A near death experience left Keith Marose with the ability to see things others cannot and the perpetual company of a ghost, Lucas. It’s been odd to say the least, but Keith has done his best to adapt and manages something of a normal life. When violent visions force Keith to take action, he finds himself thrust into a world almost beyond imagination.
Terrors are stalking innocent Others, those who live amongst mortals, but who are far from human. Keith and Lucas accept the help of the flirtatious, but mysterious, Hiraeth to save the Others before it’s too late. But doing so may find them trapped in a dangerous realm where Lucas may be forever lost and from which Keith and Hiraeth may never escape.
Empty Vessels is one of those books that by turns both compels and annoys and does so consistently. The world building is unique and, at times, horrifyingly vivid. Enslaved dolls and ghosts turned to mindless savages inhabit a world of the living and the dead, the trapped and the despondent. It’s decidedly creepy and I give the author real kudos for the originality of it all. Empty Vessels is properly sinister and taps into a lot of primal emotions about the things that scare us most.
Unfortunately, the overall story is slow to develop and there were whole sections that felt sloggy. The pacing was really problematic and it felt as if a solid third of the book could have been trimmed away without losing the overall plot points. There were times I actually set the book aside because it just failed to sustain my attention.
Aside from the pace, the biggest issue is the characters. They read as vague and ill defined. Hiraeth doesn’t even have a name for the first 120 pages — he’s simply called the horned boy. I didn’t find myself caring about the relationships or understanding why I should have cared in the first place. None of the three main protagonists read as particularly developed and they could have been nearly blank stand-ins for all that I connected with them. And when I can’t identify or summon up the interest for even one character, it’s hard to be enjoy the book.
The world building saved Empty Vessels for me. There were honestly times I was ready to call this one a DNF, but the eerie and otherworldly aspects were intriguing and wonderfully realized. The pacing needs work and the main characters failed to establish themselves. But if you like fantastical horror, there might be something here for you.