What Moves the Dead
by T. Kingfisher
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Pub Date 12 Jul 2022 | Archive Date 01 Feb 2024
Macmillan-Tor/Forge, Tor Nightfire
An Instant USA Today & Indie Bestseller
A Barnes & Noble Book of the Year Finalist
A Goodreads Best Horror Choice Award Nominee
A gripping and atmospheric reimagining of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” from Hugo, Locus, & Nebula award-winning author T. Kingfisher
*A very special hardcover edition, featuring foil stamp on the casing and custom endpapers illustrated by the author.*
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.
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Available on NetGalley
This is a reimagining of The Fall of the House of Usher, and yes gimme more of that. I had never read anything by T. Kingfisher before and now I want to read all she writes. The writing is really captivating and exquisite, it reminds me a lot of writing from the 1800s very archaic but where every word feels intentional. I won't say she mimics Poe's writing style directly, but the nod is certainly there.
She creates an atmosphere and background to her story that are completely immersive and intriguing. I loved how she constructed the main character's backstory and home country, how vivid it all feels, and also the Usher house of course.
This is the type of retelling that does not go way too much of the original one, but there's beauty in that, in changing just a bit in certain places to create something new. I really loved the take the author chose for this story, and yes it certainly causes both awe and horror.
This is a brilliant little book and I'm sure that every fan of Poe and gothic and horror will be more than enthralled by Kingfisher's version of it.
Also, what is this cover! I will be staring at it forever for it is so beautiful! I love how it plays with your eyes and makes you confused about the second rabbit being carried, it is really a hauntingly gorgeous cover.
When Maddie's head flops around on her shoulders...gasp, OMG!, is my own head on straight? Slimy strings of goo come out of fish anuses (worse than the usual stuff in fish poo) and there's not a dustpan in the world big enough to contain all the little white hairs shedding everywhere. Speaking of hares, there are icky zombie jerking rabbits that stare and stare and stare.
I know crowds will throw mold covered tomatoes at me, but I have to say it. T. Kingfisher's version of The Fall of the House of Usher is better than Poe's. Don't show up at my house with pitchforks and torches. What Moves the Dead is that good.
Gore and mushrooms. An amazing strong and interesting female secondary character and mushrooms. Wit and humor amongst the slime and mushrooms. Fantastic main characters, fantastic secondary characters and mushrooms. A really cool horse. Did I mention mushrooms? You don't want to make an omelet with these babies, not unless you want to find a fungus among us.
T. Kingfisher is one of my favorite authors. One of the reasons is that in all of her books, family, friends, even newly met people work together and are fond of each other. No snarking and insulting that seem to haunt so many books today. A story can be frightening, bloody and gross and still have pleasant characters. The fellowship between characters is wonderful to behold with a subtle humor running under the grim business. Easton is the kind of friend everyone should have. Even the interactions with Hob the horse are charming.
And yet the story is so very scary. It will make you take bleach to that little patch of mold in the corner of the bathroom sooner rather than later. After all, that fungus is creeping, creeping your direction.
I love this book and I'm grateful to Netgalley, T.Kingfisher, and Tor/Nightfire for allowing me to read and review an eARC of What Moves the Dead.
I love "The Fall of the House of Usher" by EAP, and this retelling is genuinely phenomenal. Kingfisher successfully makes the characters all feel real, which makes this retelling somehow feel even creeper and off-putting. The writing is genuinely stunning and incredibly emotional, genuinely it's such a rush to read with how nerve-wracking the story is and how gorgeous the prose is.
Thank you NetGalley and publishers for providing me with this advance reader copy.
Description from NetGalley:
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.
I love “The Fall of the House of Usher'' by Edgar Allen Poe, and I also love this retelling. Let’s start with the characters because they feel like real people. Their backgrounds and relationships are explained and used to good effect. The atmosphere is so creepy and aids the plot tremendously is the short span one has with the book. I do wish I had more, but the length is probably a good length for the plot and horror, not to mention it is a retelling of a short story. The cover is also stunning. Bravo to the artist!
This is a fantastic and horrifying retelling. 4.5/5
In <i>What Moves the Dead</i>, T. Kingfisher (aka Ursula Vernon) remixes Edgar Allan Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher" and it is delightfully creepy, wonderful gothic horror. I read it, immediately went and reread "The Fall of the House of Usher" (which I hadn't read since jr high or high school and now is available online in several places for free because it's out of copyright), and then I read <i>What Moves the Dead</i> all over again to savor the depth and texture of Kingfisher's work.
I've loved her writing since <i>Summer in Orcus</i> with few exceptions, and I open each one of her new works with an open heart, ready to love. This one brings the best of her naturalist sensibilities, the richness of actual Gothic & Southern Gothic lit, the entertaining spark of European multiculturalism (including an improbable American transplant), and a core conceit rooted in Poe's imagination together into something greater than its parts. I almost wish it were a full novel, although that would take it far beyond Poe's short story and possibly make it unrecognizable.
I loved the original characters, especially Miss Potter, and Easton's culture is one I would. love to know more about/see again. I loved the the linguistics asides and how deftly drawn were Easton's core assumptions about her tiny country and the world. The elements of nature were vividly detailed and, not to spoil, but I had visceral reactions where appropriate. :g:
I find novellas hard to rate because I nearly always want to take off a star for wishing it were longer, which isn't really fair to the form. So I'm going to call it 4 1/2 stars.
CW for animal harm.
Deeply unsettling, stomach turning, and made my hair stand on end. I really enjoyed T. Kingfisher's take on Poe's work, and Alex Easton was the most endearing, delightfully 19th-century protagonist, with such an engaging sense of humor and a compelling backstory. The prose was lush, evocative, but at no point excessive. I felt like every word was put forth with intention. Kingfisher masterfully gives you enough information to sate your hunger for world-building, but not so much that it eats up most of the novella.
When the plot and the horror ramped up after about the midway point, I went from enjoying the novella to being utterly ensnared by it. I couldn't put this down and I would highly recommend it to any Poe or horror/gothic fan.
Many thanks to Tor Nightfire and Netgalley for the ARC.
What Moves the Dead is a deliciously wonderful and incredibly rich gothic and atmospheric novel, so well built and fast paced that I wasn't able to put it down till I reached the end. I was absolutely captivated by the atmosphere, and the characters.
This novel submerges the reader in a landscape so imaginative and detailed that the information of the world building/plot never feels forced, and is never difficult to understand or picture in one's mind. I had an enjoyable time reading this and it held my attention the entire way through that I finished it within the day! I enjoyed every page and thought that the plot/story was very unique. Would recommend to anyone, especially to those who love a little creepiness in their lives…
What a fantastically horrific, ghastly, & revolting little book!! I love horror novels, but this one grossed & creeped me out unlike any others I can think of. I thought that Kingfisher's writing was extremely captivating & original, even if the novella was based on the Poe short story. She started using dramatic irony fairly early on in the book, and that heightened my emotions as I read even more. Absolutely loved this novella, & I definitely plan to buy a copy in the future!
My favorite T. Kingfisher yet! I really enjoyed The Hollow Places and The Twisted Ones, but this book takes the creepy cake. It's vivid and atmospheric without being overwrought. The mystery is intriguing and the characters compelling. The world-building is interesting but not overdone for a novella. As with the previous two Kingfisher books I read, the main character was compelling and likable. In short, everything about this book was wonderful! This is one of my new favorite horror books and now I'm just sad I devoured this one so quickly, which means I'll have to wait awhile for the next T. Kingfisher. Definitely recommend preordering!
Thank you Tor Nightfire for an advanced electronic copy in exchange for an honest review. All thought are my own.
T. Kingfisher’s newest book “What Moves the Dead” once again has her diving into Lovecraftian Horror. It walks the same path as “The Hollow Places” and “The Twisted Ones” by taking an older story and playing with it. This time she chose Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher,” and she twists Poe’s tale with great effect.
