Monday, March 27, 2023

The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher


Okay, so let me start off this review by saying that I am the BIGGEST horror wuss, so if you're an aficionado take this review with a grain of salt. (Maybe the whole jar, actually.) I like gothic tales and ghost stories but I don't like graphic violence or books where the pets or the love interests die, so as you can imagine, reading horror is usually an especially fraught experience for me. I love the aesthetics, I just hate the misery-- and I get super, super anxious while reading.

T. Kingfisher understands the desperate need among the anxious for vibes and aesthetics but no Super Bad Things in horror. Between this book and WHAT MOVES THE DEAD, I ended up both charmed, amused, and scared out of my pants, but both had satisfying endings that were bittersweet (bonus in this one: the dog doesn't die). I think people reading this expecting, I dunno, Stephen King, might be mad, but man, what an amazing story. Apparently it's a sort of expansion/homage to Arthur Machen's "The White People." I've never read that story but I'm sure the author did a great job (God bless the public domain).

This story is about a woman named Mouse who is tasked with cleaning out her grandmother's house when she dies. But her grandmother was a hoarder-- and her step-grandfather was apparently harboring some pretty insane delusions about people he calls "the twisted ones." Mouse finds a journal in his bedroom detailing some of his ramblings, with references to a manuscript and something he calls The Green Book. The more she reads, the weirder it gets. But then Mouse starts to see things in the wood: creatures that shouldn't exist and places that should be there. And then she starts to wonder if maybe her step-grandfather wasn't really delusional after all.

I don't want to say anything else because some people are out there giving way too many spoilers in their reviews and less is definitely more, but I LOVED this book. I loved Bongo the Hound. I loved the people Mouse encounters who help her on her journey: Enid the Goth barista, Foxy the hippie, and Tomas and Skip, people living at the commune (one of them is bipolar and the rep is so casual). I loved how creative and creepy this world that the author built felt. I've seen people calling it folk horror and after thinking about this, apparently that's the kind of horror I like. Cozy horror with vibes. If you enjoyed this experience, books with similar themes are YOU LET ME IN, THE CHINA GARDEN, and THE STRANGER. I loved all of these books so apparently creepy rocks and creepy trees are my thing. Go figure. Either way, T. Kingfisher is the only person out there who I trust to scare me properly and politely.

The only reason this isn't getting a full five stars is because I wanted to find out what was really going on with the grandmother and get more closure with the book. I feel like a lot of things were left to the reader's imagination or whatever, and sometimes that feels like cheating. I'm not mad, though.

4 to 4.5 out of 5 stars

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