The thing about quarantine, it seems, is that it rekindles your love of habits and hobbies and obsessions that you’d thought you’d gotten over with a fierce and fiery vengeance.
And for me, that obsession is one Mr. Holland Vosijk.
For those who have no earthly idea what I’m on about, Holland Vosijk is a character from the Shades of Magic trilogy by V. E. Schwab. Depending on who you ask, he can be considered either a villain, antihero, or hero of the series.
Today, I’m here to rant about Holland. It will have no form, no organization. That’s what I love about rants.
This is your chance to close the tab and go back to your everyday life, because from this point on, SPOILERS — major and minor — for the Shades of Magic series will abound. 🚨
Again, SPOILERS. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Never, ever, ever during the events of the Shades of Magic trilogy did I even remotely hate Holland. Even during A Darker Shade of Magic, when he attempted to bleed Kell out into the streets of Grey London and chased him and Lila through the four Londons. Even during A Gathering of Shadows, when he tortured Kell and may or may not have accidentally unleashed a demonic force upon Red London. And certainly not during A Conjuring of Light.
I know it sounds crazy when I put it like that, being that Kell and Lila are technically our protagonists here, but hear me out. In ADSoM, I immediately felt for this poor Antari who was bound to a sadistic king and queen who forced him to commit self-harm for their own enjoyment. And honestly, everything he did in ADSoM was because of the Danes. I don’t blame him for anything he did.
In AGoS, I was literally screeching “HOLLANDDDDD” when it was first revealed that he had survived Black London and was KING of White London. The scene in Black London when he first meets Osaron broke my heart. I mean, this quote:
“And whose mind?” challenged Holland. “Whose will?” Ours, purred the king. Holland’s chest ached. Another binding. Would he never be free?
How can you possibly hate him after that?
Sure, his logic is a bit flawed — to say the least — when he makes that collar for Kell, but seven years under the Danes can do that to someone.
In ACoL, I fell even more in love, to the point where my opinions of Kell and Lila and everyone else varied by the chapter depending on how they treated Holland. When this happened:
“When the Danes ruled, they may have forced your hand, but this time, you chose. You chose to set Osaron free. You chose to be his vessel. You chose to give him –“
“Life isn’t made of choices,” said Holland. “It’s made of trades. Some are good, some are bad, but they all have a cost.”
“You traded away my world’s safety –“
I hated Kell with every fiber of my being in that moment. I still need to take a deep breath thinking about it. And this:
A cruel smile cut across Lila’s face. She clicked her tongue. “Can’t go a day without chaining yourself to someone, can you –” He was on her in an instant, his fingers wrapped around her throat and her knife against his.
Oh my gosh, I wanted to murder Lila at this point. I hadn’t found her too unlikeable before this, but wow, this was cruel. If Holland reacts like that, you’ve definitely gone too far.
In ACoL, we get Holland’s past. We get his motives. We get the things that made him laugh, made him cry, made him scream before the Danes carved it all out of him.
We learn about Alox, whom he trusted with his life, who was the only person he had left, whom Holland loved. Until he tried to kill him.
We learn about Talya, who made Holland’s life brighter, who made him forget about the cold that surrounded him, whom Holland loved. Until she tried to kill him.
We learn about Vortalis, who was the first friend Holland had ever had, who was willing to shed blood for a chance at reviving his world, whom Holland loved. Until he was murdered.
We learn about the Danes, who carved the laughter and hope and love out of his life, who broke him, who shattered him. Until he just wanted everything — the pain, the death, the suffering — to end.
The bodies piled. Athos watched. Astrid grinned. Holland’s hand moved on its puppet string. And his mind screamed until it finally lost its voice.
Suffice it to say, I was a wreck.
Before we go on, quick story time: Once upon a time, there was a girl who was completely destroyed by the ending of AGoS. Desperate for closure, she took to reading quotes from ACoL on Goodreads to ease the pain of 2-day shipping. She discovered that the author herself had annotated a series of quotes from the book, and naturally, this girl decided to check it out. And oh, this foolish girl, this desperately foolish girl, stumbled on this:
The girl learned a hard lesson that day: Life does not come with spoiler tags.
During my Internet wanderings, I have seen so many people lamenting over Holland’s death, saying that they had hoped, had actually started to believe, that Holland might get a happy ending at the end of ACoL. All I have to say is that you’re lucky you even got the chance to hope.
Or perhaps I was just unlucky. Either way.
Even so, I was on the verge of tears as I read Holland’s final scene in the Silver Wood.
It ends, he thought — no fear, only relief, and sadness. He had tried. Had given everything he could. But he was so tired.
His entire life was built on sacrifice, betrayal, and pain. Every single time I reread this scene, the fact that he died alone, in the middle of a forest, without knowing that in the end, he had been the one to revive his world, makes my aching heart stutter in sadness.
I want to say he should have been given a better ending, but I can’t even do that. Because I know that this is Holland’s ending. No matter how you twist it, this is the only ending that fits him. He wanted it to end. He wanted to save his world. He wanted to make things right. And he did. With his death, he accomplished all of that.
V. E. Schwab is cruel.
The only thing Holland ever wanted was to save his world. That was his dream, his ambition, the only thing that kept him going when everything in his life went dark. In his entire life, he never truly let himself become unredeemable. He did what he had to do to keep himself sane while enslaved to the Danes; he did what he had to do to keep his world afloat when Osaron took over.
The thing that hits me hardest about Holland’s life and death is the fact that no one knows him for the broken cinnamon muffin that he is. Everyone in Red London believes him to be a selfish traitor who almost destroyed their world and killed their loved ones. Everyone in White London believes him to be dead and probably as just another one of their false kings. Even Kell, who was the only one who was at least partially aware of what Holland had gone through under the Danes — he believes that Holland ended up where he was because he attempted to become White London’s king.
A myth without a voice is like a dandelion without a breath of wind. No way to spread the seeds.
This is Holland’s legacy. A myth that may or may not have happened, someone who everyone would be better off forgetting.
I am so emotional right now.
What do you think about Holland? Are you as obsessed with him as I am? Do you think he’ll appear as a ghost in the upcoming Threads of Power trilogy? (Please, V. E. Schwab? 🥺)