Now the main character is a soldier from the fictional country of Gallacia visiting childhood friends at their ancestral home. Added to the cast is an American Civil War doctor, a Scottish batman, and the fictional aunt of Beatrix Potter that is out collecting mushrooms. Oh yes, there’s also a horse that has a big enough personality to count as a lead.
While Kingfisher has added characters, she stays true to the original Poe story. If you just describe the story by the narrative beats, it matches the original “Usher.” It is as if someone who vaguely remembered the original story tried to recount what it is about. The familiarity brings a sense of comfort to the tale, as the situation in the Usher House gets more and more bizarre.
However, there are changes she brought to the story and they are fascinating. The first one is the main character. Alex Easton is an interesting character and gives Kingfisher a chance to discuss and explore the use of pronouns. Alex, a former military officer, is from a country that has multiple different pronouns. One set is for young children, one for men, one for women, one for rocks, one for God, and the one that Alex uses the one for soldiers. It’s an interesting look at what gender means and how language influences it. Moreover, it is not superfluous, but plays a part near the end.
The major change is the mystery at the heart of the House of Usher. I won’t spoil anything, but Kingfisher brings creepiness to the tale. It was a great twist on the tale, even though the setup is rather obvious.
Kingfisher’s usual wit once again pervades the book from the snappy dialogue to the thoughtful, yet humorous prose. It makes reading it a delight. The only “complaint” I have is that the story is so quick-paced that I struggled to put it down. I ended up reading the entire tale in one night. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves light Lovecraftian horror or a Poe pastiche.
T. Kingfisher is a master of "the creep" - that slow crawl down your spine when you read a certain line or phrase of dialogue that is just left enough of normal that you know something is terribly, terribly wrong. I loved "Hollow Places" and "The Twisted Ones" , but acknowledge their many similarities and contemporary horror themes: "What Moves The Dead" shows Kingfisher's capacity for a different brand of older, gothic horror while still preservering her trademark voice and style.
Though Kingfisher started penning this before Silvia Moreno-Garcia's fantastic novel Mexican Gothic was released, the two share certain similarities: a decrepit manor, a wasting illness, an mushrooms not acting like they should. However, Kingfisher sets her novel apart, reimagining Edgar Allen Poe's spine-chilling short story "The Fall of the House of Usher." through the eyes of a nonbinary soldier from a fictional european country. Easton is a brilliant protagonist, as is their society's concept of gender and multiple sets of pronouns. This novella is a linguistic and cultural exploration as much as it is a gothic horror, with the nightmarish circumstances occurring at the manor offset by Easton's wry, humorous narration and references to their own personal history and identity. Plus, a cameo by Beatrix Potter's fictional aunt!
If you are a fan of mycological references, romantic-era horror, and the Kingfisher horror classic of "animals but not", I can't recommend this novella highly enough.
Wow, this book was brilliant! It’s a retelling of Fall of the House of Usher. Being a Poe fan, I couldn’t resist reading this. But just because you know that story doesn’t mean you know this one.
The book is riveting. I read it one sitting. It has a gothic, eerie atmosphere. The author has a way with words. She’s descriptive without going overboard. Every word matters. You feel like you’re there in the house. You see the deterioration of the Ushers.
I highly recommend this. Even if you don’t normally read horror, it’s great. Thank you to MacMillan/Tor-Forge, Tor Nightfire, and NetGalley for my copy.
What Moves The Dead by the brilliant T. Kingfisher hands down amazing, truly intriguing and well written story I've read so far in 2022!
The Hollow Places doesn't hold a candle to this novel! just saying....
I absolutely love T. Kingfisher's writing.
The writing puts you there with Alex every frightening step of the way in Ruritania.
This book was quite the experience.
The story sucks you in quickly, but even after knowing how it turned out I was still thinking about it.
A chilling story that builds and twists and expands and still manages to end with all its threads drawn together.
T. Kingfisher scoops you up and tosses you into the midst of the characters and story, leaving you with the urge to reread again.
This interesting retelling of Edgar Allen Poe's classic "The Fall of the House of Usher " will have up so late at night finishing one of the most beautiful poetic tales of the year!
Thank You for your generosity and gifting me a copy of this amazing eARC!
I will post my review closer to pub date.
Thanks to T. Kingfisher, I’m now terrified of hares. What Moves the Dead is such a wonderful little surprise. It’s a novella that mixes dread and humour perfectly, and managed to make me care about the characters and scare the pants off me in under 200 pages.
What Moves the Dead is an expansion of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher, adding in body horror, the history of a fake country, and a witty nonbinary hero.
Alex Easton is a retired soldier who receives a letter from their old friend Madeline Usher, who is dying from a mysterious ailment. Alex (and their wonderful horse, Hob) travels to the home of Madeline and her brother Roderick to try to help.
There, Alex meets a British woman studying fungi, a very American doctor, and several hares that seem to watch Alex. And there’s something wrong with the way they move.
(I finished this one after midnight and then unfortunately my dog wanted out in the backyard to chase rabbits. No thank you.)
Kingfisher captures so much of what I loved in Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic and Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation, but with a completely different tone (much funnier), a late-19th century gothic setting, and a warm cast of characters. I loved this weird little novella.
Thanks to Tor Nightfire and NetGalley for the review copy of What Moves the Dead.
I loved this book.
I've been a fan of T. Kingfisher's work for a few years. 2019's The Twisted Ones is one of my favorite horror stories of all time. 2020's The Hollow Places was one of those "perfect book at the right time" books for me. I was just going through a divorce and The Hollow Places made me feel seen and made sense of some of the feelings I was struggling to voice. I will always be thankful to Kingfisher for writing that book. Both of those books were adaptations/homages/inspired by horror short stories from the past. The Twisted Ones was an homage to Machen's The White People and The Hollow Places was an homage/spiritual sequel to Blackwood's The Willows. What Moves the Dead is a similar homage to Poe's Fall of the House of Usher and just like its predecessors is a fantasic read that will be added to my list of favorite horror stories.
The general premise of What Moves the Dead is that Easton, the main character has been summoned by their friend Madeline Usher to the Usher ancestral home. When they arrive, Easton finds their friend and their friend's brother apparently deathly ill. However, other strange things are occurring as well. Both Ushers are behaving strangely, there are bizarre and exotic fungus everywhere and...well...there's some really weird hares. Over the course of the novella, these elements blend together to result in climax that is just as riveting as both of the aforementioned earlier books from Kingfisher and might even surpass them in terms of quality.
Beyond characterization (which continues to be one of the areas in which T. Kingfisher far surpasses most writers) the setting for this book was astounding and was incredibly vivid. As I read this book, I felt the decay that was described in the Usher home and I felt the eerieness and outlandishness of the strange happenings around that home. Also Kingfisher is one of the best at writing animals. Alongside the dog in The Twisted Ones and the stuffed otter in The Hollow Places, Easton's horse is now one of my favorite fictional animals. Also the hares were fascinating and are image that is going to rattle in my head for a long time to come.
I'm super excited for others to get the chance to read this book and I think this book continues to prove that Kingfisher is at the top of the pack for writers of horror stories with a lot of heart.
Despite my mega-queasiness, my high school self begged me to pick up this Edgar Allan Poe retelling of Fall of the House of Usher. It was pretty horrifying, but my GOD this book was fantastic. The main character was incredible, I loved the acknowledgments section, the whole story was wild, I flew through it.
"Mold crept up the pale boards, tiny spots of black that joined together like constellations." -From What Moves the Dead
Hares, fungus, and decaying houses oh my! Kingfisher really took some of the standard horror characters Poe used in "The Fall of the House of Usher" and elevates and adds to them, creating a dynamic cast. The prose changes somewhat from Kingfisher's other works, to a more antiquated one that fits perfectly in the 1890's timeframe the book is placed in. I loved the nonbinary protagonist (though even a close friend uses 'sir' to address them), and the seven different pronouns their language had in general. It tied in well having the fungus using the child pronoun. I love how you get more explanation and closure in this retelling. This version makes me like the original more. Creepy horrific perfection.
