Friday, December 30, 2022

What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher


I'm not usually into horror novels but I like classic horror that relies less on blood and gore and more on psychological tension and atmosphere, and this book has both of those things in spades. WHAT MOVES THE DEAD is a delightful bundle of tropes: creepy animals, crawling mold, a gothic castle, a family filled with madness, and a dark, dank secret that would chill the blood of men, all told by a dryly witty nonbinary protagonist, Alex, who has come to the House of Usher to aid a childhood friend as she succumbs to a mysterious illness.

I don't know if any of you are familiar with Magic the Gathering lore, but this has very similar vibes to the plane of Innistrad when it was being influenced by Emrakul: picture a quaint 19th century European village being slowly poisoned by toxic and sinister influences. The interactions with the flora and fauna and the palpable terror of the villagers made this feel like an old skool horror movie that could have starred Bela Lugosi or Boris Karloff. I also liked the comedic elements that came from Alex and the proper Ms. Potter, Beatrix's fictional aunt, and determined female mycologist.

Less is definitely more going into WHAT MOVES THE DEAD because part of the fun is figuring out what's going on. But this is definitely creepy and despite being under 200 pages, the pacing was economical and perfect. If this isn't made into a movie, somebody's not doing their job.

P.S. Don't read this at night.

4 to 4.5 out of 5 stars

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