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VPLA 2023
We Who Hunt The Hollow

Writing for Young Adults Shortlist

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Title: We Who Hunt The Hollow

Author: Kate Murray

Publisher: Hardie Grant Children’s Publishing

Seventeen-year-old Priscilla Daalman’s entire family are Hollow Warriors – legendary monster hunters charged with killing evil beasts from beyond our universe. She’s desperate to live up to that legacy, but she’s convinced neither she, nor her superpower – the ability to sense Hollow energy – is up to the task.

But when Priscilla attempts a desperate ritual to enhance her abilities, she accidentally triggers a frightening new power: the power to summon monsters from the Hollow itself. Now, Priscilla must protect her loved ones – her heartbroken ex-girlfriend, her mysterious new boyfriend, even her fierce warrior family – from supernatural monsters, and also from herself. Because if her power gets out, all hell will break loose … and Priscilla will risk losing everything.

 


 

Judges’ report

This is a big-hearted portrayal of a fantastical future-Melbourne where monsters from another universe pour in through cracks in our world. Priscilla comes from a powerful matriarchal family, destined to protect the world from the Hollow, though her own power may put those she loves in danger. Murray deftly weaves in real-life teen concerns while crafting an expansive world that is wholly believable and thrilling. At the heart of this story is a diverse and complex family driven by loyalty and love, set against the backdrop of a struggle for power as the old monster hunters are challenged by rebellion.

 


 

Extract

Chapter One

Mist clings to the manticore’s sides, glistening on cinnabar fur. Its warning growl rumbles through the alleyway. Stinger- tipped tail lashing. I lift the crossbow. I’ve got maybe thirty seconds before it attacks. Then it growls again, although its toothy maw didn’t move, which means – shit. There’s a second one, padding out into the dim light beneath the single burning street lamp to join its buddy. Shadows pool in the hollows of its eyes.

I bite down on my back teeth, on the urge to panic- laugh. Two manticores. Just one is classified as grade four savage. Extremely injurious, high risk. What does that make two? Certain doom?

And I chose a crossbow. Oh, Priscilla. Well done.

I shuffle backwards. Maybe I have a chance to gracefully retreat.

Then another manticore lunges from the left, closer than the others, scorpion tail arced over its back in full attack mode. Wait. There’s three of them? I pivot to face it, swinging up the crossbow. Can’t believe I picked a crossbow. I release the trigger and the serum-filled bolt slams into the beast’s face, poison slaying it instantly, and I’m loading in the next bolt already but now the second one is way too close on my right, and the first one – hold on, where did the first one go? I spin around to see a wide open mouthful of fangs and –  My vision flashes and goes dark. Glowing text appears, helpfully announcing SCENARIO FAILED. YOU HAVE

DIED.

I yank off the visor and push back from my desk with a sigh. Who designed this stupid scenario anyway? Manticores are solitary. They never leak through in packs.

It’s almost like they’re helping me fail.

Hmm, I think that one was all your own doing, Mouse says from her little nest on my bedside table. Maybe if you’d picked the blaster gun …

‘Come on, that scenario was flawed,’ I complain to my familiar.

Mouse sniffs. That’s rodent laughter – I hear it a lot. Sure, sure. It was the scenario.

‘Hey. You’re supposed to be on my team here.’

I am. Her nose twitches. Which is why I know you deliberately picked the wrong weapon so you wouldn’t pass.

I cough. ‘Uh, keep that yourself, please.’

Mouse is the only one who knows I’m trying not to pass. Luckily she’s mind-linked only to me, so nobody else can hear her sarcastic commentary and figure out what I’m doing.

Tilting the chair to the side, I check the clock hanging on the far wall; the school day is done. I pretend I don’t see the blinking cursor that means my teacher is typing a response to my scenario attempt, and log off from the Hollow Warrior edusys.

Mouse’s whiskers flutter with exasperation, but she doesn’t have any further reprimands. She knows she isn’t going to change my mind about anything – she already tried that. She skitters out of her nest, crosses my desk, and runs up my arm to her usual perch on my shoulder. I switch off the visor and dump it onto my desk next to my edusys screen. Next to it is a datapad showing the stupidly long list of scenarios I still need to pass before I can take my second oath – the oath of service.

It’s going to take months to complete them all. Which is kind of the plan.

Anyway. Even if I did fail this scenario, surely there are benefits to experimenting with different types of weapons, like knowing what’s useful and what isn’t. Really, a good Hollow Warrior should know every pro and every con for every weapon before they take the second oath.

And the whole reason I’m doing this is because I need to be more than just good.

I wind my way down the levels of our tall, crooked apartment, which is stacked like a haphazard afterthought on top of an old warehouse. I try not to see the Congratulations! banner tacked up over the windows when I get to the sitting room and kitchen. It plucks at an old, familiar hurt, reminding me how there’d been a banner like it for me back when I turned thirteen and took my first oath – the oath of power. How it had felt like a tease, one that only I could see.

Congratulations on your inadequacy, Priscilla!

Followed by all those compliments from my family, each one thumping into my chest like a stone. Compliments, as if the tame power I’d received didn’t matter, as if I were on my way to becoming an incredible Hollow Warrior like the rest of them.

But this particular banner is for my niece, not me, and her oath of power ceremony will not go the same way as mine. She’ll receive a power befitting the Daalman name, like everyone else. It’ll be something she’s proud to receive and wield. A power that won’t make her wince whenever she thinks about it.

She’ll fit in.

And we’ll all be here to witness it: the first oath ceremony in forever that every single Daalman will attend. I’m still not sure how, this stormy December, the stars have aligned to allow my whole family to get together in one place. It’s been six years since that last happened, when we managed to meet up for my grandmother’s birthday. A lot has changed since then – we have a whole new Daalman for starters, with my littlest niece – and at the same time, nothing has. My grandmother is still powerful and bossy. My mothers are still busy and dramatic. My sisters are still three versions of chaos. And I still love them all like mad. Maybe it’s been six years because that’s how long it takes us to recover from interacting as a complete unit. Or maybe it’s just what happens when you’re a family of monster hunters, charged with protecting humanity, and evil doesn’t care about family reunions.

 


 

About the author

Portrait of Kate Murray
Photo: Hyggelig Photography

Kate Murray is a New Zealander living in Melbourne with her family, an alarming amount of LEGO and an ordinary number of books. She is a full-time parent slash writer, conjuring up spare time so she can conjure up stories.

 

 

 

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The Wheeler Centre acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the traditional owners of the land on which we work. We pay our respects to the people of the Kulin Nation and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders, past and present.