Thank you endlessly to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
This was amazing! I truly loved every word of ‘What Moves The Dead’. T. Kingfisher wrote this so hauntingly well. I loved the prose in this story, it flowed beautifully and I couldn’t stop reading. I have so many things I could say about Kingfisher’s retelling of EAP’s “The Fall of the House of Usher”. This was an extremely atmospheric read. I could feel the damp, cold air and the almost suffocating ruin of the manor. I loved that the narrator, Easton, had such unique pronouns; this gave an interesting voice to the story.
As far as creepiness goes, I love when a book can literally make my hair stand up; this one did that. There were definitely added touches that made this book even more-so unnerving. I don’t want to say to much (as I don’t want to spoil it), but you need to read this one. I wanted so much to love it and I truly did. I would read this one again (maybe even a few more times).
Thank you to NetGalley and MacMillan-Tor/Forge for this ARC.
“What Moves the Dead” by T. Kingfisher is all kinds of morbid, unsettling, and downright creepy. The tale is a modern reimagining of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” that further develops the original themes and ideas to create something that is even more terrifying and messed up. Fans of Kingfisher and those who enjoy snuggling up with a good horror will not be disappointed by this riveting read!
Even though it’s been years since Alex Easton last saw their childhood friends, word of Madeline Usher’s failing health has them rushing to the countryside manor where the Usher’s live. It doesn’t take Easton long to realize something is off about the ancestral home and its property. There are weird fungi growing all over the place, the animals are behaving bizarrely, not to mention the lake has the strange tendency to glow. Somehow, Easton believes they are connected to Madeline’s worsening condition and her brother's plight of nerves. Easton and their trusted friends must work together to figure out what unusual circumstances plague the land and home of the Usher’s before they fall victim.
Biased or not, Kingfisher did a brilliant job offering a spookier, more unsettling, and satisfactory read of “The Fall of the House of Usher.” Perhaps I don’t appreciate the classics enough, but I felt “What Moves the Dead” had me far more invested in the plot and characters than Poe’s ever did. The reimagining was a bit slow in the beginning as the characters were being introduced and the storyline set up, but once the story got rolling it was like diving deep into the rabbit hole of insanity and utter mayhem.
This is a story that is impossible to explain without potentially spoiling all of its secrets, but it will definitely make your skin crawl! If this seems like your kind of book, add it to your reading list, save the date, and definitely give this book a read when it hits the shelves. It’s one you won’t want to miss out on! “What Moves the Dead” by T. Kingfisher is expected to be published on July 12th, 2022.
Thank you to NetGalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge (Tor Nightfire) for inviting me to read this e-arc and giving me the opportunity to share my honest opinion in this review.
Creepy, unnerving, and brilliant! Full of the perfect blend of gothic horror, mycology and body horror, 'What Moves the Dead' is a fantastic take on Poe's story "The Fall of the House of Usher." The protagonist is fantastic, as is the cast of supporting characters, and the way this story builds bit by bit, even over such a short page count, is so well done. By the end, it had me entranced and disturbed, everything I wanted from this book! I loved it and highly recommend.
I haven't read The Fall of the House of Usher or any of T. Kingfisher's other work, so it was mostly the cover that drew me in. It promised a lot of creepy mushroom-y details, and did not disappoint!
Kingfisher did a wonderful job bringing this eerie setting to life. I loved all the little snippets of info we were given about Easton's homeland. Gallacia felt very real, which was impressive considering this is a novella and none of the story is set there. The linguistic elements were a fun touch, too. Rocks having their own unique set of pronouns made me so happy hahaha.
I really enjoyed the banter between the characters, as well. It provided a nice contrast to the ominous atmosphere. I'll definitely be checking out Kingfisher's other books after this. And seriously, that cover is perfection.
What Moves the Dead is a Gothic and modern take of Edgar Allen Poe’s short story Fall of the House of Usher. While the author kept surprisingly close to the original, I must make a bold statement and say, I might just like this version better! Sorry Mr. Poe but this story is spooky, atmospheric, and very beautifully written.
Beyond this novella being better than the original it is engaging, gripping, atmospheric and hits all the Gothic notes. I loved the use of, well, the “bad guy” here. It is extremely realistic and classically scary. If I had not known better, I would have thought this story came from Poe’s time.
The story is about Alex, a soldier who received a letter from their childhood friend telling if the friend’s illness and impending death. From there Alex is immediately concerned and travels to the dilapidated mansion to find her friend and see if they can be of any help.
The story starts out gothic and spooky and the simple cast really impacts a large punch. There are only a handful of characters within the pages but each of them is so well developed and written they came alive on the page.
I love the use of the house as a character as well as the hares and the, well, again the “bad guy.” The ending was satisfying, and the story is one that will stay with me while I spend time in nature. Brilliant writing and brilliant story.
4.75 stars. #WhatMovestheDead #NetGalley #Brilliant #MustRead #BetterThenTheOrigional
This is my first foray into T. Kingfisher’s horror. I recently was blessed to read Nettle & Bone and I fell in love. Approaching What Moves the Dead, I was a little nervous. On one hand, I had high expectations and on the other, I feared that Nettle & Bone might be one of those moments when the Muse strikes and then perhaps leaves the artist lacking. I am happy to say, What Moves the Dead was excellent. T. Kingfisher is masterful!
First, we have Alex. As a genderfae person myself, I am thrilled to see a non-binary character as the main character of a book. Not only that, but the insertion of this character and their gender nonconformity, while explained very well, never felt shoe horned or like their gender was their personality. It simply was part of the character just as any female or male MC’s gender would be. I appreciated that so much after reading some books that fell through on this.
Second, approaching a classic like Poe’s Fall of the House of Usher is a HUGE undertaking. Such endeavors can easily turn into history lessons or, worse, cheap paint over fine grained wood. The latter I’ve seen occur when authors try to hard to bring a story into modernity or do not appreciate and honor the classical text for the masterpiece it is.
T. Kingfisher, I dare say, ELEVATED the classic story to something far more intriguing, beautiful, and sinister. The descriptions were so utterly gothic I found myself putting the book down just to close my eyes and picture them fully while languishing on the couch (all I was missing was a long, ephemeral gown and a choker on my pale throat. Perhaps a spilled crystal goblet of wine and piano music just slightly out of tune.) The characters had so much more depth and realism than Poe’s waifs (no offense, Ed). And the decay? Well, let me take a moment to get there…
Third, the horror was so subtle. I don’t know yet if T. Kingfisher starts all of her fantasy off with horror and all of her horror off with cozy quaint scenes (I’m currently reading The Hollow Places and this seems to be the pattern) but I felt lured in with a false sense of security from the start. Surely nothing too terrible can happen when you start a novel talking about mushrooms with an old woman…right? Wrong. At first, I wasn’t bothered by the horror in it. I finished the book on a binge and then…that’s when it seeped in. Like black mold, it bloomed in my mind. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I had dreams of mushrooms.
You see, I have some experience with the horrors of mushrooms and mold. The second apartment I lived in with my partner was owned by a slum lord. I won’t got into detail but one of the problems was how damp it stayed in there. The claustrophobic hallway that contained the utility room and laundry was filled with mold. Mushrooms bloomed, large and fleshy, out of the base boards and cracks in the walls. I got so sick, I thought I was dying so we evacuated and took the landlord to court. This book took me back to those weeks of mold and fungus literally looming over and encircling where I lived and slept.
This book was sublime. Its a creeping, lovely read that hits you during and after you think you’re finished with the story. The ONLY thing I would have liked different in it would be a glimpse into the infected mind of Madeline. Diary entries would have been perfect – her account of those early days with this fungal fiend taking her over. I thought about this far too long after reading, I won’t lie.
I recommend What Moves the Dead to any fans of Poe, Gothic horror, or to horror fans who are into the cottagecore/goblincore/mushroomcore vibe. I can’t, at this time, compare it to any other works. Just know it is a JOURNEY.
This is such a good book! Be prepared for a slow creep. All the hares, so much fungus, Gallaecian pronouns, and Beatrix Potter's aunt come together to make a phenomenal read.
There is no doubt that I will be reading this one again.
