continued reading, but then, like an enormously gorgeous butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, the story becomes epic. S.T. and Dennis must leave home, because their human, Big Jim, is now a zombie and wants to eat them. S.T. sets out to find surviving humans who can provide a cure for Big Jim and rescue all of the domestic animals trapped inside houses. Over and over events lead me to expect the worst possible outcome as the characters on their quest to rescue humanity and domestics become more and more dear, until the inevitable does occur and I dissolved into tears. By a book narrated by a crow? A book about zombies? Yes and yes. The ante-hero becomes a hero and one must mourn the loss of mankind and cheer for the bravery, love, and community that emerges.

Buxton’s use of language is exquisite, like a feast of exotic bonbons that doesn’t leave you bloated upon consumption. Often I came across examples that I wanted to share, but then decided against it, as each nugget is placed in such a way that discovery of the clever, witty, or beautiful phrase is part of the delight: you must discover them for yourself. And funny! You’ve read reviews where the reviewer writes of laughing and crying, and you felt that they were overstating the point? Me too, but this book made me guffaw and weep copious tears (interrupted by several guilt-induced games of fetch with the aforementioned cockapoo). Also notable is Buxton’s masterful use of collective nouns. Seriously.

Whether you read “Hollow Kingdom” for the zombies, a glimpse into the hearts and minds of animals, or the monumental themes, please just read it. I don’t remember when I’ve enjoyed a novel so thoroughly.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Sylvan Lake woman distressed after cat shot at with pellet gun, loses its eye

Warning: Photo may be disturbing to some. Evelina Cornell’s cat Ms Grey was shot in the face and hip

Red Deer Museum + Art Gallery re-opens with display by Benalto artist

A display by Benalto artist David More showcases Sylvan Lake in the summertime

Albertans get an extra free order of COVID-19 masks

Packages will be available July 13 at fast food restaurants

COVID-19 scare sees Latvia-bound troops turn around, return to Canada

Those on board face another 14 days in isolation

QUIZ: A celebration of dogs

These are the dog days of summer. How much do you know about dogs?

Ford revives Bronco brand, aims at Jeep’s big off-road sales

Two new off-road vehicles to be introduced

Trump-connected lobbyists reap windfall in federal virus aid

Many recipients were donors to Trump’s campaigns

Tories, NDP lay out demands as Liberals prepare to reveal state of economy

Conservatives wants auditor general to scrutinize COVID-19 response

‘You have to show up:’ NDP MP questions virtual attendance of Alberta Tories

NDP MP McPherson says she’s disappointed Tory MPs haven’t been participating in virtual meetings

Flood warning, mandatory evacuation for people in remote Alberta hamlet

A flood warning has been issued for the rain-swollen Smoky River near the Hamlet of Watino

Stop enforcing sex work laws during COVID-19, Amnesty, sex worker advocates say

‘We need to make sure the existing laws on the books aren’t enforced’

Most Read