Hi everyone! My next review is for yet another ARC, this time for What Moves the Dead – a horror novella by T. Kingfisher! I know there are a TON of fans of this author, and this is my first time reading anything from this author, and I will most DEFINITELY be reading more, because this was great!
What Moves the Dead
by T. Kingfisher
Release date: June 12th 2021
Genre: Adult, Horror, Retelling
From the award-winning author of The Twisted Ones comes a gripping and atmospheric retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic “The Fall of the House of Usher.”
When Alex Easton, a retired soldier, receives word that their childhood friend Madeline Usher is dying, they race to the ancestral home of the Ushers in the remote countryside of Ruritania.
What they find there is a nightmare of fungal growths and possessed wildlife, surrounding a dark, pulsing lake. Madeline sleepwalks and speaks in strange voices at night, and her brother Roderick is consumed with a mysterious malady of the nerves.
Aided by a redoubtable British mycologist and a baffled American doctor, Alex must unravel the secret of the House of Usher before it consumes them all.
As far as I know, I’ve never read The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe (unless i read it as required reading in high school, in which case I wiped it from my memory). I also haven’t yet read Mexican Gothic, which has been mentioned as a comparison and is also mentioned by the author in the author’s note at the end of the book. That means that this was the first time I encountered anything like this book, and I think that really worked in my favor because I had no idea what to expect going into this!
This was incredibly creepy but I just couldn’t put it down! It’s fast paced, and strange events keep piling on top of each other which adds to the sense of dread and wrongness of Usher House.
The narrator Alex is non-binary, and what I thought was interesting was the use of pronouns, especially at the end. In their culture, they don’t use they/them but instead use ka/kan, va/van, etc. depending on the situation. The way that this played into the ending was really interesting.
Alex gets a letter from their childhood friend Madeline, who summons them saying that something is wrong. Alex arrives to find Madeline is near death, and her brother Roderick isn’t far behind her. Alex then sets about trying to figure out what is happening to the siblings and to see if there is a way to save them.
The plot is pretty straightforward, but the way it’s written and the atmosphere was just so enjoyable! There were a few moments that really got to me, especially the discussion around Madeline’s hair (if you’ve read it, you know exactly what I’m talking about)! The reveal of what is happening with the house was super disturbing, especially since I was camping when I read this book so I was almost doubly creeped out because of my location.
Overall, this was fantastic, and I can’t wait to read more from this author as this was my first book from them! I know that in addition to horror they also have written some fantasy, and I’m excited for both now!