Thank you NetGalley and Macmillan-Tor Forge for the eARC.
Alex Easton, a non-binary soldier is on the way to The House of Usher, riding his wonderful horse Hob after receiving a letter from Madeline Usher, whose brother Roderick thinks she's dying. I had never read Edgar Allen Poe's story, so can't compare this novella to his story. All I know is that I was a bit confused at the beginning, but quickly started to enjoy the story. I loved Hob and Alex, as well as the mycologist Miss Potter, an imaginary family member of Beatrice Potter's. Then there are the strange hares, the American Doctor and the sinister tarn and malodorous mushrooms. All that and the sly humour made for a wonderful, creepy read.
I loved it!
I have been a fan of T. Kingfisher for a few books now and this book just strengthens the feeling. There's a scene in which a rabbits lung is described and it was one of my first thoughts this morning. That image and what it would mean if it happened to me... first thing upon waking up makes my brain feel weird.
I really enjoyed the main character's point of view and the jabs at Americans. I kind of wish the story were longer.
Seeing Kingfisher’s spin on the Fall of the House of Usher was already something I was looking forward to, but of course, SHE MADE IT EVEN MORE TERRIFYING. I am even more determined to apply fire to mushrooms now. Also, man, the unexpected Beatrix potter references. And awesome neopronouns! Pick this up when it comes out!
You’ve heard of Bunnicula, now get ready for Vampire Bunnies!
First and foremost, I should say I’ve never read The Fall of the House of Usher so I have nothing to compare this novella to. However, having no knowledge of the work What Moves the Dead is based on doesn’t affect your experience at all. What starts as a creepy little story turns into a grotesque tale of an evil fungus. It was dark with an edge of humor and it was incredible. I’d particularly recommend this one to fans of Mexican Gothic.
It has been a very long time since I’ve read Fall of the House of Usher by Poe, but I must say, this book wonderfully captures that uneasy “something is amiss” atmosphere you find in classic horror tales. Right from the start, the protagonist is charming, the narrative compelling and curious. The writing itself is brilliant, expertly capturing the plot and pulling you, the reader, along for a frightening ride.
The mushrooms, the tarn, the house itself, the Usher siblings - this is a perfectly crafted retelling of a very frightening story. Really, the MUSHROOMS. I also found the narrator very refreshing and highly entertaining, easily keeping me engaged the entire way. I also truly appreciated the way the author kept true to the original story while also changing just enough to keep this tale unique and special.
Books like this are rare to come across, and I am so glad I gave it a chance. Keep an open mind and you will enjoy this book, too.
As a huge fan of Edgar Allan Poe, I was thrilled to be able to read this retelling of The Fall of the House of Usher. T. Kingfisher does an incredible job immediately immersing the reader in the gothic backwater world in which we encounter Madeline and Roderick Usher, brother and sister who refuse to leave their ancestral home despite rot and decay all around them.
Where Poe told us the what in his short story, Kingfisher fills us in on the why and does it in an utterly believable and beautifully horrific manner. I was unable to put this one down, despite knowing the inevitable ending because the gaps that Poe had left us with, were finally being filled in.
The character of Easton and the addition of a culture with multiple pronouns adds an element of modernity and inclusion to this classic tale.
For fans of Mexican Gothic and Edgar Allan Poe, this is definitely a retelling that you do not want to miss.
Thank you to Netgalley, Tor Nightfire, and T. Kingfisher for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Everything T. Kingfisher touches turns to immaculate horror story gold, and this book is no exception. It hits that sweet spot between just a genuinely fun retelling of Edgar Allen Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher (as well as a fantastic addition to the gothic horror genre), and something so so much more. Kingfisher has a talent for really setting the scene and atmospheric dread that really gets you into the book. Despite the fact that it was so short, I absolutely LOVED the characters and was impressed by how well-fleshed out they were. Kingfisher falls back on familiar gothic horror character tropes (the American, the Nervous Gentleman, the Sickly, Waifish Lady, and the Soldier) but gives them such a great history and spin that it takes everything I already love about the genre and makes it even BETTER. I'm trying not to give away any spoilers, but I will say that this book will keep you up at night and you won't look at *redacted* the same way ever again.
For those who liked Silvia Moreno-Garcia's Mexican Gothic (which Kingfisher pays homage to in the Author's Note), you are going to LOVE this book.
Did I download this book and proceed to read the whole thing in one sitting? Perhaps. It’s been a long, long time since I read Fall of the House of Usher, so I went into this story blind. I absolutely loved it! Kingfisher created such a vivid and atmospheric setting that I truly felt unsettled while reading this book. She gave such life to the crumbling Usher manor and the eerie countryside that I truly felt like I was there along with Easton. And the horror! There were some truly horrific scenes, especially when it comes to body horror. I would have noped right out of there well before the crypt scenes.
I loved all of Kingfisher’s characters, especially Easton. Always here for the inclusion of nonbinary main characters! Even in the face of the dangerous unknown they still managed to keep things humorous and moving. We saw brief glimpses into Easton’s backstory, but they never took away from the storyline or slowed the pace. Mrs. Potter was also a particular delight and so easy to imagine. All of the characters felt truly fleshed out and interesting. My heart hurt for the Ushers.
This was my first T. Kingfisher and it definitely won’t be my last. I cannot wait to check out her backlog books, but I will also be revisiting Poe in the meantime.
Thank you so much to NetGalley and Tor Nightfire for this ARC!
A witty and scary take on Poe's Fall of the House of Usher, although familiarity with that story is not neccesary to appreciate Kingfisher's novel-- mildly gender-bending, and by turns creepy and delightfully droll. The horrible, gloomy, isolated mansion and the seeming madness befalling its owners are the stuff of nightmares. Their friends dismiss and rationalize rather than intervening, conscious of what is proper and refusing to admit to the horror-- and who doesn't bury their head in the sand when a dear friend sleepwalks and speaks of herself in the third person?
Most enjoyable. Highly recommended for public library collections.
“The dead don’t walk. Except sometimes, when they do.”
Officer Alex Easton rushes to Ruritania when they learn their childhood friend, Madeline Usher, is dying. Finding the manse surrounded by fungus and a glowing lake, they speculate as to the cause of Maddy and her brother Roderick’s strange behavior. Can Alex, an American doctor, and a mycologist solve the mystery of the House of Usher before it is too late?
No one does creepy horror better than T. Kingfisher, so who better to write a reimagining of Edgar Allen Poe’s classic Gothic tale of The Fall of the House of Usher?!
She nailed it!
Kingfisher is an absolute master. She seamlessly fills in the gaps of information left out of the original tale and inserts a plausible, clever, and original explanation for Poe’s initial plot points.
And the creepy hares? I don’t think that I will be able to think of sweet Thumper 🐇 in the same way!
The addition of a gender bending main character of Alex Easton, as well as a new set of pronouns make this retelling unique and current while keeping within the original setting of 1890.
Do not skip the author’s note if you want to know more about how and why this retelling was born! I’m so glad she decided to complete this novella! I loved it!
I highly recommend this book to readers of Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Shirley Jackson, and M.R. Carey.
Expected publication date 7/12/22
Thank you to Jordan Hanley at MacMillan-Tor/Forge for the ARC of What Moves the Dead in exchange for an honest review.
Thanks to Net Galley and the publisher for a copy of this book to review !
What Moves The Dead
by T. Kingfisher
What a fabulous book! I was so excited to receive a copy because I've really enjoyed the author's previous novels. What Moves The Dead exceeded all of my high expectations.
Set in the mid twentieth century, the story is a creative twist on Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher. It has all the important elements to brew up a great story and some extra special ingredients which really makes it a unique read.
Terrifyingly fantastical with a dose of dark humor on the side. Of the five main characters, the gender bending Lieutenant Easton is most brilliantly portrayed along with the unflappable Miss Potter and of course the ghastly siblings, Roderick & Madeline Usher.
It takes a special book to make you jump with fright at every little noise and then laugh out loud a few moments later. T. Kingfisher has once again proven to be one of the best writers of the horror genre. What Moves The Dead is a treasure I can highly recommend.
