Of Beast and Burden (Hollow and Hill) by Kelsey Kicklighter
Of Beast and Burden Book Cover Of Beast and Burden
Hollow and Hill
Kelsey Kicklighter
Teen, Young Adult, Dark Fantasy,
Parliament House
May 10, 2022
Kindle, Paperback, Hardback

A fae girl with a human heart. A Seelie Queen with a penchant for stealing mortals. And an Unseelie King who will have to give up his throne. On the coast of Georgia, there's a small southern town where faeries still take changelings. Faye lost her mother to the Folk, but has spent her whole life longing for a glimpse - however brief - behind the veil. When Faye finds her way in, she also finds the truth of why the dark and alluring world of the Folk has always called to her: she's half-faerie, and heir to the Dark Court's throne. When the rival court steals her best friend, she'll have to claim her crown to get her back. But that means learning how to use her glamour so she can face three deadly trials - and not falling for the dark and brooding king she's meant to be replacing, or the nymph-turned-knight teaching her to fight.

Kelsey Kicklighter introduces us to her new Hollow and Hill series, with the story of Faye in Of Beast and Burden. Growing up in the coastal area of Georgia, Faye knew all the old tales and warnings of the “Folk”. Her mother had been across the veil before Faye was born but returned with her sanity damaged. As Faye grew up, she had to watch her mother slip away as a result, till it was only her, Grans, and her cousin left. Even knowing this she has always been intrigued by all things Faerie. When an opportunity arises to appease her curiosity, she decides to follow her instincts and not her conditioned thoughts. This excursion reveals things about herself she never expected and puts her life on a course to regain an inheritance she never knew she had.

Of Beast and Burden is a low-fantasy story that revolves around an outsider teen from Georgia who has grown up knowing that “the Folk” were faeries that lived across the veil but interacted with humans. Just like Faye, I tend to be intrigued by stories revolving around Fae and their kind. I was initially drawn into this story in a big way by Kelsey’s writing style, which introduces us to Faye and the plot in a captivating, enigmatic way. Kelsey lays the groundwork for a great story as Faye’s true identity, which is the basis for the plot, unfolds.

However, the farther into the book I got, the more I became frustrated and disappointed by both Faye and the story. I don’t want to use spoilers, because I still think Of Beast and Burden is readable, so I will try to share my thoughts in a general way. While Faye was a character I initially was fond of, she continued to make poor decisions to save others in a way that set the stage for more obstacles to overcome. It felt as if she had to cause situations that she could then conquer instead of a naturally unfolding plot. The difficulties she was up against also seemed trivialized by her constant murcurial monologe over her various attractions, both male and female. It made her seem like a frivolous teen not someone trying to regain her throne. What really dropped my review was the final trial and ending. It’s pretty much expected that the villian, who is threatening someone the lead cares for and the crown, will be destroyed. It’s also not unusual for that villain to be an unexpected character. In this case the particular character used did not fit in my mind. It seemed to be a uncharacteristic stretch about what we knew of this being up to this point, but provided a convenient ending to the climax.

Based on my thoughts and feelings after the first couple of chapters I was expecting to give this a great review. Kelsey is a great writer whose style immerses you in the story she is telling. The basic premis of the book is also intriguing and has promise. However, it ddin’t come through for me in the end. But, just because I had issue with certain things, I would encourage readers to give Of Beast and Burden a shot and see if they come away with a different impression.