Cover Image: What Moves the Dead

What Moves the Dead

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Member Reviews

I can truthfully say that this retelling of The House of Usher is one of the creepiest, most unsettling books I've ever read.  I loved this book, could not put it down, and now I'm hoping I never see a rabbit staring at me.  Or a pulsing lake.  The setting is on the moors in Ruritania (a fictional country somewhere in Europe). 
Alex Easton, a soldier, has received word that a childhood friend is dying and travels as fast as he can to the House of Usher.  When he arrives, Alex finds that Roderick and Madeline are much changed from the last time they were together.  Both are very pale and frail, but Madeline is much worse.  They have an American doctor also staying with them, and he is baffled by Madeline's condition.  The whole house is unhealthy - damp with fungus growing everywhere, even the carpets.  The environment outside is no better. Madeline is also walking and talking in her sleep, but she doesn't sound like herself.  

I loved the characters in this book.  Alex Easton was born a woman and joined the military in his country of Gallacia as a sworn soldier, which means that he is treated like a man and also dresses like every other soldier.  Because of that, I have referred to Alex as he/him because his country's language for gender is complicated.  His horse Hob has a mind of his own and his own way of expressing his opinions.  Another favorite character is an older English woman staying near the House of Usher who - fortunately for Alex - has a passion for studying molds and fungus.

My thanks to the publisher Tor Nightfire and NetGalley for an advance reading copy.  It was a pleasure to read and review this book.
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T. Kingfisher has done it. She’s written a book that covers multiple genres I don’t prefer: gothic horror, fantasy, retellings of classics, and shades of sci-fi and in one short, clever novella made me thoroughly enjoy all of them. I think only Catriona Ward has obliterated my genre boundaries as efficiently.

In this retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Fall of the House of Usher”, our central protagonist, Alex Easton, is a non-binary lieutenant in the fictional Gallacian army who’s come to small, rural Ruravia to help their dying childhood friend, Madeline Usher, at her brother Roderick’s behest.

(Since the MC is non-binary, I will use they/them pronouns when referring to them.) 

Alarmed by the decayed and untimely aged appearance of the Usher siblings, Easton can make little sense of their rapidly declining conditions.  Equally bizarre: What explains the unsettling behavior of those staring white hares that seem to have proliferated in the area, and what is going on with the cold, dark tarn (lake) and the abundance of fungi?

With the help of Roderick’s friend and fellow houseguest, American doctor, James Denton, and Easton’s new acquaintance, quirky British mycologist, Eugenia Potter, will they be able to protect the Ushers or themselves from the menace of death that seems to be closing in?

Kingfisher brings the Usher house and surrounding grounds alive in the most deliciously creepy, ominous way, making everything, animate or inanimate equally suspect. The threat feels all-encompassing, and you can sympathize with Roderick’s paranoia and jumpiness. Easton is a strong, intelligent MC, and it was fun to watch them puzzle through the mystery with Denton and Ms. Potter, who I have to say was my favorite character, alongside Easton’s opinionated horse, Hob.

It’s not necessary to have read Poe’s original work to enjoy this. In fact, in some ways it might be better to let this version speak for itself. I read the original after this, and it was fun to see in hindsight how Kingfisher tweaked and added her own imagination to the bones of Poe’s story. It’s my first book of hers, but it won’t be my last. She’s a wonderful, imaginative, funny writer!

A few notes:

Fictional Gallacia has a whole set of pronouns “ta/tan”, “ka/kan”, “va/van”, etc. that are explained and widely used, so that takes a little getting used to.

Easton has a pretty low opinion of Americans, so there are not infrequent humorous jabs taken at Denton.  You’ll either find it funny or you’ll be put off by it. I chose to see the humor.

There are a couple gruesome scenes involving hares.  It’s not gratuitous or malicious, and it makes sense within the story, but it may be upsetting for some readers.

The author’s note is VERY important! Don’t skip it, but wait until you’ve read this book first.  The book will inevitably get compared to another well-known book with similar themes, which I won’t name for spoiler reasons, but Kingfisher addresses that issue. 


Thanks to Macmillan-Tor/Forge, Tor Nightfire, NetGalley and author T. Kingfisher for this digital ARC to honestly review. It will be published on July 12, 2022.
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This is a really fun and creepy twist on edgar allens poes short story The fall of house Usher. So obviously it takes place in a scary manor house, love that setting for a horror, really can’t go wrong with it. The plot is actually incredibly similar to Mexican Gothic but with much more humor sprinkled in.. We follow Easton who is a soldier and he gets a called from his friend saying she needs help after becoming ill so he goes to visit her. He soon realizes the ancient manor she is staying at is very sinister. the sickness she has is strange, the house is full of fungi, and even the rabbits around the countryside are all deformed and twisted. It’s absolutely horrifying at times. I love the setup for these kinds of horrifying stories so I recommend trying it out!
Full review to come on YouTube.
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Thank you Netgalley and Macmillan Tor/Forge publishing for this advance reader copy in exchange for my honest review.

This book was okay. It was your typical 'The Fall of the House of Usher'retelling and offered nothing new or original. The prose was very flowery, written in a style that emulates that of Poe. The writing was fantastic. The descriptions of the affected creatures were phenomenal. It was a good gothic horror. It definitely didn't add anything new to the genre, but it was extremely well written.

I'd give this 3 stars. It was well written and very poetic, but it wasn't anything original.
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Gothic and atmospheric, WHAT MOVES THE DEAD is the prefect book to read in the autumn, curled up in front of a roaring fire with a mug of tea.  It’s fabulously written, with well-timed comic relief via the narrator’s wit and sarcasm, and dynamic characters who leap off the page. Even the manor house and the lake were a formidable presence throughout the book. 

There were a few times when WHAT MOVES THE DEAD gave me MEXICAN GOTHIC  vibes, and then I read the author’s note at the back of the book and came to understand why :)

If you’re a fan of gothic horror, Edgar Allen Poe, creative villains, and retellings with a twist, then you will love this book! 

I received a free e-ARC of this book via @NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Book: What Moves The Dead
Author: T. Kingfisher 

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.

Review: This was an eerie retelling of, The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe. This was a short read that really packed a punch. I loved that the narrator was non-binary. The creepy atmospheric setting and the touch of humor made this a book that I will definitely be rereading in the future.
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What Moves the Dead is a retelling of The Fall of the House of Usher.

The author sets the foundation for the tone, and some reveals from page one. A sense of dread follows you as you meet new characters and as the main character, Alex Easton, uncovers new information. It has a small cast of characters, each as mysterious as the last.

As short as this book is, the characters feel fleshed out, except for Madeline, but there’s a reason for that.

This book was disturbing, but I could not put it down! If you like horror with nature elements, pick this one up!
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A magnificently queer reimagining of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall Of The House Of Usher,” What Moves The Dead features all the key elements of the original source material: The two remaining Ushers, Roderick and Madeline; the house, formerly grand but now falling into decay; the illness, the death, and the mystery surrounding them both; the tarn, and its inexplicable nighttime glow; and, of course, the mushrooms.

Oh, the mushrooms.

But Kingfisher takes all of these elements and spins them out, pulling and twisting the threads — the mycelia, if you will — to create something new, exploring different themes

This one is not just about the way a family can destroy itself, but also about the way inherited secrets can fester, and grow, and become one’s undoing — but also about how we don’t have to let those secrets take us down with them, and what we can DO about them instead.

What Moves The Dead is, dare I say, hopeful — something Poe, although many things, never, ever is.

Also, I would like to petition to make "mushroom horror" a thing. Between What Moves The Dead and Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic, it has become very, very clear that fungus is HORRIFYING.
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What Moves the Dead is a carefully woven trap that ensnared me in its center, tugging me under before I even had a chance to scream.

Nothing here is quite what it seems.

T. Kingfisher is a master of atmosphere and setting. By the end of this story, I wished for a hazmat suit. I worried I’d eaten the mushrooms and the whole experience was a weird hallucination.

What just happened?!

I loved the depth and complexities of the characters, the way we eased into the eeriness, and the total immersion.

What Moves the Dead is a retelling of Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher, but you don’t need to be familiar with Poe’s story to enjoy this one.
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A quick easy read...if you enjoyed Mexican Gothic you will probably enjoy this as well. A retelling of Fall of the House of Usher with a bit of a twist.
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Just finished this one and idk how to even rate this because it’s not my thing but also well done if it is your thing. Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe retelling. I’m not a fan of stories set in the 1800s nor am I fan of the old English and some of the words used that make zero sense to me and I really really could have done without reading a book about fungus while having a super rare Candida issue that Google doesn’t even know about but with that being said……well done for what it was. 3 stars lol 

Thank you NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review
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This is not a spoiler free review- read at your own peril!

In many ways, What Moves the Dead is a fairly straightforward adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher," but this certainly isn't a negative or a slight towards it. A good adaptation both recognizes the inherent qualities of the original and improves upon it, both of which T. Kingfisher manages to do with real skill. 

Fairly obviously, the story is expanded significantly from its original short length into a comfortable novella (or even novel) amount of pages. Kingfisher does so by fleshing out the world and the characters; at no point does the work feel bloated or overdone. Instead, it feels like a natural expansion, what the reader was missing or didn't get from Poe's original text. The nameless narrator suddenly has one- Easton- and a personality as well. They have a history, a point of origin, and even special pronouns. 

World building necessitated Kingfisher creating her own country for the book, one that's vaguely central European and has a long history of war. It's also one that is more permissive than its other cultural counterparts, one in which women can serve in the military and earn their own title and gender- one in which gender is a far more loosely designated subject than it is for the Americans or the British also mentioned in the text. This little twist modernizes the story in a way that feels refreshing and unforced, something for the reader who might feel daunted by Poe's rather dated ideas. 

The house is set in, if possible, an even more grim setting than the original Usher mansion, one that is eternally gray and coated in fungi. Fungi play a large role in the text, a significant pivot from the original but also one that seems delightfully macabre. It's reminiscent of Silvia Grace-Moreno's Mexican Gothic without feeling like the same story (though they both share an inspiration point.) 

The real strength of Kingfisher's work are the characters. Poe's were somewhat one-dimensional; here we have a cast that are all unique and have their own strengths and weaknesses, who react to the environment in real ways as they try and solve what has caused a mysterious illness. 

This made a perfect read even on a warm summer's day- I would very much recommend it to all that are interested in horror that manages to be both classic and modern at once.
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If you’re a fan of Edgar Allan Poe and gothic horror don’t miss out on this novella. This short story packs a punch and encapsulates the gothic and creepy atmosphere of Poe’s original story.
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𝔸𝕦𝕕𝕚𝕠𝕓𝕠𝕠𝕜/𝔹𝕠𝕠𝕜 ℝ𝕖𝕧𝕚𝕖𝕨

What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher
Pub date: July 12, 2022
Narrator: Avi Rogue
Duration: 5H 11M

5 fabulous stars for this creative take on Poe’s 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘍𝘢𝘭𝘭 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘏𝘰𝘶𝘴𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘜𝘴𝘩𝘦𝘳! What an absolute delightful terror of a story! I was held in thrall for the entire 5+ hours I listened. Bravo, Kingfisher, bravo!!!! 

When retired Lieutenant Alex Easton arrives at the House of Usher at the behest of her childhood friend, Madeline Usher, she is shocked not only by the dilapidated conditions of the mansion but by the appearance of her friend and her brother, Roderick. It’s obvious that Madeline is suffering from an illness that is draining the life out of her. 

While at the home, she meets Denton, an American doctor who’s there to treat Madeline’s condition but he confesses he has no idea what ails her. The longer that Alex stays, the stranger things get, starting with the Hare’s in the area that behave strangely and the mysterious lights that appear in the tarn (lake). With the help of her batman (like a squire?) Angus and Denton, will they get to the bottom of what’s plaguing the House of Usher?

The characters are fantastic and it didn’t take long for me to become invested in them, the plot is insidious and sinister, slowly creating a tense gloomy atmosphere right to the end. In true Kingfisher fashion, this story is not without comedic relief and I loved that she included Hob, the horse, as a character because, c’mon, Hob is amazing! 

This is narrated by the amazing Avi Rogue, one of my favorites and a phenomenal narrator! Their voice is unique and affecting, drawing me in to the story with a sultry tone and changing nuances seamlessly. 

My thanks to @MacMillan.Audio for this gifted ALC and to @TorNighfire for this gifted DRC.
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Alex Easton is a retired soldier and moves to their childhood friend’s home. Their friend, Madeline Usher is not well. When Alex visits they wonders if there is a secret to the Usher house that may be affecting Madeline and others.

I think I would have enjoyed this even more if I was more familiar with the Fall of the House of the Usher. Poe fans are certainly going to love this one. It’s got a deep, dark ambiance familiar to Poe, but a modern feel as well. It is very creepy and you feel like you are right there in the house. This is a novella, so a short read that you will definitely read in one sitting.

“The dead don’t get up and walk around. Sometimes, however, the nearly dead do.”

What Moves the Dead comes out 7/12.
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T. Kingfisher writes luxuriously dark and mysterious stories, and What Moves the Dead is another marvelous entry in their body of work. 

A strange and twisted reimagined take on Poe's Fall of the House of Usher. As if the story could get any darker, Kingfisher weaves a bizarre tale that is like Edgar Allan Poe meets Jeff Vandermeer. It would be remiss to say more about this fascinating novella, but it is a stunning, gothic tale with loads of creeps and chills.
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A very Kingfisher addition to the canon of fungal horror. I'm not the biggest fan of Poe's Usher, mostly for the reasons that Kingfisher herself mentions in the author's notes, and I found this infinitely more compelling. The pacing felt a bit odd at times, but that may be my own fault, as I read this in intervals interspersed with long instances of Life Happening. Nonetheless, it was delightfully eerie, and I adore the cast of characters. I can't imagine them appearing again, given the nature of the novella, but I would do a lot of things to get a story or novel or what have you featuring Easton and Angus.
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5/5 stars
This was a creepy, fascinating retelling of Poe's "Fall of the House of Usher." I waited to reacquaint myself with the original Poe tale until I had finished this novella, and I'm so glad I did. Kingfisher's creativity with horror and creep is endlessly fun to read.
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T. Kingfisher’s “What Moves the Dead” was utter, gothic perfection. The book is an even better read than “The Fall of the House of Usher” by Poe. She includes more extensive character development. We come to know the Usher twins more intimately and their relationship with House’s unnamed narrator, who we learn is Alex Easton. Easton is an Gallacian Army Lieutenant who eventually collaborates on a scientific level with a former Civil War American doctor and an intelligent mycologist Eugenia Potter. 

Kingfisher builds suspense and unease with Easton and the American doctor comparing war stories including appendage amputations and PTSD experiences. 

Scenes with Madeline Usher in the crypt are much more creepy and unsettling vs Poe’s original tale. Noises, foot prints and just the simple unknowing of where everyone is located causes the reader’s mind to imagine the worst. (And oh, how we love to be fearful of what might be out there, don’t we readers?)

The basic plot of Poe’s “House of Usher” was further developed by Kingfisher. I found the plot expansion to be ingenious and interesting. While in Poe’s “House of Usher” we never know what’s going on completely; Kingfisher on the other hand gives us a unique possibility. 

Many thanks to Tor Nightfire for my E-ARC on Netgalley. I’ll be picking up a hardcover of this to add to my collection. Gothic and horror lovers please pick this up. You’ll be rewarded with a great read.
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* Thanks to Macmillan-Tor/Forge and Netgalley for an advance copy for review purposes *

I don't normally read much horror, but I have a soft spot for Edgar Allan Poe.  "The Fall of the House of Usher", with its mysteriously ill siblings and a decrepit, condemned house as the main character, captured my imagination since high school.  My interest on "What Moves the Dead" was piqued both by the disturbing cover and the reference to the sickly Madeline Usher.   This retelling of Poe's classic does not disappoint - the atmosphere is truly creepy, the explanation of their illness makes sense (T. Kingfisher is right, it is hinted at in the original!), and the main character (the narrator) is quite interesting, coming from the self deprecating and grammatically creative land of Gallacia.  The flashes of humour were much welcome among all the dread.

As T. Kingfisher points out in the acknowledgements, an eerie house and mysterious mushrooms bring to mind Silvia Moreno-Garcia's fantastic "Mexican Gothic".  While both books manage to ensure that bleach is a treasured item in our home, they are very different books.
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