5 Stars !
This short novella was amazing!! I loved every minute of reading it. It pulled me through into a world where fungus makes the dead walk. Seeing a reimagining of one of my all time favorite authors stories had me intrigued and ready to sit down with a cup of coffee and the story. This story is worth all 13 chapters. Alex is a main character that has seen and been through so much yet cares for those he loves and will burn it all down for them. Join Alex in their journey with an eclectic group of men and women who must fight the fungus that makes the dead walk. Thank you to Tornightfire for sending me a digital arc of this story. Release date: 07/12/2022
When I was offered an ARC of a T. Kingfisher novel, I absolutely jumped at the chance. The cover, the title, the fact that it's a retelling of an Edgar Allen Poe tale...it had to go right to the top of my TBR list. I couldn't wait to get started.
I am SO GLAD I prioritized this one!
Dark and gloomy and atmospheric, this novel follows Alex, a retired soldier, to visit their friends Madeline and Roderick. Madeline is ill and, judging from her letter, practically on death's doorstep. When Alex arrives at their dilapidated manor they find so much is worse; Madeline is little more than bones, Roderick is paranoid and full of wild fantasies, and there's a strange fungus making the rabbits in the area behave strangely...
This novel gave me something I've never experienced before when, two chapters in, you realize the main character is nonbinary. I was filled with delight at seeing a character like me in a setting that had nothing to do with their gender, solving mysteries and investigating spookiness. The book uses invented pronouns for Alex and eases you into them in a way that seems almost effortless.
Loved this read, which I proved by losing a decent amount of sleep by staying up to read it.
Couldn’t sleep because I’m congested and sniffly, so I finished reading What Moves the Dead by T Kingfisher and now I can’t sleep because I’m congested, sniffly, and afraid of evil sentient fungus monsters slowly consuming me while I sleep and then puppeting my dead body for months on end.
I should maybe not read horror stories at 2am.
But if you’re looking for a book that will give you the creepy crawlies, then this weird retelling of Poe’s Fall of the House of Usher is a fascinating one. The aesthetics are off the charts when it comes to decay and gloom and the philosophical asides are as poignant as they come.
It took me a few days to finish reading it, since I felt compelled to take a break and reread Fall of the House of Usher first, but really the novella stands alone without it. Much like The Hollow Places revitalized and expanded upon Blackwood’s The Willows, this novella takes the House of Usher and staggers off into the distance with a new and frightening gait.
Recommended for people who like: speculative fiction, sci-fi, Edgar Allen Poe, atmospheric reads, creepy, mushrooms, The Southern Reach Trilogy, The Fall of the House of Usher
This review has been posted to Goodreads as of 3/10, and will be posted to Instagram on 3/16 and my book review blog on 3/29.
It's really a mycologist/mushroom-lover's dream. While there's a lot in here about the mushrooms and fungus of the Usher manor, it's all added in such a way that doesn't feel too overbearing. I liked that there was a character who was a mycologist who could explain some of the things on the land and provide that background information.
I've never read the Poe story this is based on, but this was so good. I did get a brief summary of the OG story from my sister, who has read Poe's story, and I was a bit worried about some of the subplots in the original, but luckily this one bypasses those and sticks much more closely to the creepiness, speculative fiction, and atmospheric-ness of Poe. After this, Kingfisher is definitely someone I want to read more of.
The stuff with the hares (and hairs) was 100% creepy. It started off as just weird, but as the book goes on and more things get revealed, it does get very nicely into that creep factor. Kingfisher utilizes the idea of watching quite well throughout the book to different effects. Also the uncanny valley phenomenon, though I didn't quite pick up on this one until close to the end of the book.
Easton is an interesting character to have as the narrator. They're a friend of the family, and while they seem closer to the sister, they served in the army for a bit with the brother, so there's a relationship there with both siblings. Easton is understandably concerned by Madeline's letter, and their concern only mounts when they arrive at the House of Usher to discover the terrible condition both siblings are in. They really stick to their battle-hardened grit and their compassion as things play out in the book, and I liked seeing some of the transitions as things started to become weirder.
The two Usher siblings obviously play a big role in the story. Madeline isn't in it too much since she's obviously very ill, but the parts that she is in you get the sense of someone who has sort of accepted their fate. At the same time, there's something clearly off about Madeline's behavior. Roderick is also clearly suffering from some kind of affliction, though it's not immediately clear whether it's from the same thing as Madeline or something different. He's definitely a nervous character, but I found myself liking him despite his weird tics. In the moments where he was more coherent, he seems to be a decent and interesting guy.
Angus traveled with Easton to the manor and is an older, retired soldier who saw combat with Easton's father and has since taken them under his wing. Angus is very no-nonsense about stuff while also being extremely superstitious. I think it made for a good combo, especially in this situation, and I also really liked Angus' character.
Denton is a doctor that Roderick called for Madeline. He was a bit harder to get a read on than some of the other characters and I wasn't entirely sure how I felt about him until closer to the end. There are moments when he's interesting and I liked him, and then there were moments where I questioned his motives and his presence at the House of Usher.
Miss Potter may well be my favorite character aside from Easton. She's the mycologist (read: mushroom expert) that I mentioned above and is a fictional aunt to Beatrix Potter. I liked her additions to the story and the landscape where the book takes place. She also has a bit of no-nonsense to her, though in a different way than Angus does, and I was glad to see her continually reappearing throughout the story.
The suspension definitely ramps up throughout the entire book. It starts off as someone visiting their sick friends, and then turns into one weird thing after another. The world around the characters, and the other characters themselves as well as their own senses, are called into question as things progress. I enjoyed the way Kingfisher used tension in the book and how there was a good balance between the various aspects of the novel.
Overall, I really enjoyed this novel and thought it had a good dose of weirdness and mushrooms. The characters were actually all enjoyable to read about as well, even if not all the things they do are.
Apparently we need to establish a new genre called “Fungal Gothic” (to encompass books like Mexican Gothic and What Moves the Dead) and I would be its biggest fan. This retelling does an excellent job of following the main beats of Poe’s original story, yet adding new dimensions. If anything, though, I was surprised by how much it reminded me of the original. That being said, the new elements (like a fascinating use of pronouns which reminded me of Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, and a delightfully intelligent and opinionated horse which reminded me of Maximus—the horse in Disney’s film Tangled), as well as the clever turns of phrase throughout, made this quite the enjoyable (and unique!) read. I would highly recommend to anyone interested in Poe, dark retellings, or the horror genre.
“They say mushrooms spring up where the Devil walks.”
T. Kingfisher has another masterpiece to add to her growing works. If you liked her previous stuff you’ll love this.
A musty and damp retelling of The Fall of The House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe, definitively deserving of high praise.
Wonderful characters, more fully fleshed as a novelization, with the same madness elicited by Poe’s writing.
The creeping dread that Kingfisher somehow manages to put on the page is as evident as ever in her new novel. Highly recommend if you like gothic fiction, are familiar with the original short story, or are a fan of Kingfisher already.
Wow, this was awesome in it's plausible gruesomeness. A brilliant take on expanding the House of Usher story, which looms large in the literary-scape that is horror. A non-binary protagonist, who hails from a culture with 5 genders and their accompanying pronouns.
What Moves The Dead is a retelling of The Fall of the House of Usher. Set in the year 1890 in a rural English town, the story centers around a former soldier named Alex Easton. Easton who just learned that his childhood friend Madeline Usher is dying immediately goes to the Usher family home. As soon as Alex arrives he notices bizarre fungal growths on the Usher family’s property. Alex then meets an eclectic group of characters: Miss Porter who is a proper British lady that studies fungal growths, Denton an American doctor, and Madeline’s brother Rodrick who is afflicted with a bizarre nervous condition.
At less than 200 pages, What Moves The Dead is more of a novella but the shorter length didn’t deter me from loving this story any less. First off I loved the LGBTQA+ representation in this book and Kingfisher crafted a perfect version of Poe’s original unnamed Soldier in Alex Easton. It’s hard for an author to do a retelling for various reasons, especially on a widely loved tale as The Fall of the House of Usher but T Kingfisher did an amazing job here! Not only did she stay true to Poe’s original masterpiece but she actually enhanced the story.
