Review: What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher

58447680._sy475_So, this one was obviously an instant request from me. T. Kingfisher is one of my favorite authors, whether I’m reading the horror stuff or the White Rat stuff.

So thanks to the author, as well as Tor via NetGalley for the review copy!

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.

The first thing that surprised me about this one was that it’s a novella, which I wasn’t expecting. Serves me right for requesting this based on nothing but the author, but it’s not a bad thing at all. It was shorter than I thought it was, but it was exactly as long as it needed to be!

What Moves the Dead is a retelling of Edgar Allen Poe’s short story The Fall of the House of Usher. In this case, it takes place in a fictional country, and follows a retired soldier named Alex Easton. When they find out that their childhood friend Madeline is sick, they race to the Usher’s home in the countryside. Aside from Maddy and her brother Roderick being afflicted by a strange sickness, there are tons of shenanigans going down in the Usher house.

I really enjoyed this one. I remember reading The Fall of the House of Usher when I was younger, and I remember enjoying it as well, but this retelling gave the story a mycological spin that made it all the spookier. Alex meets a kooky British mycologist named Eugenia Potter along their way to the Usher house, who claims to be the aunt of another noted researcher and painter of fungi, Beatrix Potter. There is also another houseguest, an American Doctor named Denton that Roderick has brought in to see if he can cure Madeline of her mysterious illness. Meanwhile, both Madeline and Roderick Usher are acting very, very strange.

This book got creepier and creepier as it went along, but not in any way that I didn’t find absolutely enthralling. I have read books with this sort of premise before and every time I agree that yeah, that is some creepy, creepy stuff, but alas, I can’t look away. I loved imagining Alex and their new friends get to the bottom of the mystery. The whole book and its old, decayed setting was very easy to envision.

I would recommend this novella to anyone who likes a little gothic horror, or retellings in general. T. Kingfisher does retellings so well, and this is no exception. It is a little bit gory at times, but not unnecessarily, and not too often. I had 4.5/5 stars of fun with What Moves the Dead. I thought it was great!


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