The Hollow Boys (The Dream Rider Saga book 1) by Douglas Smith (book review).

  ‘The Hollow Boys’ by Douglas Smith is a fast-paced and entertaining introduction to a new series.

Will Dreycott has a secret. Actually, he has more than one, but the most important is his identity. By day, he’s an agoraphobic seventeen year-old whose parents are missing, presumed dead. Left in charge of their wealth, he has outfitted a city building to accommodate his enclosed life with floors devoted to gardens, entertainment, research and work. Will isn’t just a poor little rich boy, though. He’s a bit of a lost soul. In fact, he’s more than a bit hollow, himself, as he searches for meaning and purpose.

book cover illustrating a scene from the novel
The Hollow Boys (The Dream Rider Saga, book 1) by Douglas Smith (book review)

By night, Will becomes the Dream Rider, he main character in the comicbook he draws by day. The realm of Dream might be on a lot of minds right now with the new ‘Sandman’ TV series on Netflix. But Smith makes it his own place or, rather, Will Dreycott’s place; a realm where a lost young man can not only experience what he misses during the day, but actively feed his dreams. After dark, Will is a hero. He and his Doogles (dream-constructed bloodhounds) chase down missing children.

Case (‘Hard’ Case) has been on her own for a while now and she’s been doing the best she can. She’s tough and wary, on a constant lookout for threats to her and her brother, Fader. When street kids start disappearing, she goes into full protective mode, only it’s not enough. While on the run from an odd pair of characters, she sneaks past security and into Will’s building and their stories become inextricably linked. Together, they will unravel the mystery of the Hollow Boys. Who they are or were and what their purpose is.

Will and Case are fighting a lot of the same foes: supernatural forces, as well as being on their own. They find themselves drawn to one another but, though they have much in common, they each have their secrets. We’ve talked about Will’s, briefly, but not Case’s. I’m going to let you read the book to learn more about her. What I will say here is that her ‘talent’ is super-mysterious and I can’t wait to learn more about it as the series progresses.

I’ve always enjoyed Smith’s books and the characters in ‘The Hollow Boys’ are further proof of why. They’re rendered in more than three-dimensions, with the ‘good guys’ having their faults and even the villains having the odd tender spot, except for that one guy but every book needs one complete berk. As villains go, he’s properly villainous. Honestly, he made my skin crawl. His sidekick, Morrigan, though? I hope we meet her again. Her story is definitely unfinished.

The action rolls forward relentlessly and the stakes grow higher with every chapter. But Smith takes time out to let his characters talk, giving everyone a short break, which this reader appreciates, while also sharing back story and deepening the connections.

The plot is straightforward, but there are lots of delicious complications, meaning that while this chapter of the story comes to a satisfying end, there are plenty of questions left for future novels in the series.

My one quibble would be the romance aspect. It felt a little fast to me but, even as I was reading, I found myself offering up the perfect excuse: young people feel things hugely and instantly. The romance makes sense, even if I wasn’t totally on board at the beginning.

If I haven’t made it clear up to this point, I enjoyed ‘The Hollow Boys’ immensely. I don’t read a lot for review, anymore, so when I am offered a title, it’s usually one I know I will love. Still, I was so pleased to have my opinion of Douglas Smith’s work confirmed. He’s a talented writer, equipped with two of my favourite traits: imagination and pathos. I look forward to continuing ‘The Dream Rider Saga’ with ‘The Crystal Key’, due to be published March 15, 2023.

Kelly Jensen

October 2023

(pub: Spiral Path Books, 20223. Print and ebook, 493 pages. Print: $19.99 (US), £19.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-92804-827-5. Ebook: $ 2.99 (US), £ 2.99 (UK) ASIN: B0BH6F66B7)

check out website: https://smithwriter.com/


Kelly Jensen

Writer of love stories. Bibliophile. Gamer. Cat herder.

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