What Moves The Dead is not only spine-tingling, atmospheric, and full of white-knuckled suspense, but at the heart of the story is mystery surrounded by a dilapidated gothic house.
Without spoiling anything for anyone, I will say that I will forever be scared of mushrooms after reading this one. I am a huge fan of the T Kingfisher’s prior novels The Hollow Places and The Twisted One's but What Moves The Dead solidified my admiration for the author's extraordinary writing.
I highly recommend this book for fans of Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher and horror readers looking for an entirely unique and perfectly creepy story.
T. Kingfisher is easily becoming one of my favorite authors. She does creepy so well that it just makes sense for her to write a retelling of Edgar Allen Poe’s classic, The Fall of the House of Usher. This story was fantastic! I love how Kingfisher's retelling of this gothic tale had a lot more explanation. Honestly, I started reading this at night and had to stop because the description of the hares were creeping me out! The only thing I wish she'd done different is make the story longer but this is one fantastic novella!
Expected release date is 7/12/22
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy in exchange for an honest review.
this book may take the cake for book that has scared me the most.
The gothic descriptions and use of imagery was phenomenal. Had I not known this was a book to be released this year I would have thought it was a book written 100 years ago.
There was definite inspiration from Poe and love how the author was able to really expand to create this eerie tale.
The book starts out not super scary, but when it hits the fan, it hits the fan HARD!
If you liked books such as the family upstairs and Mexican Gothic. Do not hesitate on this one. I know I'll be grabbing a physical copy!
Thank you Netgalley and Publisher for a gifted eARC
Everything from the cover to the fine Gothic details will soothe any reading soul searching for a delightfully creepy retelling of The Fall of the House of Usher by Poe. I dare say, that as much as I love Poe, this is brought the story to life in ways Poe did not. The story, part mystery-part test of friendship and wills, is better than ever and I cannot recommend Kingfisher's retelling enough.
Thank you NetGalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge for the opportunity to read an advance reading copy.
Thank you Netgalley for the e-ARC!
This book was definitely shocking. It was so creepy and unsettling I couldn't put it down. As someone who hasn't read the
original Edgar Poe book, the plot twist really surprised me. I loved the characters and their dynamics.
I'd recommend this book to everyone.
Loved this! Similar to Mexican Gothic (read immediately if you haven’t) but beautiful in its own way. A fantastic retelling of The Fall of the House of Usher. Vivid characters, gothic atmosphere, unsettling occurrences, and incredibly funny. Super happy that NetGalley approved my request for an ARC
“What was it, I asked myself, what was it that was so fearful, so frightening in my view of the House of Usher? This was a question to which I could find no answer.” (narrator of The Fall of the House of Usher) Having found this E. A. Poe short story dreary and somewhat confusing, I was delighted that T. Kingfisher finally answered the question – what is so fearful in dismal Ruritania?
Whoa. Answer: Zombie hares, creepy strings of something coming out of fish anuses, white “hairs” covering Roderick and Madeline Usher's bodies! But first the reader is introduced to Alex Easton, a soldier and childhood friend of the Ushers (as in the original), riding through the heavily atmospheric landscape in answer to a desperate plea for help. The house of Usher is surrounded by dark woods matted with fungal growth, aside a luminous lake which seems to breathe.
Kingfisher adds a couple of important characters to Poe's story, Alex's loyal adjutant; Miss Potter (aunt to Beatrice and formidable mycologist); and the perplexed, truly useless doctor, Denton. Alex, the non-binary narrator, uses home country Gallacia's pronouns instead of English ones. As a soldier, Alex's pronoun is “ka.” Pronouns based on responsibility, rather than gender, is a fascinating idea introduced into an otherwise era-authentic version of 1800's Poe-esque narrative.
Thank goodness for the mycologist or the novella's ending would not have resolved in a satisfying way, from my point of view. In its entirety, What Moves the Dead is an en/grossing read.
As a longtime lover of Poe's classic "Fall of the House of Usher," I had high hopes that "What Moves the Dead" would simultaneously feel familiar and yet unique as a fresh retelling of Poe's original story. Thankfully, I loved every page.
In this novella, T. Kingfisher manages to preserve the most powerful elements of Poe's gothic horror while telling what truly felt like a new, intriguing story. Her telling of the Usher house went deeper, perhaps darker, and built incredible suspense that Poe's short story does not have simply due to its length.
Kingfisher's prose is poetic, hauntingly descriptive, and still easy-enough-to-read for the everyday reader. It's not often that I find myself satisfied with the character development in a novella (particularly in the horror genre where suspense takes center stage), but I loved Easton the protagonist and the representation they brought to the story as well as the rest of the character ensemble. It took me a few pages to adapt to the various new sets of pronouns introduced in this work (ka/kan, va/van), but I appreciated the newness they brought to the story and the challenge they presented. Trust me--you can do it. You will still be able to read and fully appreciate this story with unfamiliar pronouns.
If you're a fan of Poe, gothic horror, and retellings of classics, you will devour this title. Further, if you're among the few (and I know you're out there!) devout lovers of Poe that simply wish "Fall of the House of Usher" was longer--there isn't a story out there more perfect for you. It was unnerving reading this at night, and I'm still thinking about it. With this being my first T. Kingfisher read, I can't wait to dive into more of her work.
*Thank you to NetGalley & the publisher for my advanced review copy of this title*
Wow. I am completely obsessed with this reimagining of the Fall of the House of Usher. It was incredibly weird and creepy and I’m all for it.
I really loved that Kingfisher took this original story and made it her own. It felt like an extension of the story rather than a simple retelling.
I like fungi a lot so it’s safe to say I love the way fungi was plays into this story. There were so many strange elements which really worked such as fascinating characters (Beatrix Potter’s aunt plays a cameo), hares and mycology.
A brilliant little novella. I will never look at fungi the same way again.
Thank you so much to Tor Nightfire for providing me with a free copy of this book to read and review in advance.
Thank you to Macmillan/Tor for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. I came into this book having not read the Fall of the House of Usher, but I could tell that the vibes of the original story carried through. This book was vivid, eerie, and atmospheric, and I found it to be perfectly haunting. I absolutely loved it and will definitely be eyeballing any strange fungi I see in the coming weeks extra hard.
Look, a new T. Kingfisher book! She is an automatic pre-order author for me, so I've had my name on the list at my Friendly Neighborhood Bookseller for months and months. This short novel is a retelling of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher," and is mostly true to the facts and spirit of the story, just adding details to make it even more disturbing. I know, "The Fall of the House of Usher" was already plenty disturbing enough, and didn't really need T. Kingfisher to come along and add the uncanny mushrooms, the uncanny hare, and the not at all uncanny fictionalized aunt of Beatrix Potter to make it creepier, but here we are, and it's probably some sort of literary crime to say this is actually better than Poe's version, but here we also are. I recommend that you rent a vacation cottage somewhere especially damp, and bring this book and Silvia Moreno-Garcia's Mexican Gothic, and plenty of mushrooms for your suppers. I feel confident in guaranteeing you a memorable time.
T. Kingfisher does it again! What Moves the Dead is a superb retelling of the classic Poe story, The Fall of the House of Usher. Written in the style of the late 1800s, yet while reading it comes across as fresh as today. The novel successfully evokes the creepy surroundings of the Usher ancestral home, while author crafts a sense of mounting dread as the novel goes on, making it difficult to put down. An absolutely fascinating read.
My thanks to Macmillan-Tor/Forge and to Netgalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest opinion.
OH MY G O D
Gothic/Fantasy Horror retelling of The Fall of the House of Usher?
SIGN ME UP.
The atmosphere was a constant edge of your seat swirl of tension and anticipation as you try to figure out just what ails the house of Usher. The characters? *Chef's kiss* Feisty, intelligent, well rounded, and as prone to fixing mistakes as they are making them. I adored the way Alex's gender identity was explained in a way that made if very clear, but also was nuanced, didn't baby the reader, and left no room for misinterpretation.
