Sunday, September 11, 2022

Review: What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher

by T. Kingfisher
Release Date: July 12, 2022
2022 Tor Nightfire
Kindle Edition; 176 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250830753
Audiobook: B09VVR6N9Y
Genre: Fiction / Gothic / Horror
Source: Review copy from publisher
3 / 5 Stars
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.
My Thoughts
What Moves the Dead is the retelling of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher", and as one of my favourite short stories, I was interested to see what this author would do with the retelling.  Overall, I am glad the author kept it short, although I could have done without some of the additions that I don't think added anything of importance to the story.

First of all, you don't really have time to get fully fleshed character development in such a story, but that is not the intention of such a novel. That is why the pages of detail about one of the main characters, Alex Easton, were wasted on me, as interesting as I thought they were, because they added nothing of value to the story.  I did appreciate what the author was trying to do, but thought this was not the type of novel where it was necessary to detract from the story to give us a four-page lesson on non-binary characters and how they were to be addressed.  It would have been easy to do through dialogue and move on as it simply slowed down the story, especially when the story is so short to begin with. And I liked Alex's character and some of the things we learned were quite interesting and could have shored up the novel much earlier on. I did think the author captured the essence of the characters as well as their personal traits and quirks once the story got going though. 

The story was a fast and pleasant one, predictable in nature, especially if you have read the original story, but that didn't deter from the overall enjoyment of it. It did take a little bit to get going as it got bogged down in unnecessary details, but once it picked up, it was quite an enjoyable read. I was kind of hoping for some more twists and turns, something different from the original, such as maybe they learned to communicate with the entity that was affecting the house, but alas, the author went with the more boring route. However, the descriptions of the house and the grounds were engrossing and I loved reading about them.  I think I was just hoping I would be horrified when reading this book, and I wasn't.  

What Moves the Dead was a fun read, but could have been more. There was so much potential to add some twists and turns to this beloved classic without losing the essence of the story, but I don't think the author capitalized on that despite the great descriptions and good storytelling.  A bit more focus on the story would have highlighted the horror elements and made this story stand out and maybe would have elicited those chills that such a novel normally creates.