My rating: 5 of 5 stars
What Moves the Dead is a gothic horror novella with fantasy and sci-fi elements by T. Kingfisher. It is also a retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, “The Fall of the House of Usher,” though you do not need to have read it to enjoy this version. The ebook version is 176 pages. I listened to the audiobook, which clocks in at a little over five hours and is narrated by Avi Roque. We follow our main character with a first-person point-of-view.
Retired soldier Alex Easton is in the process of racing back to the ancestral home of their childhood friend Madeline Usher, after receiving word that she is dying. Once arriving in Ruritania, they find a nightmare of mushrooms and possessed wildlife around a dark, pulsing lake. Madeline is prone to sleepwalking and sleeptalking in strange voices, and her brother Roderick seems consumed with some kind of nervous malady. Alex needs to unravel the secrets of the House of Usher with the help of their new friends–British mycologist, Eugenia Potter and American doctor, James Denton–before they all are consumed.
I was excited to see that Avi Roque was the narrator here, as I loved their reading of Cemetery Boys.
The cover of this book is amazing and gives you a good feel for what you’re about to read. I’m a big fan of Kingfisher’s brand of horror, and they excel at descriptions of creepy and ominous things. I noted this in the content warnings below, but there’s a LOT of body horror in here, so head’s up if that’s not your thing. There was one moment where I had a full body shudder.
Alex’s culture (they are from Gallacia) is very interesting! In their language, there are a ton of different pronouns, including one for rocks and one for god. I really enjoyed the explanation of these pronouns, and how the genderless pronoun sworn soldiers use came about due to bureaucracy. Alex still chooses to use said genderless pronouns even though they are now retired from the army. Alex themself does not seem to be directly referred to as “they/them” but they appear to be a nonbinary character on the surface level. There are mentions of having a “military haircut” and that they “no longer bind [their] breasts.”
Side characters in here are great. Alex’s horse, Hob, steals the scene a few times as he’s quite opinionated. I also really enjoyed Alex’s batman, Angus. Eugenia Potter is quite lovely, and I wish she was my friend.
Tropes in this book include: retelling (“The Fall of the House of Usher”)
CW: body horror, creepy fungus, possessed wildlife, animal death
Special thanks to Macmillan Audio, Tor/Forge, Tor Nightfire, and NetGalley for providing an audio galley of this book for me to review. All opinions contained herein are my own.
What Moves the Dead releases today on Tuesday, July 12th, 2022.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars