Nothing But Blackened Teeth
by Cassandra Khaw
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Pub Date 19 Oct 2021 | Archive Date 15 Feb 2022
Macmillan-Tor/Forge, Tor Nightfire
Cassandra Khaw's Nothing But Blackened Teeth is a gorgeously creepy haunted house tale, steeped in Japanese folklore and full of devastating twists
A Heian-era mansion stands abandoned, its foundations resting on the bones of a bride and its walls packed with the remains of the girls sacrificed to keep her company.
It’s the perfect wedding venue for a group of thrill-seeking friends.
But a night of food, drinks, and games quickly spirals into a nightmare. For lurking in the shadows is the ghost bride with a black smile and a hungry heart.
And she gets lonely down there in the dirt.
“Brutally delicious! Khaw is a master of teasing your senses, and then terrorizing them!” —N.K. Jemisin, New York Times bestselling author of The Fifth Season
“This is a glorious poem, a slow-motion collapse leading to the inevitable haunting. It is beautiful and it is brutal and it is heartbroken. Absolutely recommended.” —Seanan McGuire, New York Times bestselling author of Every Heart a Doorway
“Imagine chucking House on Haunted Hill, Japanese folklore, Clive Barker, and Kathy Acker into a literary blender. Nothing But Blackened Teeth reads like the ghost-punk noir you never knew you needed. It's sharp, playful, and nasty as hell.” —Paul Tremblay, author of A Head Full of Ghosts and Survivor Song
“Khaw’s tale seems to come at you straight, setting up your story expectations, but then twists the knife at the last minute, leaving you reeling, but wanting more.” —Richard Kadrey, New York Times bestselling author of the Sandman Slim series
“Khaw's got a sterling premise, enduring lore, and the fresh talent to voice it.” —Josh Malerman, New York Times bestselling author of Bird Box
“Delicate and disgusting...Each page holds an image more finely drawn and disturbing than the last.” —T. Kingfisher, author of The Twisted Ones
“This book burns and crackles and slithers, its prose as beautiful and deadly as its horror. Cassandra Khaw is a master of the terrifying tale.” —Sam J Miller, Nebula-Award-winning author of Blackfish City
“Reading Cassandra Khaw is akin to watching a nightmare ballet, full of beauty and elegance, pain and fragility, and breathless terror. Nothing but Blackened Teeth is mesmerizing. Don’t miss it!” —Christopher Golden, New York Times bestselling author of Ararat and Red Hands
“Khaw is a prose wizard who has quickly become an auto-buy for me. This story of a wedding at a malevolent manor is as unexpected and delightful as her poetic approach to horror, and I loved every sharp, delicious twist of it.” —Kevin Hearne, New York Times bestselling author of the Iron Druid Chronicles
“This is Hill House for this century, this is Belasco House with people we’ve known since third grade, and it’s got a smile so wicked you might just have to grin along with it. I know I did.” —Stephen Graham Jones, author of The Only Good Indians
“Khaw is always compulsively readable. This was a wonderful haunted-house story, modern characterizations in compelling tension with a lyrically beautiful ancient Japanese residence." —Kij Johnson, winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards
“What with poisonous relationships, parasite houses, and ghost brides, Nothing But Blackened Teeth is a really bad idea for a wedding, and a really great idea for a nightmare-on-the-page. This book is so magnificently rotten it writhes with literary maggots, and deserves a place of honor among its peers in horror.” —C. S. E. Cooney, World Fantasy Award-winning author of Bone Swans: Stories
“A deft and creepy haunted house story, written in a lyrical style that heightens the disorienting, phantasmagoric nature of the tale. Nothing But Blackened Teeth is the kind of story you lose sleep over." —Brian Evenson, author of Song for the Unraveling of the World
“A glorious truffle of horror at its finest in the style of Rin Chupeco's The Suffering…Add in the ghostly residents who don't have any time for mortal nonsense, the most beautiful prose I've read this year, and the most excellent breaking of the 4th wall, and you have a masterpiece on your hands.” —Lizy Coale, Copperfish Books, FL
“Every page absolutely oozes dread….If you like books about groups of awful people getting what's coming to them, or Japanese horror, this is going to absolutely tickle your fancy.” —Elliot Soulen, Book Shop of Fort Collins, CO
"Disturbingly interesting... [The] atmosphere was heavy, suffocating almost, saturated in Japanese myth (and lots of blood!). A unique, self-aware spin on the classic haunted house trope that put me right in the mood for fall." —Leah Atlee, Bright Side Bookshop, AZ
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Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 596 members
Thanks to the publisher and author for a advance reading copy of Nothing But Blackened Teeth for review consideration. This did not influence my thoughts or opinions.
Nothing But Blackened Teeth is a bloody grin with a twist of the knife. Khaw’s prose is electric throughout and powers the reader through a delightfully disturbing haunted house tale full of terrible people receiving their just due. What a perfectly vile Halloween read.
I’ll be the first to admit: the cover is going to haunt my nightmares for months to come. As soon as I saw it pop up on NetGalley, I just knew it was going to be an auto-read for me. Not having read any of Khaw’s previous works, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I know a few readers who absolutely loved her Persons Non Grata series from Tor.com so why not jump right in.
Khaw’s prose, while intimidating at first glance, is definitely one of the more polished feeling that I’ve come across and played poetically within the confines of such a disturbing story. Every sentence was like a hammer blow to the skull, driving deeper and deeper into your psyche and breathing life into these yōkai. Simply the thought of stepping inside this mansion with the history of it, let alone spending an inebriated evening within its walls… pass, bro.
I feel like the author has started a haunted house sub-genre here that I would love to see more of. This isn’t just a run-of-the-mill haunting; it is a bloody disgusting tale where the ghosts don’t have time for your BS and you better get to the stabby stabby. It is about watching horrible human beings completely crumble under the weight of their choices AND I AM HERE FOR IT.
This is a novella where you will whisper to yourself “No way… NO FREAKING WAY” over and over and over again throughout, and probably more so once you finish. If you want a hauntingly original tale with phenomenal prose, this is a no-brainer.
Incredible. A riveting horror novella from author Cassandra Khaw, I inhaled this book in one sitting. Not only is this perfectly paced, but Nothing But Blackened Teeth is clever, imaginative, and terrifying. Khaw perfectly balances & weaves in meta, horror tropes into this & her writing pulls you into this horror home in Japan with clawed hands. I particularly appreciated Khaw's deep knowledge of Japanese folklore, which bleeds so beautifully into the page.
I cannot wait for others to read this one & am in love with the cover too - an image I terrifyingly held with me while I read.
Post incoming on https://www.instagram.com/bookedwithemma - I hope to receive a hard copy from Tor Nightfire so I can continue to rave about this one all year.
Fractured friendships, mental health concerns, how both humans and ghosts fall into old patterns of behavior even as those patterns keep them in very unhealthy places, all spiced with a terrifying dollop of this-can't-be-happening horror.
"We exited the room, the future falling into place behind us. Like a wedding veil, a mourning caul. Like froth on the lips of a bride drowning on soil."
Thank you to the publisher for giving me a free e-galley of this book in exchange for feedback.
Since I read this book in e-book form, I didn't realize how short it was until I was well into it. This was a tiny book that I finished in one sitting, right before bedtime, which is maybe not the best time, but I accept the consequences of my choices.
It was a classic haunted-house story that I can easily imagine as an upsetting movie. The settings were fantastic, and if I had to google a few Japanese things, that's good, because now I know a lot more. The web site I found said that ohaguro bettari are upsetting but not dangerous, but that didn't seem to be the case for the one in this book at all.
The writing was first-rate on a sentence level. People will read this book because they want an upsetting Japanese horror story, and they will get exactly what they want from it.
With lush and striking language, Khaw has created a novella that feels weightier than its relatively brief page count. When five estranged friends gather for a wedding ceremony in an abandoned Japanese manor rumored to be contain the bones of thousands of women--well, it's hardly a surprise when things take a turn for the worse. Khaw's rich prose is delightful, but the dread grows steadily until the moment it explodes into disgust and horror. Through her protagonists' own discussions, Khaw is aware of the traditions she is writing in, but Nothing but Blackened Teeth finds fresh life in its cultural influences as well as its ability to deliver ongoing surprises, even when you might think you know where its all headed.
Woven through with themes of mental health and relationships stretched past the breaking point, Khaw's characters face terror both fantastic and tangible. It's a book that wonders whether some things are simply inevitable, carrying its characters to the brink even as it brings the reader on a twisting ride through dark, surreal passageways perhaps better left undisturbed. This novella is a gripping achievement and well worth the time of any horror fan.
This book was so fucking scary. What an incredible piece of work. This was a terrifying horror story, truly a work of art in the genre. It twisted common horrors with new concepts that haunt you long after the page.
“I hope the house eats you.”
This is a gorgeously written story. It’s dark, edgy, and perfectly grotesque.
Our characters are so very wrong. Our house is so very wrong. And the things that may dwell within it are so very dangerously wrong.
The writing style is blade sharp. Each sentence seems to have been very carefully created in order to cut you right to the heart.
And, at its heart, it’s still a horror story. Ghostly, heartbreaking, and utterly compelling. It stays with you.
*ARC via Net Galley
Ohhh my goodness what a trip. It always amazes me how some authors are able to pack so much into such a short tale. The setting was vivid and visceral, the characters felt like people you know, and the ghost story aspect of the tale was delightfully creepy. This one is going to stick with me for sure.
This is a book of astonishing beauty and originality and horror and I loved it. A small group of friends with complicated relationships and secrets and traumas meet for the wedding of two of them in a haunted Japanese mansion, where the images of yokai like tankui and kitsune, painted on panels, follow and cluster and watch what unfolds. And what does unfold is not unexpected, but told in new language: a ghostly bride demands company. Khaw's language is poetic without losing the edge of modernity: the ghost's first words are "like a sound carried on the last ragged breath of a failing record player;" a woman's "lipstick game as sharp as a paper cut;" knee-high ferns are "like vegetal cats." Khaw captures the intersection of the magical and the eerie: "the night stretched chandeliered with fireflies" inside rooms are "ossuaries: the books suppurating flat-bodied beetles." I could go on, but really what I'm saying is: go read this book. Even if you think you are not a fan of horror, or of fantasy, or of the drama of youth, go read. This is a treat for any reader.
I don't know if I've ever read a book so quickly after being approved for it on Netgalley! I've been eager for this book ever since it was announced (granted, that was fairly recently, but we're talking serious anticipation levels here!) and it did not disappoint! It's pretty short, even for a novella, and yet there's SO much packed into these pages. I found myself purposefully slowing down while reading it (despite being riveted and just wanting to hurry and read the next page) so I could really process everything fully. Every sentence in this novella does double or triple duty. There's so much world-building, atmosphere, nuance, and backstory, much of is implied through glimpses here and there, or pointed conversations referencing past events.
There's an incredible amount of history to the book, in more sense than one. Quite obviously, the story is set in a place with the weight of age: a Heian-era mansion. Let's be clear -- I'm not going to pretend like I knew what that was before looking it up. (I wish I did! But, alas.) For those similarly uninformed, "The Heian period is the last division of classical Japanese history, running from 794 to 1185." (Yes, my source is Wikipedia. I'm only a little ashamed.) But beyond the obvious setting, the characters in the group have a weighty history of their own. The mystery of unraveling precisely the nature of their tangled relationships with one another was a big part of the story's fun.
And I've mentioned this already, but it bears mentioning again because it was just done SO well. This book is incredibly atmospheric! With a story this brief, Khaw doesn't have time to describe every little detail of setting. Instead, they give us just enough to kickstart our own imaginations. I've rarely been able to imagine any story in as vivid of detail as NBBT. I think the part I noted with the most description was the feast the characters laid out midway through the novella -- and wow am I glad that was what Khaw put their description space into! I loved the mention of so many Asian dishes I've rarely -- or never -- seen in a book. And their casual banter incorporating their varying backgrounds (the half-Japanese character asking the others what a Japanese phrase meant and them being like DUDE WE'RE CHINESE, shouldn't YOU know?) made me laugh. (I'm Chinese diaspora, and that conversation was just... spot on.)
I do want to add that I've read a few of Khaw's pieces before (short stories and novellas) and it has taken me a bit of time to get accustomed to their style, which I absolutely ADORE now. Mostly, I think they're simply too smart for me. I can't read their books quickly (the way I, admittedly, read many books) as I miss things, because everything they write is so dense with meaning and described in such original, non-cliche terms. It takes my brain longer to process their sentences than it takes for most other books. So I just want to caution anyone new to Khaw's work that this story is one to be savored, not rushed through, even though you'll be desperate to flip through the pages!
Nothing But Blackened Teeth is sharp, raw, vivid, and -- as the name suggests -- full of teeth. Highly recommended.
Huge, huge thank you to Tor Nightfire for providing a free advanced e-copy via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw is reminiscent of the Japanese Horror, Ju-on. There is an otherworldly presence that wants to take hold and not let go. The characters in Khaw’s story, much like Ju-on, find themselves in an abandoned house/ mansion that is not exactly vacant. There is something sinister still living within the building walls, a living breathing force waiting to take hold and control any who enter. This is what I love about ghost stories; you can have something that terrifies you without having to see it or know what you are experiencing. The author can show you the characters’ feelings and give off a certain vibe of the room to make you realize something is not right.
Khaw does all this with Nothing But Blackened Teeth with the house’s vibe, the visions appearing within, and the creepiness that crawls over your skin on every page you read. I couldn’t stop reading this story; I wanted more. It was almost like a drug needing another hit of horror. I am an avid horror buff and love Japanese horror, so to read a story that brings to life that entire genre with such completeness on the written page and do it so well is just pure bliss for me as a reader.
I am keeping this review as spoiler-free as possible, so I will say that if you love horror and have a love for Japanese horror, this is guaranteed to be a perfect read for you. You will not be disappointed and might have a few nightmares after reading this; I know I did.
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<p>Nothing But Blackened Teeth is a horror novella that combines haunted houses, Japanese folklore, and the break down of old friendships. I received an early review copy from the publisher through NetGalley. When a group of five friends rent an old Heian era mansion in Japan that is supposed to be haunted for two of them to get married in old conflicts between the friends cause tensions to rise and things end up not going to plan. The premise of the book pulled me in but it was the cover that convinced me that I needed to read this book.</p>
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<p>The story is told from Cat's perspective and she is their with Phillip, the only white guy in the group, fiancées Nadia and Faiz, and best friend, Lin. Its clear from the start that Cat had some short of metal health episode prior to the story that has greatly impacted her relationships with her friends and Nadia only invited her because others wanted her there. Phillip the riches of all of them helped rent this location because Nadia always wanted to be married in a haunted house and Faiz agreed to do it before their main wedding. The ghost story associated with the mansion is that a wedding was supposed to take place their but the groom died before arriving so the bride told the wedding guest to bury her alive in the foundation of the house. The bride would keep the house standing until her grooms ghost come home and every year after they would bury a new girl in the walls so the ghost won't get lonely. </p>
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<p>Everything seems to be going fine just drinking and partying until Nadia suggests that they play Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai which is translated as A Gathering of One Hundred Ghost Stories. Where everyone in a room would tell a ghost story and then extinguishing a candle and who ever could survive without flinching won the game. Cat ends up being the one to tell the last story which she tell their story of the night and mentions that the house knows that they are there and she saw a girl earlier. They go searching for the ghost and Nadia ends up disappearing and a ohaguro-bettari (a female yokai dressed as a bride) pretending to be her. They have awakened the spirits of the house. </p>
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<p>As a group they end up finding a book that tells them how to get Nadia back but Faiz and Phillip end up arguing and Faiz stabs Philip. With Phillip dead Cat suggest that they make his death count for something and complete ritual to save Nadia. They burn down the mansion to cover it up and stop anyone else making the same mistakes. The book ends with everyone having gone their seprate ways and not really being friends anymore.</p>
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<p>In many ways this is a story about how friendship fall apart told through a horror story and ghost. I loved this story but did wish I knew a little more about the groups past as I didn't completely understand how they got to this point at the start of the book. Great for horror fans or anyone intrigued by the cover. Currently, Nothing But Blackened Teeth is scheduled to be released in October 2021.</p>
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Warning: I'm about to quote an ARC, which you're not supposed to do, unless the writing is so darn perfect that any change to the final would be unforgivable:
"You know how poets say sometimes that it feels like the whole world is listening?
It was just like that.
Except with a house instead of an auditorium of academics, collars starched, textbooks like scriptures, each chapter color-coded by importance. The manor inhaled. It felt like church. Like the architecture had dulled its heartbeat so it could hear me better, the wood warping, curling around the room like it was a womb, and I was a new beginning. Dust sighed from the ceiling. Spiderwebs fell in umbilical cords, a drape of silver."
I am that house, and I am listening to the poetry of this prose. This is just one of so many paragraphs in this novella that blew me away. How did she just do that? i asked myself more than once.
The comparisons to Shirley Jackson in this novella are deserved. The main character has some of the same neurosis and fears, that feeling of being an outsider, not fully understood or content, references to pasts traumas and crisis the reader is invited to extrapolate on their own as we ride through the story insider her internal dialogue. This is a literary go-cam inside her spirit and mind as we visit this haunted house. Brilliantly haunted. It's own kind of Hell House history that would make Matheson shudder.
This story has a serious tone but with a dark humorous mix at times, self reflects on horror more than once, aware of itself. Aware that it's standing on the shoulders of giants, but about to make its own creation. It doesn't have contempt for other haunted houses, but it does dismiss them in a sense as nothing compared to 'this.. because this is real. More severe and serious and sinister and ancient. Every relationship connection is filled with ghosts. None of them is safe. Nobody is full okay with who they are and who they love, everyone concerned over past ties and connections, hurt people hurting people. Ghosts are everywhere and follow everyone, and we are all of them. Your partner is haunted, and so are you.
I loved hearing the short snippets, of non-english language which added to its mythos. It forces you to mouth words and speak a different tongue, as if the reader is performing their own incantations.
I hope this book eats you, because it ate me, and I enjoyed each crunch from its blackened teeth.
My kind of weird. It was great! The writing and the story both have something quite unique and I enjoy that a lot. Strong debut novel for Cassandra Khaw. I'm very curious to see what will come next!
TL;DR: Nothing But Blackened Teeth is a fast-paced, riveting haunted house story that I read straight through in one sitting. Five friends head into a Heian-era manor to celebrate the wedding of two of their number because of the bride's wish to be married in a haunted house. It's perfect for spooky evenings and hits bookstores October 2021.
I received a copy of Nothing But Blackened Teeth from NetGalley/Tor Nightfire in exchange for an honest review.
I picked up this book about thirty minutes to midnight, alone in bed with the lights off. I figured I'd read a few pages before bed and pick back up the next day.
Instead, I was up until about 1 a.m. inhaling this story.
The premise of this story is a delicious one: five friends -- or, "friends", perhaps -- head to a Heian-era manor to celebrate the wedding of two of their number. The bride had always dreamed of getting married in a haunted house and this one's a doozie: a woman was buried alive in the house at her request after her groom's death with the promise to wait for him. She also wanted another young woman to be sacrificed each year thereafter to keep her company.
Obviously, things go wrong. Like, really, super, very wrong.
I love so much about this book: the setting, the mythology, the brokenness of five friends who have long since outgrown each other but cling to one another because that's all they know. While I saw some reviews note that the prose is "purple" to a distracting extent, I have to disagree; the language felt natural for a young woman trying to (re-)find her place in the world. There's an air of almost obsessive observation about her: “Phillip excelled at inciting want, particularly the kind that tottered on the border of worship. Small wonder he was so inept at compassion sometimes. Every religion is a one-way relationship.” These snippets of the world around our narrator make me feel like I can see it through her eyes, which makes it all the more real.
My one wish for this story is that it had taken more room to breathe. Caveat here: I'm very much a fan of slow-burn horror/ghost stories - the kind that leave some people bored (I loved the pacing in The Haunting of Bly Manor, for example). I was riveted to the page because the book moves fast and putting it down felt unthinkable - it was like I couldn't get off the ride. But: that also meant I wasn't able to truly curl up in our narrator's head (their relationships to the others are sketched out and clearly run deep, but I would have loved to dwell on them a little more). Nor did it feel I could immerse myself fully in all the scenes before the next one came along. I loved the story enough that I was sad I had to leave it so soon.
I enthusiastically recommend this book to anyone who's looking for a haunted house story, and especially those who want to dive headfirst into spooky season. Recommended setup: curled up in bed near midnight, with just the light of some candles (maybe a hundred?) to light your way.
This amazing book is hauntingly spooky and very well done. The story is compelling, the characters feel real, and the world building atmosphere is sublime. I look forward to more by Cassandra Khaw.
I have watched quote a bit of Japanese horror films but never read one and so glad I did! One of my favorite tropes are haunted houses/mansions and this was such a dark and haunting read.
A wedding, group of friends going to this haunted mansion thinking it would be a fun way to celebrate ends up being a nightmare with a ghost bride.
Reading it at night helped set the mood and I can't wait for this to release
Thanks netgalley and NightFire for the e-arc!
Not gonna lie, I know nothing about Japanese culture and I didn't even know what an "Heian" era was, (in Japanese culture, it's the period that runs from 795 to 1185),before I started this book. Now I know and I also have learned that Cassandra Khaw is a phenomenal writer!
In a famous haunted mansion from the Heian era, a young couple, for whatever twisted reason, wants to get married. Only a few friends are invited as it's a long trip and let's face it-this kind of thing is not for everyone. All the people here have history with each other, which makes for some interesting dynamics-which takes a back seat when the supernatural action starts up. Will the happy couple be able to get married without a problem? Will any of them escape with their lives? You'll have to read this to find out!
I've long said that the novella is a perfect vehicle for a horror story. It's just long enough to introduce the characters and create feelings towards them, while short enough to keep the tension high and the scares well...scary. All of the that is the case here, and more.
The prose? The prose is purply beautiful at times, while at other times, sharp as a knife. The beauty of the mansion is hidden behind the rot and corruption that have taken over and the way that Khaw describes how that came to be is gorgeous. The imagery is vivid and bright, and I had no problems picturing any of the scenes, while at the same time the sharpness of the prose could be like a knife point. For example: "I hope the house eats you." It doesn't get much sharper than that!
I think I'm going to leave this review at what I've already written. I don't want to give any part of the story away, but I will add that Cassandra Khaw is a force to be reckoned with. I can't wait to read more of her work!
My highest recommendation!
Available October, 2021.
*Thank you to Nightfire and to NetGalley for the e-ARC in exchange for my honest review. This is it!*
A morbid tale of an ancient haunted manor, vengeful yokai, and five thrill-seeking almost-friends who rent the place out for a weekend.
The plot might sound boilerplate, but its execution is miles from it. Khaw’s writing is terse, cutting, and horrifically poetic. This story knows what it is; the narrator is self-aware of everything that’s ‘supposed to happen’ in this type of a situation, but its unavoidability adds new layers of uneasiness to the ‘this-ain’t-gonna-end-well’-o-meter.
This is a tale that has plenty of tension between its characters even without the terrifying yokai, and both story elements ramp up nicely in tandem to produce a WTF finale that horror fans will enjoy.
Five friends gather for a destination wedding in Japan, and host the pre-wedding festivities in an abandoned and haunted house. This story was full of Japanese mythology. The writing was sharp and creepy. The story is tense and haunting and I loved every page!
Five (mostly) friends gather to hold the wedding of two of their own in a haunted house. The house is a Heian-era building where a bride died waiting for her groom, and girls were regularly sacrificed to the structure so she wouldn't be alone. On the first night of their arrival, they drink, celebrate, bicker, tell ghost stories, and soon find they aren't alone. The long dead bride is watching them, and she's excited for new people to play with.
NOTHING BUT BLACKENED TEETH thrums with ghostly terror, lyrical prose, and rich, messy themes to unearth. Cassandra Khaw is a master of literary horror, giving you enough to sink a shovel in but trusting you to dig deeper, bones and all, yourself. Every single line in the story is carefully chosen. The shortest description propels such precise imagery, often of things lurking in the shadows, that this is a novella best read with all the lights on.
Part of the brilliance of NOTHING BUT BLACKENED TEETH is how it teases, tells to an extent, but doesn't give every detail. For the 5 friends, we get tastes of what their relationships and backstories are. We know Cat, the protagonist, is still recovering from a dark, suicidal period. We know several of the friends have dated or been intimate with each other (and not everyone knows who has been with who). And we know some are spiteful, some are more honest than they should be, and some less so. But we don't know all the how's and the why's; rather, Khaw shows us how they feel, how their emotions have twisted and twined around each other, as that is often more important than the details. In a way, this mirrors the story of the bride, the girls, and the mansion. We have the basics, but what's left are the bare bones and the haunting emotions, the desperation and need to poke and prod, because reactions are better than the silence.
Readers will find a stunning mix of physical horror, psychological terror, and prose as sharp as the smile of a ghost bride.
I saw this cover and immediately hunted down an early copy of this book. Suffice to say the story more than lives up to the cover! This was everything I could possibly want in a haunted house story, and I LOVE a horror novel that's self-aware like this one is. Add in amazing characters and wrap it up in GORGEOUS lyrical writing and you have one of my favorite books of 2021!
I loved everything about this book, from the rich folklore and Japanese mythology to the gruesome chaos that ensues.
This book was very well written! I’m not one to get scared reading books but this one had me about to fight my ice maker at 2am!
That was an amazing tale! Loved the cover; super creepy! Nothing to like about any of the characters, so I didn't mind the comeuppance at the end. Very fitting. Ghost stories are so wonderful when they have a basis in folklore. The back story of the buried alive bride was just awesome! Really scary short story! Who doesn't love a scary story? This one wasn't very long, but boy did it pack in the fright! Kudos Cassandra Khaw!
This is the first book I've read by Cassandra Khaw, and it will not be the last. I enjoyed the premise and the characters, and the ghost story seemed original. It was scary in the way many ghost stories are not.
This - a classic ghost story with (intentional) slasher film vibes - gave me my first nightmare in ages. The storyline at it's core may be formulaic, but the details Khaw builds upon it are what makes it truly terrifying, in the best way. Recommend to all fans of the horror genre!
I loved it. I straight up loved it. It was creepy and ominous and I had to put the book down a few times to root myself in reality before I could pick it up again. Did I mention that I loved it? Because I LOVED IT.
TW: gore, body horror
Maybe it’s odd to say that this novella was a wonderful treat given its content, but let’s be honest here. It was a wonderful treat. The writing was gorgeous and I truly felt like I was in the story. The beginning confusion of the dynamics of the friend group slowly being unraveled as the story gets darker and darker was easily my favorite part. I can’t even begin to explain how I felt. And then the ending was just the cherry on top. Just the right amount of shock and blood. Amazing.
Nothing But Blackened Teeth is a fantastic, phantasmagorical story. It’s the perfect kind of haunted house story; terrible people meet in a gorgeous house that is steeped in a bloodstained history. It won’t take long to read, but the imagery and dread will stay with you long after you finish the book. Khaw can paint a picture with her writing like few other authors can, with a mix of purple prose and sharp sentences crafting the perfect nightmare experience. I’ve already been recommending the book to people who enjoy horror, and I look forward to reading it again when it’s in print.
This book! If you like horror, make sure to add Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw to your TBR pile. Deliciously horrific, this book follows a group of friends who decide to celebrate another's upcoming wedding by renting out an abandoned Heian era mansion in Japan with a sick ghost story... what could go wrong? The writing in this book is descriptive, vivid and GORY. Khaw breaks the tension and paces the story with humor. The characters are so sharp and quick witted, its easy to root for them. Posessions, betrayals and more all wrapped in beautifully poetic writing - - make sure to check this one out!
I adored this book from the start. A group of 5 friends, who all really hate each other, are vacationing in Japan, in an ancient haunted mansion. The characters are Cat, Phillip, Faiz, Nadia and Lin. They are there because it is Nadia’s dream to get married at a haunted house. This turns out to be a bad idea.
I enjoyed the shorter length. The creepiness started almost immediately and escalated quickly. The ending was nicely gory. I loved the Japanese setting, but felt that many Japanese words were used that I had no idea what they were. I would have gotten more from the story if there had been explanations.
Looking for a quick read about a haunted house? This novella is just what you need as we count down towards Halloween. The imagery is wonderfully creepy and, thanks to a well-timed bump on the roof of my own house, it managed to make me jump out of my own skin in the middle of a sunny afternoon.
What better wedding surprise could there be than a late night visit to a Heian-era mansion, built on the bones of a bride and the girls sacrificed over the years to keep her company? This must be the third book I've read in recent months about houses built on bones, but in this one it works. The author does a fantastic job of making you feel how cold and lonely the bride is down in the dirt. She uses a lot of Japanese terms and some of them aren't easy to figure out through context clues. I know I was missing details because I wouldn't put the book down long enough to look everything up, but I was okay with that.
Nothing But Blackened Teeth - Cassandra Khaw - 5/5
Thank you to Macmillan-Tor/Forge and Netgalley for the ARC for review.
Nothing But Blackened Teeth is a haunted house story that is so beautifully written it set my teeth on edge. I absolutely adored every moment of this gorgeous novella. I so infrequently come across a horror story that makes me gasp at the imagery, not because it’s grim, but because it’s so damn beautiful.
Khaw is a masterful writer. The characters in the novel are just as complex as her folklore. The real horror comes from their relationships, how they interact with one another. It is layered and delicious, and I ate the whole thing up in one sitting and gave it a giant chef’s kiss.
I can’t wait to see what comes next from this author.
A group of friends stay at a Heian-era haunted mansion for a wedding. It immediately beomes clear that the friends have drifted apart and civility is barely holding their disdain in a few of these relationships. The writing in this was gorgeous and it seemed like every sentence was so poetic and purposeful. The imagery was effectively scary, a great mix of Japanese folklore with haunted house elements. Every sentence drips gorgeous, brutal prose. The writing in this book was so strong and beautifully eerie.
Bite-size horror that keeps you on edge from start to finish!
This novella was such an awesome trip. I learned a lot about Japanese folklore — I definitely had to google some of the terms as I read, but I didn’t feel it took away from the experience. If anything, I’m more excited to re-read this one, and I’m interested in reading more from Cassandra Khaw. This was also a very diverse and inclusive story that didn’t feel didactic and the plot didn’t hinge upon race or sexual orientation. Khan’s humour was well placed, and I enjoyed how self-aware the characters were of horror tropes.
I really thought this would end up being a 5 star read, but I did find that the climax had a bit too much of a plateau. This is still an incredible story and totally worth the read! I can’t wait to pick up a hard copy in October! (The cover art is STUNNING.)
Huge thanks to Tor/Forge and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
This novel is short, but deliciously creepy. I enjoyed the elements of Japanese folklore, but was surprised by how much was left unanswered in the end.
This literally gave me nightmares.
If you're looking for something that will make you question if the shadows make sounds and if you're sane or not, this is perfect. I screamed, and I felt.
This was good, and SPOOKY.
Cat's friend Phillip rents a Japanese mansion for the wedding of his ex and his friend for their wedding. Nadia, the bride, wants to marry in a haunted house. Will the ghost let them? The story is one of Japanese mythology. I loved the story but, oh my, was it wordy. Descriptions of places and things in books are usually welcome but in this novella it's overdone so often that it takes away from the story. It would have been a 5 star book otherwise. But all in all, I really did like the storyline. It was spooky like a good haunted house story should be. I'm very happy that I was able to read it.
Well this novella certainly packs a punch! I know it's a bit early to review a book that comes out in October, but I couldn't resist after reading the description.
"Nothing But Blackened Teeth" was fun, fresh, & spooky, this will be the perfect read for anyone looking for a quick thrill! I really enjoyed all of the Japanese folklore elements present here - I made sure to look everything up, something that helped enhance the way I was picturing the events in the novella. The ohaguro bettari was truly a frightening presence & I just loved how creepy the atmosphere was the entire way through. Also, huge shoutout for queer rep here - a bisexual Chinese female lead, we need more of this in horror! My one critique is that this is a bit wordy at times - there's a ton of metaphors & some of them didn't really work well for me, but the story & pacing were so strong it didn't really bother me much.
I'll be revisiting this review closer to pub day, but I'd highly encourage everyone to put this on their radar - this will be perfect come October! Thank you so much to Cassandra Khaw, NetGalley, & Tor Nightfire for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
“This is the problem with horror movies: Everyone knows what’s coming next but actions have momentum, every decision an equal and justified reaction. Just because you know you should, doesn’t mean that you can, stop.”
An ancient house from the Heian era, haunted by the walled-up corpses of a hundred brides. An expensive trip—a wedding gift—with plenty of booze, food, and ghost stories to tell. A thrill-seeking couple who wants to get married in that very house, surrounded by their closest friends. What could go wrong?
If Nothing but Blackened Teeth is on your radar, you are in for a ride. Cassandra Khaw, author of Hammers on Bone and These Deathless Bones, brings us this brilliant novella full of psychological horror, guts, and teeth. Thoroughly immersed in Japanese folklore, Nothing but Blackened Teeth is not only a ghost story, but also a fascinatingly illustrative dive into the Japanese literary tradition of the kaidan, as well as its myths, legends, and supernatural spirits. Following the ancient ritual of the Hyakumonogatari Kaidan, where samurais lit a hundred candles for a hundred ghost stories, Nothing but Blackened Teeth combines a hundred forms of horror in its 128 pages. Body horror, psychological horror, gore, lore, monsters, ghosts, and haunted houses, this is an absolute funhouse for the horror junkies.
A remarkable aspect of this novella is that its cultural references are not watered down to fit into the constrains of Western horror. This is magnificently unapologetic and offers the minimal explanation of terms and cultural references, so there is a gorgeous array of Japanese imagery and folklore for the unknowing reader to research and discover. Some allusions, such as the kitsune, the kappa or the tengu—the array of yōkai or malicious spirits that observe the protagonists every move—are easier to locate. Others, like the Ohaguro Bettari, are for some to uncover.
This also makes great use of the setting to create an oppressing, sinister atmosphere. The Henian house where the set of characters are meant to spend the night becomes almost a sentient entity with the passing of time. As our protagonists start to lose their sanity, we can observe how the house begins to breathe and stare and grow sharp, organic limbs to trick their minds and take a bite from their deepest fears and insecurities. But who is the ultimate orchestrator of such a nightmare? The house itself, the Ohaguro Bettari, or the secret feelings and grudges the five friends keep from each other?
All of these elements are tied up together by a gorgeous writing style that almost turns prose into poetry. Wielding the most colourful metaphors and elevated words, Khaw creates a gorgeous contrast between the daintiness of her narration and the raw harshness of the direction the plot takes. But the author doesn’t limit her prose to it, she also grabs the bull by the horns and uses the most predictable tropes of the horror genre to her advantage. In a twisted form of foreshadowing, constant horror film meta-references made by the characters themselves serve as red herrings that lead the reader on until it is too late. And this technique follows through until the climax of the story, where her wonderfully diverse cast of characters allows her to subvert one of the most common tropes of the genre—one that we will not mention to avoid major spoilers—and denounce the mistreatment of non-white characters in horror.
Even if short, Nothing but Blackened Teeth is feast for the senses. Deeply enriching, twisted, and deliciously dark, the upcoming novella is definitely worth the read. Let the Ohaguro Bettari and her army of yōkai sink their teeth into you, and try and see whether you’d be able to escape the Heian mansion alive. The adrenaline rush is definitely worth the attempt.
Nothing But Blackened Teeth is a horror novella about five friends (or should I say “friends”) that have decided that a crumbling heian era Japanese mansion is the perfect location for a wedding venue. Naturally nothing creepy happens and it all goes off without a hitch. Just kidding.
This novella was definitely one of my most anticipated reads for 2021. I’m fascinated by the heian era, all the way down to the tradition of teeth-blackening as mentioned in the title. I also love a good story of obnoxious people behaving obnoxiously in dire circumstances. This was definitely set up to be a winner.
And for the most part it delivered! This book is teeming with atmosphere. I could see so many of its tableaus perfectly clearly. This amazed me because I’m not usually someone who actually pictures what I’m reading. With this one I could feel candles flickering over mirrors and smell ancient books rotting into nothing. There’s definitely one particular moment I’ll probably be seeing in my nightmares tonight.
The length of this book always works in favor of its success. The writing will probably be called purple and I could see this style wearing out its welcome in a full-length novel. Here, though, I think it works. For me it was like drowning in the horror and ambience before it released me just in the nick of time. You might be disappointed if you read this for characterization or relationships. If you read this for the atmosphere, though, you’ll likely be satisfied.
A very short novella about a Japanese Haunted House. I thought this book was very creepy and eerie. When I started reading I was waiting to try to figure out how the folklore was going to come into play. I think I would have appreciated the Japanese folklore more if I had some background info on the lore itself. However, without knowing the lore I still found the take chilling. It will be a great read for horror fans this spooky season.
Five friends plan a trip to Japan for the sole purpose of participating in an exclusive wedding ceremony. After renting a mansion with a dark history involving sacred ghosts and unbridled offerings, the stage is set, and preparations begin not only for the celebration itself, but also for an exploratory alternate ritual.
This experimentation will test superstition against reality and guide the group of friends to a destination that will change their lives forever.
In Nothing But Blackened Teeth, Cassandra Khaw pens a haunted mansion story teeming with youthful compulsions that culminates into a place of damnation. These obsessive urges become an ominous component that swirls within each chapter of the book. Introductions to five friends and how their relationships correlate with each other not only takes center stage, but quickly becomes a crucial portion of the storyline. The underlying theme of true love contorts to the point of being beyond ordinary, and the morbid historical significance surrounding these characters drives the story toward an eagerly anticipated conclusion.
The cornerstone of Nothing But Blackened Teeth is a proposed wedding that embraces spectral images lurking from behind every corner. Any such descriptive features of dark haired possessions, mouth blotted murkiness, and smudge stained eyes stand out as literary intense visions of terror. The author effectively surrounds the story with gruesome practices associated with hitobashira. These customs and rituals carry a sense of melancholy that are filled with trepidation. Khaw’s literary talent of developing ideas around a cultural way of life while simultaneously calling up the dead are written fluently. This, among additional references generate enough unsettling paranormal experiences that it becomes hard to set such a book down.
Sprinkling just enough wit and humor to round out the creepy supernatural vibe adds sufficient relaxation for the reader, only to be unprepared for what’s emanating from the shadows. In addition, the book cover art is beautiful and sets the tone for what’s to come. This creative eye candy begs to be taken from the bookstore shelves and read. From the title to its content, Nothing But Blackened Teeth is one heck of a creepy read.
Final piece of advice: Take heed when approaching an ohaguro-bettari. It may look like a beautiful woman wearing her bridal gown, but upon further inspection you may be horrified to discover… nothing but blackened teeth. God willing, it won’t follow you home.
(originally posted at mysteryandsuspense.com)
(visit me at mysteryandsuspense.com)
This novella may be short but it packs a punch that lingers for days. This book is rich in culture and Japanese culture and mythology. A haunted house story that shines a light on some of the worst human traits. If you like stories that tie up loose ends and answer all your questions, this is not the book for you. At the end, you are left reeling and wondering what just happened. I had to let this book settle before I could truly get a grasp on my thoughts for a review. The characters lack a bit in terms of development but I don’t really think this book is about the characters. It’s about the house.
As a seasoned horror reader, I usually explore new authors through anthologies. I am very grateful to have Netgalley as a platform to not only read titles, but to use it to curate the library collection as well.
This book could have been about anything else and I would still have read it. I have never read anything by Cassandra Khaw and the language Khaw uses in this book elevates it to a level that I was not expecting. My Kindle version is covered with highlights and notes. The best part for me is that it gave me a chance to dive into a mythology I wasn't as familiar with so I had an opportunity to learn something new. I did not, however, need to be well versed in it to enjoy the novel.
You start thinking you are going to read a classic haunted house/celebration gone wrong horror novel and you get so much more. Terrifying and beautiful. I will certainly be rereading it over and over again.
This was a very creepy and unique horror novella. While I wasn't outright scared, there was something about the slowly encroaching and escalating horror that had me reading this with my lights on.
First of all, this cover art is AMAZING. Absolutely perfect for this creepy short story. I’m obsessed with everything dark and scary, so when I saw this cover and then read this description, I was hooked. And Cassandra Khaw did not disappoint! Short and straightforward while still managing to be flowery in her language, an interesting and under utilized setting, and a complex cast of characters that were very well fleshed out for the amount of pages. Absolutely loved it and will buy this when it comes out!
Disclaimer: This review is going to be a mumbo-jumbo of whatever is coming to my mind at the moment because I haven't written one in... a long time and I finished this book five seconds ago.
In all honesty, the premise of this story is ridiculous to me. Maybe it's my cowardice or my experience with the paranormal or the numerous warnings of my parents and grandparents concerning the paranormal speaking, but why would anyone want to get married in a haunted mansion? Why would anyone even want to enter one? At this point, sweetheart, you are literally courting death and I am not the one who's gonna feel sorry for you when it happens.
And that is how I started this story rooting for none of the characters. And then as it progressed, I admit, I grew mildly invested in two of them; I really wanted to know what had transpired between them because it seemed there was a lot to unpack there and I wished they would be saved from the horror ending somehow.
Speaking of 'the horror', it was very well written with just the right descriptions and comparisons to set the creepiness in the atmosphere, in the very walls of the house, making it seem like the house was an entity by itself. And that really came through because my mind decided to give me images and sensations the narrator was experiencing as I lay in bed reading this. I was so terrified of my own room I had to stop reading and distract myself with funny videos until 2 am.
Creepiness aside, the mansion came across as gorgeous and I intend to go ahead and look up the Heian period to get a clearer idea of what things looked like before I reread this book. And also because it sounds like a very interesting period, of course.
The ending, I have to say, was not what I had expected but at the same time, truly, more horrifying than ghosts and such, is what people are capable of doing to other people. That is the most jarring part of horror stories in my opinion because, on one hand, you have this... force, that is obviously more powerful than you, and on the other hand, you have people who you think are just like you, but who could cause just as much harm, be it through utter stupidity or by sheer want of it.
Loved the visceral descriptions peppered throughout this seductively disturbing novella. Great sense of character depth, with bits and pieces of cultural relevance. Honestly, not one to miss!
Interesting book. I don't usually read horror, but the premise sounded interesting so I gave it a go. I like the author and the story was well done.
This was a bone-chilling and addictive story. It was written beautifully and intricately, with special philosophical attention to ghosts that I've never encountered in such lushness before. Personally, it read as a quite unique crossroads between a gorgeous, haunting ghost thriller like Crimson Peak and insightful, fable-like Japanese folklore. However, I felt that there were times where the prose was given more attention than the plot. While some stories are more prose driven than plot driven, and vice versa, it still contributed to making the reading of this story more touch and go for me.
This one is not for the faint of heart! I had a bit of difficulty getting through this one-not because it was slow, which is the typical reason, but because it was so scary it gave me the after dark chills!
This book was full of interesting detail and can be summed up in just two words-delightfully nasty.
To say much more would be to say too much, so I’ll just say this—worth the read. 4 stars! ⭐️
Who doesn’t want to have a destination wedding at a mysterious haunted mansion? I, for one, can’t see how that could go wrong at all… *said with extreme sarcasm*
We see this short story, through the eyes of Cat who is battling demons of her own and who, like me, isn’t sure this is the best place to hold a wedding.
As we meet the characters through Cat’s POV it’s hard to like any of them, as they all have a messy and complicated history with each other. Like all friend groups, there seem to be certain friendships that are stronger than others, some “friendships” that only exist for the sake of other friendships, and plenty of secrets among them.
Through the first half of the story, I felt like it was really easy to read and understand, I was fully able to immerse myself in the story like I was a sixth friend along for the ride. Once we started getting to the spookier portion though, I found myself a bit disconnected. The writing went from easy to read, to throw in a lot of big words whose meanings I had to assume since I was trying to stay engaged and didn’t want to whip out a dictionary for every other word. The wording seemed quite poetic and gruesome but didn’t feel like it fit with the earlier writing.
Due to the writing in the latter half, I feel like I wasn’t as scared as I could have been, had the writing been a little simpler. Was I creeped out? For sure! I just would have loved to have been completely immersed in the story as it fully unfolded. There was so much detail thrown in in such a small amount of time and described with unfamiliar words, that had me struggling to fully grasp the entirety of the situation they were facing.
For me, I have to start a movie from the beginning or I’m unable to connect with it fully. That’s kind of what the second half of this story felt like…like I’d walked into the room halfway through a movie…it looked great and I kept watching but I don’t feel like I fully understood what was going on.
All that being said…I still enjoyed the overall idea and concept of this story and will reread it to see if I pick up more than I did the first read-through.
***Spoiler like thoughts***
Now that I’m thinking about it, when the writing did, seemingly drastically, change it was at a point in the story when all the other characters were showing signs of being off, laughing maniacally, self-harm, saying things that didn’t make sense. Was the writing so vastly different because the spirits were affecting Cat in a way that was different from her friends? Was in fact the change in the writing, the cue to tell us that the spirits were also messing with Cat’s mind? If so this adds an entire other level of depth that I hadn’t considered and am now intrigued by.
This book is described as a 'grotesquely creepy haunted house tale' and honestly that is the perfect description for this book. As you read you follow Cat and a group of friends into a house that doesn't just have skeletons in the closet, but in the walls as well.
Right off the bat you can tell you're not being told everything, that as the tale goes on you're going to have to peel away the untruths to find the secrets hidden away beneath the surface and untangle the threads that weave this group of characters together. Another character in this book is the house itself, it is a breathing and watching spector, that holds its secrets close and watches with bulging eyes.
While this is a much more lyrically and metaphorically described book than I'm used to, it really helped immerse you into the story. I definitely had to go back read a few sentences over to really understand what was going on. And, as has been suggested by other reviewers, this is definitely not a book to rush through. It's a book that will make you flinch from its teeth, but still have you coming back for more.
This novella was such a wild journey. The writing style was at once beautiful and overwhelming and confusing. There was detail that evoked every sense just oozing from every sentence. It was horrifying and creepy. I felt invigorated by it.
Honestly I almost stopped reading after the first page. The style of the prose was so unusual and a bit difficult to read it was like being waterboarded by words. But as I got I to it I found myself unable to put it down.
Nothing but Blackened Teeth is a rare kind of horror novella. It’s a luxurious thing, keening and crackling with regret, haunting, and eventual viscera. From the start of the story—as we are introduced to our principal characters—we can see the writing on the wall. There is Cat, a woman who is reluctantly attending the destination wedding between her best friend Faiz and his snide fiancé Nadia. The destination is a rotting Heian-era manor somewhere in Japan. This outing is being paid for by the story’s fourth major character, an all-American frat boy named Phillip. Cassandra Khaw’s story captures an interwoven mess of interpersonal relationships that are as overgrown and broken as the house where the plot unfolds. The story is part Gothic and part rotted fairy tale, complete with candles and legends of old. Cassandra Khaw unspools Nothing but Blackened Teeth with powerful sentences that hum and crackle with energy. They’re the kind of sentences that other writers get jealous of, and I’m course including myself in that generalization. In turn, she builds her paragraphs carefully, each utterly readable sentence teeming with choice turns of phrase and description. The horror is present from the very first page and grows as our characters are consumed by the eerie atmosphere. The true mark of a good horror writer is the ability to find the emotion beneath the terror. Cassandra Khaw does that and so much more. She can find the horror in nearly every moment, whether it’s in a mirror’s reflection or in the very human smell of international travel. Nothing but Blackened Teeth is a triumphant new work from Cassandra Khaw, and it will undoubtedly be an end of the year favorite when it releases in the cool of October. (An ebook copy of Nothing but Blackened Teeth was provided for an honest review by Tor Nightfire.)
This book is so eerie! Loved the storyline and the atmosphere. The characters are well written and i enjoyed seeing how their pasts intertwined. Thank you for letting me read this book!
Five friends gather for a destination wedding in Japan, but of course there's a hitch... The bride- and groom-t0-be want to take their vows in a haunted house, and so they've traveled to an abandoned Heian-era mansion with a sordid history. A thousand years ago, the site was meant to host a wedding, but the groom died before he could reach the mansion. The bride demanded her wedding guests to bury her alive in the house's foundation, and to sacrifice a new girl each year, so that their bones could keep the house standing until her dearly departed could find his way back to her.
Nothing But Blackened Teeth presents a rich and haunting mythology, and while it does have some welcomingly spooky moments, this slim novella is completely character driven. Cassandra Khaw unravels these friends from Cat's perspective, a young woman with a history of mental health issues and a mutual dislike for Nadia, the story's lucky present-day bride.
Khaw has arranged this web of relationships in such a way that to call these people friends feels disingenuous. They're more like factions, and this small group has within it its own cliques and minor clans that overlap, if only barely, around Cat. Cat herself is, for me, an intimately relatable character, and I greatly appreciated the subtle and plainly authentic ways Khaw writes about depression, fragmented psyches and emotions, and couches much of it within easy-to-miss euphemisms for suicidal ideation, even as Cat "does the work" of striving for better mental health. Let's just say I found a lot to connect with in terms of Cat's "terminal ennui."
Now, let's talk horror! Nothing But Blackened Teeth is a short work, but one that is wonderfully effective, right down to one particular moment that is easily prose's equivalent to a jump scare on the page. The cover artist's rendering of the bridal kimono-clad ohaguro-bettari is beautifully creepy, but somehow Khaw's written depiction of this spectral, faceless, black toothed terror is even more vivid and terrifying. She knows just the right words and sparse phrases to use to give readers the willies, and her presentation of this haunted mansion and its inhabitants are pitch perfect executions of the language of horror.
Khaw is a hell of a writer, and while I've only read a small handful from her growing body of work, this novella is her crowning jewel to date. Nothing But Blackened Teeth is a haunting exploration of lost opportunities, driven by grief. And like everything else I've read of hers, it immediately makes me want more.
This was a hands down spectacular read. It was beautifully written, it had complex characters, it had rich imagery and the sense of dread that comes with a successful horror story.
Khaw has written characters that are brooding but real, big personalities clashing in an atmosphere of quiet dread and crashing chaos.
This story was as tense as it was terrifying. A definite highlight.
This Japanese cultural horror novella is a hauntingly sharp stab of a read. In embellished prose, yet so stark with horrific elements, it is most expressive from the radically piercing cover to its livid content.
A handful of young adult friends are heading for an all-expenses-paid trip by one of them, as a gift to two of them who are getting married. Friends since school times, their group dynamic is complex due to some relationship baggage and former relationship contention.
Their destination is an abandoned imperial palace as the backdrop for the occasion, a once favored venue for beautiful weddings. There is a dark story though that surrounds the place that is built upon 206 bones for every year of the past 1000 years.
When the friends arrive and explore the 2 story palace and its many rooms, the voice of an ancient ghost lures them to play a game the ancient samurai played once to see who was the bravest.
“In one room sat terracotta monks, head weighted with an ancient regret. In another, dolls with mouths lacquered black. In another, books, or at least the corpses of books. The volumes were mulch, eaten by insects, infested; edifices, turgid with egg chambers, writhed from the rot. “
This leads them to The Hitobashira ritual, the deciding factor on how this game will go. The question is, how does this fit in with the planned wedding, and what have the ghosts in mind for these friends.
A poetic approach to horror makes this cerebral modern haunted house story a feast for the senses.
I fell for the cover first - that’s all I can say. Secondly, I was intrigued by the Japanese lore and the old haunted, imperial palace.
This novella reads very modernly and the reader is thrown right into the friend's dynamic. The travel from A to B, in this case, the arrival at the palace to the climax of the story accelerates steady and is very character-driven.
The writing is vastly embellished with expressive prose and I enjoyed this a lot. The author does not hold back on gruesome details, yet it doesn’t feel terrorizing or overly gruesome.
If you enjoy that bit of sizzle and crack in your horror reads, this might be to your taste.
*Quotes taken from an uncorrected proof
I received a digital copy of this novella from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. Thank you.
More of my reviews here:
Through Novel Time & Distance
I love a ghost story that involves real, complicated, messy people and friendships and relationships, and this delivered on that tenfold. I also love the lore of the buried bride. My only complaint is that I feel as though the story could have been longer, should have been longer, so that everything could breathe more and we could get more in depth look at the characters, the house, and the story.
Nothing But Blackened Teeth is a surreal Japanese ghost story-themed nightmare told with lush descriptive language and very spooky imagery. The unreliable narrator, dramatic personalities of the main characters, and strangeness of the set-up occasionally made it difficult to follow the action. This is especially true in the second half when some of the characters begin to speak about their predicament in an almost self-aware way. I think I probably would have liked a little more development of the characters, particularly more about their shared pasts as I think that could have given the ghostly encounters more weight. That said, the book has a real immediacy and the emotions of the characters come through loud and clear.
Nothing But Blackened Teeth is the story of a group of five “friends” who travel to Japan, as two of them are getting married. Faiz and Nadia are set on having a borderline sacrilegious wedding ceremony an abandoned Heian-era mansion that turns out to be haunted. However, little does the party know that this is a house that yearns for blood. You see, the "friends "are a complicated group who are constantly bickering and fighting, and the house, and the yokai who haunt it don't have time for their crap. The mansion is known for being built on the bones of a bride who took a maiden sacrifice with her for many years. So basically these Ohaguro-Bettari are ready for another sacrifice and the new bride to be will do just nicely.
This was a good ghost story full of Japanese folklore. It was quite atmospheric too. Khaw's writing can be a little dense at times but is always eloquent. There were many lines that I drooled over and wondered "wow, that was such a fascinating way to write that sentence." However, at times I found Khaw's prose to be a tad bit overindulgent and this distracted me from the plot of the story.
This being said, this novella is still worth reading, especially if you're a fan of ghost stories, haunted houses, and Japanese folklore.
Thank you NetGalley and Tor Nightfire for providing me with the eARC.
Also, as many have mentioned, that Ohaguro-Bettari cover is sooooo creepy! Love it!
A very scary, ominous and dark horror story. A group of people gather in a reportedly haunted abandoned mansion and encounter some difficulties between themselves and then encounter a more problematic spirit that throws any semblance of normality out the window. If readers aren't entirely familiar with the supernatural folklore that this story draws on to create its terror, they will still find this to be a chilling read.
Nothing But Blackened Teeth is a quickly read ghost story steeped in Japanese and Asian folklore.
"A Heian-era mansion stands abandoned, its foundations resting on the bones of a bride and its walls packed with the remains of the girls sacrificed to keep her company."
Or so the legend is told when a group of friends arrive at the mansion for a wedding and some reminiscing, but not all is right with the friends or with the house as a night that should be for celebration turns into a memorable night of haunting things.
First off, I really enjoyed this novella. There are not a lot of moments I see the word chiaroscuro in my regular life. As much as I enjoyed the story and the amazing literary way it was written, I do think the metaphors and descriptions were a bit...bloated. I wanted more from the ohaguro-bettari and her Yokai gang, but I do commend Khaw for really going all in on the descriptions, and interruptions, that open each scene. The way she weaves the main character's mental health issues with the haunting and the characters' inter-personal issues, can feel a bit blurry and confusing, but I found that seemed almost intentional once I reached the end of the story. Overall, I found Nothing But Blackened Teeth to be a very creepy and visceral novella that I will remember for years to come. I will
be handing this book to every horror fan I know!
I knew I had to read this book the second that I laid eyes on it, the cover is nightmare fuel and the prospect of a haunted house in a Heian-era mansion complete with a tragic urban legend was too good to pass up. The Ohaguro-bettari, literally translating to Nothing But Blackened Teeth is a faceless yokai dressed in a wedding kimono known for luring in single men. What an incredible subject for a ghastly horror story, there is something inherently creepy about a faceless ghost with only one feature, a mockingly sinister smile.
The story centers on a group of “friends” who travel to Japan for a marriage ceremony, the thrill-seekers rent a mansion in hopes of supernatural spooks over nuptials. To call any of the attendee’s friends though is a stretch, the relational dynamics between every character oozed toxicity and the thinly veiled loathing between them just screams disaster. The Ohaguro-bettari was truly a terrifying entity, it was every bit a faithful adaptation of the malevolent trickster spirit. The setting is incredibly atmospheric, I blazed through this story in one sitting on the edge of my seat from start to finish.
While the story starts off well, it stumbles a few times in the middle of the book. While the petty drama of the group was intense, I also found the addition of humor to be disjointing, and it broke my immersion in the story. I was blown away by the major appearance of the spirit, only to sign when one of the characters immediately cracks a joke about ghost fucking.
I was thrown off when the story seemed to shift focus away from the yokai, and I had to take time to think about how I wanted to write about this book when I finished. My initial reaction was mixed, but the more I thought about it and made connections between the selection of this particular yokai and the character drama the more I appreciated it. While this story didn’t quite nail it for me, I really admire Khaw’s lush style of writing, it is so uniquely her own and I would love to read more of her work.
This was an extremely quick read! I love Japanese folklore and horror, so a combination of the two provided an enjoyable experience in the span of one evening. My only complaint: it was a tad predictable. This could be due to the fact that I widely consume horror movies, TV shows, and books.
Absolutely riveting. I ate up every paragraph this offered me.
The prose was heavily stylized and lyrical but absolutely stunning. I have never read a story with a setting so vividly painted for me, I felt like I was seeing it unfold right in front of me. Khaw was prepared to deliver on every promise this book made. It was horrifying, funny, disgusting, beautiful, and consuming. I can see this not being everyone’s cup of tea, the prose is very “flowery” but I absolutely loved it. I’d give it 6 stars if I could.
Pace: fast paced
Moods: tense, dark, mysterious
Plot- or Character-Driven: plot
Strong Character Development: not really
Lovable Characters: not really
Diverse Cast: unsure
Flaws of the Main Characters a Center Focus: sort of
A group of long time friends who seem to love the thrill of haunted, ghosty adventures, settle on a Heian-era mansion as the location for one of the existing couple's wedding venue (which has been a childhood dream of the bride-to-be). The friends' individual relationships are already a bit complicated, and after a night of settling in, drinking, eating, and swapping ghost stories, things begin to intensify and reach a terrifying peak. Before the wedding even has begun, the night turns horrifying, and no one will ultimately walk out the mansion the same as they walked in (and in some cases ... fail to walk out at all).
What I loved:
- I loved the Japanese folklore incorporated seamlessly in this story. I kept my phone close and did a lot of translating and Googling as I progressed, and I loved every bit of it!
- I will forever be impressed by authors who can create a strong mood and atmosphere in a short amount of time and just jam-pack what could be a full novel's worth of content into less than even 200 pages. Cassandra Khaw does this so well. There were moments I found myself physically cringing in response to some of the descriptions. This story sets you up with eerie "something's not right" vibes right of the bat and never lets go.
- It's creepy, and it's creepy well-done.
- I could easily see this play out as an hour and a half horror movie on Netflix and it do phenomenally well.
What I didn’t love:
- Honestly, my only complaint is that I wanted MORE of it. I would've been entirely happy with another 100 pages and not even blinked about it.
Fantastic Japanese-centered haunted house/horror tale in under 200 pages! It had me feeling creeped out at times, physically repulsed at others, and overall very satisfied. If you're in the mood for a solid creepy tale that won't take too long to read but scratch that horror itch, this one is so worth picking up! I've thrown it in my "favorites of 2021" as I think this one has left me lingering and wishing for more.
Excerpt: "In the last few years, authors like Stephen Graham Jones broke the highbrow slasher into the mainstream. This new evolution of the subgenre contrasts visceral bloodlust with elegant prose and literary thematic elements. Nothing But Blackened Teeth continues the slasher revolution, and Cassandra Khaw is arguably one of the most gifted line-by-line writers in the field. Every sentence in is breathtaking."
Nothing but Blackened Teeth is kind of the perfect ghost story. Right from the beginning, it establishes a sense of dread that only grows with every page. Five friends, with fraught histories of their own, rent out a haunted Japanese mansion for a wedding. In order to provide a welcoming environment for the ghosts, the group lights a hundred candles to blow out one by one as each person tells a ghost story. When the last candle goes out, things go from tense to hostile. This book feels like a ghost story that would get told in the flickering candlelight of your own haunted sleepover (maybe even at a Japanese mansion). The narrator, Cat, is both incredibly intuitive and slightly detached from the situation, watching as her friends make all the wrong decisions but unable to stop them. Familiar without being predictable and self-aware in a way that brings an alarming inevitability to the ending
How is it possible for a story to be this good? Khaw has made a true masterpiece with Nothing But Blackened Teeth. Every element comes together perfectly to make an undeniable treasure for anyone who loves mythology, horror, thriller, or any story that will keep you questioning, "What could possibly happen next?"
I really enjoyed the creepiness of this one! The undertones of dread were throughout the whole thing and I felt like I was holding my breath for the entirety of this one. Will def recommend!
Short and creepy, a tight novella packed full of mythology and lore, a great blend of Japanese yokai stories and western haunted house tropes with twists that actually gave me the creeps. Having read and watched TRESE recently, I loved the unquestioning acceptance of the supernatural and the lack of conflict between Cat having spent time in a psych hospital and seeing the supernatural - it adds depth to the story and actually makes it scarier; if one accepts the supernatural then you're forced to accept what it can do TO you and that opens a whole new world of terror because there's no looking AWAY from it or explaining it away.
I also love the multiple survivor but dead to one another twist. There's a additional horror in knowing there are people out there who saw the worst moments of your life, who could "out" you or remind you or make you relive them. The only thing worse than going through trauma is going through it again without the buffer your psyche gives you.
So good. Definitely time to delve into Khaw's back catalog.
Nadia and Faiz are getting married, and their friends are celebrating their nuptials in style: by spending a night at a Japanese mansion haunted by the spirit of a bride who was abandoned at the altar. Cat, however, is not feeling up for it -- she's still recovering from a suicide attempt, and 4 out of 5 of her friends resent her for it. So, when she starts seeing a girl in bridal robes with a black smile, she doesn't dare to tell them right away, she doesn't want to spoil their fun.
Cue a truly spooky, hair-rising classic yokai tale, perfect for the turn of the seasons or those sleepless autumn nights. Khaw seems to take a couple of liberties with Japanese folklore, but attentive readers will realize that she stays as true to the legends as to the horror genre. Wonderful novella, creepy and gorgeous in equal parts.
Nothing But Blackened Teeth is a gorgeously creepy haunted house tale, steeped in Japanese folklore and full of devastating twists. And an absolutely, incredibly terrifying book to read. I had nightmares for a week after I finished it but omg...this book is so beautifully written that no matter how terrifying it becomes you just can't stop reading. The word pictures she paints will stay in your mind for a long time and not just because they are so eerily creepy but because they manage to be both horrific and beautiful at the same time. This book was a scare-filled joy to read. Thank you NetGalley for the advanced readers copy for review.
Scary, scary, scary. I googled a lot of the things mentioned throughout the book and found some creepy images that lent to the atmosphere of the story. I enjoyed the short format but wish we could have stayed in this haunted house.. forever!
Khaw is one of the brightest, most brutal voices around right now and this story did not disappoint. It's sharp and dangerous yet also charming and warm. I couldn't put it down, even though I felt awash with dread with every turn of the page. Quite possibly Khaw's best yet.
Wow Cassandra Khaw has a really brilliant way with words. No tropes or common similes here! An A+ horror story. I normally don't read short stories, but this was excellent. Bonus points for the awesome cover.
Thanks to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review!
I love horror with unlikeable protagonists, and this certainly fit the bill. The prose, the setting, and the brilliant way Khaw unfolded (or withheld) bits of the story were perfectly paced and relentlessly disturbing. Also, hooray for queer horror protags!
Nothing But Blackened Teeth, the newest addition to Cassandra Khaw’s (she/they) ever-growing repertoire, is a novella very much centered within the tradition of the ‘haunted house’ narrative. It’s got the labyrinthine, Belasco-style dwelling, the sinister, Jackson-esque shadows that lurk just beyond the point of perception, and a knife-edge tension almost too palpable to bear. But this slim volume is anything but a run-of-the-mill residential horror.
Set in modern-day Japan, the story’s premise follows a group of thrill-seeking young adults who, having travelled together for a destination wedding of a lifetime, find themselves plunged into a Gothic nightmare where they are forced to navigate the horrors of a Heian-era mansion haunted by a living-dead bride seeking human sacrifices. The storyline unfolds to reveal a cast of conflicting characters, each of whom are, in turn, isolated, cornered, and put to the test by the malevolent spirit that wants them dead. Khaw even manages to work in a deeply unsettling portrayal of demonic possession which, in many ways, feeds into a much larger discussion around Western colonialism, and the physical and psychological boundaries that are often compromised in toxic relationships.
Though Khaw’s tale is, at times, warped by the overuse of senseless similes and ill-placed humor that doesn’t quite hit the mark, the Malaysian-born writer still manages to achieve something truly wonderful with their intelligent use of rich, descriptive imagery and a plotline convincingly fused with Japanese legends and folklore. The novel capitalizes on a veritable parade of ghostly apparitions called yōkai. These mischievous and often hostile creatures are given many forms, from the brush-painted, fish-like ningyo who crawl from the mansion’s towering ceilings, to the amphibious kappa murals who ominously sift through the walls of its ancient, abandoned ruins. The faceless figure of the Ohaguro-Betarri also features to harrowing effect. Dressed in a white bridal kimono, this shape-shifting female yōkai (recognizable from the book’s stunning front cover) permeates each page with a poetic musicality. Her presence is articulate, multidimensional, and firmly reflects Khaw’s background in video game development, most specifically their position as senior scriptwriter for Ubisoft, the French video game studio responsible for successful franchises like Far Cry, Watch Dogs, and Assassin’s Creed. Sentences are gun-fire quick, and across nine highly cinematic and viciously bite-sized chapters, Khaw’s blunted style delivers an unputdownable, fast-paced chiller with survival horror vibes similar to Keiichiro Toyama’s claustrophobic Siren (PlayStation 2, 2003) and Tecmo’s original installment of the Fatal Frame series.
Nothing But Blackened Teeth is, to say the least, a delightfully unusual novel. It’s dark, it’s gritty, it’s addictive, and somehow it manages to linger on, quite threateningly, in the subconscious long after you’ve turned out the lights. A solid five-star read.
A word of thanks to the author, and the team over at Tor Nightfire, for providing me with an advanced reader’s copy of this title in exchange for an open and honest review.
So I was shocked at how much I enjoyed this book. I typically shy away from horror stories. Guts, gore, and viscera do not disturb me but I despise the jump scare, something peeking out of a darkened room kind of tale.
This is a ghost story. Five friends enter a crumbling Heian-era mansion intending to spend the night celebrating a wedding. They are drawn in by the shadows, dust, gloom, and malevolent atmosphere. Through the night their animosity, rage, jealousy are fueled and fanned by the ghosts around them and their own memories and perceptions of each other. Khaw keeps the tension high as the atmosphere darkens and draws from Japanese myth and legend to populate the house with a magnitude of terrifying creatures. Highly recommended for any fan of haunted house horror.
This book, really better described as a novella, is engrossing. Khaw is a master of horror and truly draws you into the world of the wedding party. A group of young friends decide to spend the night in a haunted temple where a young bride was once buried alive. The legend says that each year another woman was entombed alive to keep her company. This is the perfect place for a sleepover and a wedding, right? Steeped in Japanese folklore and horror this book keeps you on the edge of your seat wondering how it will end. Full of yokai such as ohaguro bettari, tengu, and kitsune, this classic horror tale will leave you with chills. Khaw is also not only a master of horror but a quintessential succinct author. Her prose is so precise, so well crafted its worth admiration as much as her storytelling. Her words fall like jewels from the page. Read it now!
I was feeling in a spooky mood having just finished two horror films and thought - I definitely should read that Cassandra Khaw novella that I've been holding onto. It was the perfect thing to read at 1 AM when the shadows are at their densest and I love the way Khaw writes prose - I'm a big fan of Hammers on Bone.
I don't think I liked any of the characters but I was so interested in what happened next that I was engaged throughout - 5 stars, no complaints.
This is a terrifying and chilling story that brings Japanese mythology to life. Set in an ancient mansion with a dark past, a group of college friends gather for a weekend of drinking and celebration. What should have been a joyous weekend celebrating the marriage of Nadia and Faiz turns into a gruesome nightmare when they awaken the spirits of the house.
From the cover, we know that we are in for a wild and horrifying adventure and Khaw does not disappoint. This is by far one of the scariest novellas I’ve read this year and I loved every single sentence. Khaw’s writing is quiet and almost delicate but packs a massive punch. The characters within are college friends who have grown both incredibly close and also far apart. Brough together for the wedding between two of them, stresses of the last year threaten to ruin the mood of the weekend but politeness and booze both help to smooth things over. It’s one friend’s massive amount of money that allows the friends access to such an ancient and haunted home, but it’s that same wealth that creates such friction between them. Our narrator Cat has recently experienced a mental health episode that may or may not be coloring her version of past events so her narration may or may not be reliable. And while the friends seem like such a close group-they were all gifted first class flights to Japan to stay in an ancient mansion that required government permits to visit, there is an unbearable tension between them. As their secrets unfold, the secrets of the house reveal a devastatingly dark history.
A horrifying, haunted mansion story that will chill you to the bones, Nothing But Blackened Teeth, is a must read for all horror fans.
Thank you to Netgalley and Tor Nightfire for the opportunity to read and review this title. All opinions and mistakes are my own.