I loved the setting, I loved the story, I loved the characters and more than a n y t h i n g I would have loved for this to be several hundred pages longer.
There's no one quite like Poe. Haunted as he was in life, it's no surprise he was so adept at tapping directly into fears in his work, no matter how dark and unusual they were. From fear of the elderly to tales of revenge to his tried-and-true staple of mourning the loss of a beautiful woman cut down in her prime, he was a master of dread and I read him so voraciously as a child it's almost a wonder I didn't consider myself a genre fan earlier in life. I was a Gothic fan before I was anything, but with that comes the knowledge that for all his talent, Poe could also tend toward the denser side, waxing poetic about things that seem unrelated to the core story for so long it's easy to forget just what he started on. With that in mind, it's always a delight to see his work given new life by new voices. T. Kingfisher may not be new on the scene, but the characters of What Moves the Dead are a breath of fresh air.
Alex Easton is a sworn soldier coming to visit their friends the Ushers following a letter from Madeline Usher indicating her own failing health. They begin the story self-assured and battle-worn but grounded in the knowledge that they are not a very fancifully imaginative person. Upon arrival at the Ushers' estate, Easton is met almost immediately with challenges to their ideas, from the house's deeply unsettled atmosphere to the building feeling that they may not truly know their friends near as well as they first thought. Both Ushers have a look of death about them, and the manor enveloping them is decaying even as it suffocates them.
I feel still somewhat new to Kingfisher's work, and yet found myself anticipating What Moves the Dead more than nearly any other book releasing this year. Getting the opportunity in 2020 to review The Hollow Places introduced me to an author who knew how to craft dread so sinister it snuck up and wrapped itself around you before you ever got the chance to know it was there. So it is with What Moves the Dead. Even knowing it is based around one of Poe's most unsettled locales, Kingfisher's ability to turn the stomach with a simple turn of phrase adds a whole other level of disturbance. Reading What Moves is an exercise in the kind of fear that starts slow only to stick in your craw and settle into your bones with the same dedication as the Usher manor's poisoned atmosphere. You can't place it, exactly, but you can't quite shake it either, and what you're left with is the discomfiting sense on which myths are built and stormy nights are passed.
When adapting a well-known and well-beloved text into something new, it is important to make one's unique impression on the story in order for it to stand on its own ground alongside its source, a sometimes-daunting task not easily managed. Yet in Kingfisher's hands "Usher" becomes a newly enriched text full of fascinating characters, some of the likes of which it strikes me as beyond Poe's scope to have even considered casting. Easton's delicate balance of unsettled and self-assured is engaging to read - there's nothing quite like newfound fear in someone discovering a version of the world they had never previously considered - and the way they are conceptualized is comfortingly novel. That is, Easton grew up in a land with a much more nuanced view of gender identity and personal identity than what we have, and the way it's handled is immediately clear enough that we understand why the people around them respond in such varied ways, bringing each of their pre-conceived ideas about sworn soldiers such as Easton to bear with the reality of Easton before them. Just enough time is spent on it to give each of the characters a unique sense of depth, but it isn't ever the sole focus. There are, after all, witch-hare legends and catalepsy to deal with.
Alongside Easton is the bold mycologist Miss Beatrix Potter, who unabashedly pursues her passion for fungus research with dreams of confronting the field of study with something so novel they have to take her seriously, gender be damned. She is the very definition of a strong support system for everyone who meets her, taking all things in stride with an air of confidence in her ability and steadfast belief in her work that Poe would never have thought to introduce - on the whole, for him, to be woman was to be doomed to death or already dead, there was no room for breaking down glass walls. She is also, pleasantly, somewhat wistfully dedicated to her paintings of the various fungi she encounters on the moors; no character of Kingfisher's is ever quite just one thing, and we as readers are all the more benefited for it.
My only complaint with What Moves the Dead is the same as Kingfisher's own in the Author's Note - much as she was left longing for more from Poe's "Usher", Moves goes by so fast it's almost as if it ended too soon. That is, it builds such a wonderfully entrancing cast and atmosphere around itself that I, quite frankly, entirely forgot it was a novella and never wanted it to end. Hares, with their disturbingly deep eyes and airs of dark quest-giving, were never firmly on my list of warm and cozy creatures, but Kingfisher's hares - gracing the exquisite cover of this Gothic journey into darkness - have landed themselves on my personal list of nightmare creatures from now to eternity.
I would like to thank the publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to receive an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
What Moves the Dead releases from Tor Nightfire on July 12, 2022.
I have been an avid Poe fan since I was a young teen--especially of The Raven and Fall of the House of Usher. To the point that in college I wrote multiple papers on Usher just because I wanted to argue the craziest and wildest of ideas about the story.
And here is an author who wrote a crazy story about Usher and made it into a novel! I'm a little jealous, honestly.
This has everything you could wish for. Creepy atmosphere, unhinged characters, off the wall plot twists that still make sense, and, of course, the story framework by Poe.
Kingfisher does an excellent job taking a timeless classic and weaving it into a fresh and unique take on the mysterious House of Usher and it's inhabitants. This story works so well and feels plausible in the context of the short story Poe wrote, and it's not too, too long to feel dragged out. It's the perfect length to expand on Poe's story.
For any fellow Poe fan or those who want a splash of horror and thriller, I recommend this with all the stars.
I really enjoyed this retelling of a Poe classic. It was unsettling in the best way and I have been telling so many people about it already in anticipation of it's release date at work. I highly recommend it and can't wait to sell it in person.
Honestly, I barely skimmed the synopsis and by the time I read this I had completely forgotten it. I mainly was interested in this very fascinating cover. So when I started this and Lt Alex Easton is walking through the woods with their horse, I *almost* looked up the synopsis again. I didn't and I was so glad about that. I had no idea what to expect and I loved every minute of this creeptastic re-telling (apparently, though I've never read it) of The Fall of the House of Usher (I know-BAD HORROR FAN).
I couldn't stop. I had to know what was going on with Maddy. And Roderick?! Same thing, or was he just having a meltdown because of his sister? Of course, Miss Potter was my favorite. (Along with Angus and Hob.) Every character was drawing me in in a specific way. Denton had me looking up medical terms and trying to guess what the actual result would be (bc, of COURSE they diagnosed Maddy with hysteria *eye roll*), Angus had me trying to guess what was up with the forest and the wildlife, Easton had me on edge they were going to get killed any second with all the poking around corners in the dark, Maddy and Roderick were apparently going mad and I had to follow their strange behavior wherever they went.
Plus, the language! I love language and this just had so much more going on with the dialogue, the narration, the history than your average book.
This was just so so so good I can't even begin to explain it. If you like horror, creepy, Edgar Allen Poe, Sylvia Moreno-Garcia, unusual methods of death, I highly recommend.
I have never read Poe's story, The Fall of the House of Usher. But What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher grabbed me from the opening descriptions of fungus. It's so odd to say, but wow -- this book bowled me over with how much I loved it.
It's not a long book, but the sheer gothic feel, the horror, the unexplained, the descriptiveness, it all led to something beautiful to read. This is the first book I've read of Kingfishers but I will most definitely be seeking out more.
I genuinely found this so interesting and well done. I'm not a big horror fan, but the plot was intriguing enough for me to want to read it. It took a little while for me to actually get into it, but once I did, I was hooked. Definitely recommend if you want a quick read and are looking for well wrought characters! The writing was also great and buoyant.
This is my third book by this author and im obsessed to say the least. Ive read this book in one sitting and just blowed away by the creepiness. The writing was phenomenal this is evwrything you want in a horror book and this author keep coming with best sellers after best sellers
5/5 THANK YOU TOR NIGHTFIRE FOR THE ARC
To be completely honest, there's lots that drew me in particular to this title in particular. For one, the cover art is absolutely immaculate and totally the vibe for this book. When I saw this on Netgalley I was determined to read it somehow.
This is gothic horror that is a horror lovers dream. It has the classic horror tale atmosphere you would expect from an Edgar Allen Poe story as it is based off of his short story 'The House of Usher'. It's exploration of sci-fi horror revolves around mushrooms. In the author note I think it's funny that T. Kingfisher thought she couldn't pen this novel because of Silvia Moreno-Garcia's Mexican Gothic. However, both of these works are dramatically different and both are incredible modern horror masterpieces.
What Moves the Dead follows soldier Alex Easton, with one of the best uses of pronoun variation I've read in a really long time with an excellent language background to boot, as they travel at the calling of their friend Madeline's letters. The letters are worrisome and Alex is like, "is my friend dying?" It's absolutely such a riveting novel because Alex Easton is by far one of the most sarcastic and hilarious horror protagonists I've ever read. Fully formed and tired, Alex is the definition of, "this is surely a haunted house, we need to leave now' type of person I feel this landscape of horror severely lacks.
Kingfisher weaves this novel by through the exploration of few characters and it's literally just vibes. We have Maddy's super paranoid brother who seems to be ill as well nervous and convinced that their family home is cursed. We have Denton, an American soldier who doesn't know what to make of Alex but realizes that something is very wrong and they all need to leave as soon as possible. And then there's Ms. Potter, a mycologist that aids in understand the terrors of what grows in and outside of this house.
The horror is both mood driven with specks of body horror throughout. We get beautiful and lush descriptions of creatures that act strange and demented after being arisen from the dead by unknown agents. There's so much to love if you are a fan of weird mushroom/mold based horror, which at this point feels like it's own subgenre. It's presentation of mold both through scientific means and through the supernatural adds a twist that both shocks and terrifies readers into thinking about organic matter in a whole new light.
I read this over the course of two days. It's a very short novel that does not skip a single-story beat, fully utilizing great pacing, tone, and mystery to make this a standout amongst 2022 releases. Horror is a versatile genre that can be about so many different things and despite this being a retelling, Kingfisher writes a tale transformative that takes life of its own (no pun intended). Night terrors, crypt chasing, and undead bunnies are going to be on your mind a lot after reading What Moves the Dead and you know what? It's worth it.
A link will be provided for this review when Gatecrashers posts this review closer to release date.
Will be making Instagram posts, Twitter Posts and Tik Toks discussing how much I loved it and how people should pre-order it until the review goes live for maximum pre-order coverage!
I have loved all of the previous books Ive read by T. Kinfisher and this one is no different. 5 Stars. It sucked me in from the first page with Easton and her horse Hobb, as they stumble across a mushroom that when poked releases spores that smell like death..
When Leiutenant Easton gets a letter from her friend Maddy that she is quite ill Easton decides to go for a visit and see whats going on. As Easton gets closer to the manor an weird feeling begins to creep up. As they arrive at the house our stoic soldier Easton who doesn't believe in anything paranormal is like could this house possible any creepier.. It sits on a lake that doens't seem to reflect any light, the house itself is dark and damp and just has an overall feeling that something is going to creep up behing you at any moment.. Could a house even look like more of a gothic horror story?
Both Madeline and her brother Rodrick look like they could keel over any moment, and Madeline especially has no desire to leave her house. When she starts acting even weirder, if thats even possible and Easton finds her wandering the halls at all hours and talking like a child?? Good thing Easton is now on the case and they won't stop until they figure out what the heck is going on in this house.. thankfully they have the help of Denton a doctor, and a local mycologist.... Because when the dead things start moving on their own they need all the help they can get..
Kingfisher does a wonderful job of capturing that ominous creepy feeling in this gothic horror. The atmosphere and attention to detail really make this book shine.. and now I will have to make sure to always pay attention to the local wildlife. I mean only T. Kingfisher can make a Hare THAT creepy and weird.. She has quickly become a favorite and I can't wait to see what she will write next!!
If you read Mexican Gothic and thought it could use a little bit of slightly lgbtq+ flavor and a lot more inspiration from Poe, you'll love this short novella. Not that I've read anything by T. Kingfisher I didn't love - I looked for this novella immediately when I heard it was available as an ARC... and it did not disappoint. Then again, my fangirl heart will always be smitten if someone so much as sneezes at a Star Trek reference. And, no, if you read the author's note at the end you'll find out that I am definitely not the first to make the connection to a Moreno-Garcia supernatural gothic.
Which is a long-winded and slightly ridiculous way of writing a review to say that I loved every creepy, mycological minute of reading this. My entire thanks to NetGalley, Tor Nightfire, and the author for providing an e-arc for review.
4.5 stars, rounded up
If you liked Mexican Gothic, you should check out What Moves the Dead. This creepy little novella retells and expands upon Poe's story The Fall of the House of Usher. It's a gothic horror novella with a probably gender-queer protagonist, animals and people behaving in disturbing ways, mushrooms that smell like corpses, and [ sentient fungus (hide spoiler)]. The setting is a decaying gothic estate that is quite literally rotting from the inside out.
Retellings of Poe can be hit and miss but I thought this one was excellent and it makes me want to read more from this author! Definitely worth a look. I received a copy of this book for review, all opinions are my own.
How can I even describe the amount of love I have for this book? What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher is a deliciously dreadful retelling of the Fall of the House of Usher. The visceral descriptions, the haunting atmosphere, and the unique and diverse world created within, all together form a truly horrific masterpieces.
My first book to read by this author but definitely not my last! Such a gripping novel that made it hard for me to put his book down once I started it. Highly recommend!!
This is so gloriously weird. Atmospheric, spooky, suspenseful, with a wickedly funny narrative voice. The protagonist is just so darn likable, and a bit like Gideon in tone. The play with pronouns and gender is fabulous and fully integrated into the worldbuilding. The ending felt a little abrupt but I think just because I wanted it to keep going, it's true to the spirit of the Poe story.
This book has single handedly reinvigorated my love for creepy/mysterious/ horror books!
When Alex Easton gets word of his childhood best friends', Madeline Usher, depleting condition, he rushes to her gothic manor in Ruritania where he meets an American doctor, James Denton, and a mycologist, Eugenia Potter. Shocked by just how bad Madeline's health is, the 3 work hand in hand to try and uncover the mystery that is the House of Usher.
T. Kingfisher did a great retelling of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher", while also putting their own little twists on the classic, filling many voids that Poe left in the original plot. So many things to love: writing style is really refreshing and easily understood, world building is so detailed and atmospheric, and overall creepy/disturbed in the right places. Super fast read that had me eager to preorder right away!
(also, can we just stop and take a moment to pay respects to that cover?! in love with it!)
Highly recommend reading this absolute gem of a book!
Thank you to NetGalley and MacMillan-Tor/Forge for the ARC copy in exchange for an honest review.
I read this in one sitting! I couldn't put it down! Contemporary gothic horror with classic gothic horror vibes. I'm not easily scared by books, but this one totally spooked me!
*nervous laughter* what the heck what the heck what the heck what the heck what the heck
This was so weird and disturbing and creepy and amazing and fantastic and I want more of it??? I kept having to set it down because I was too freaked out to continue but it was so good
What Moves the Dead - T. Kingfisher
In classic Kingfisher style What Moves the Dead is a story retelling, this of The Fall of the House of Usher from Edgar Allen Poe.
We follow Alex Easton a soldier and friend to the Usher family as they try to uncover the reason for Madeline’s mysterious illness. Kingfisher has done something interesting here giving a whole new set of pronouns to our main character, they are raised with much different pronouns and this aspect of the book was inspired.
The story introduces a few fairly interesting characters with just the right dose of humor to counter act some genuinely creepy elements , I will honestly never look at Hares the same again.
This was the most enjoyable read of the year for me so far, it’s one of those rare books that soon as you finish you want to start all over from the beginning and read it again immediately. It’s got wonderfully dark atmosphere .
A big 5 stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ and a mushroom 🍄 for that gorgeous cover.
Thank you to @tornightfire and @netgalley for the ARC. What Moves the Dead will be available July 12th 2022
This review is spoiler free!
When Alex Easton, a retired soldier, receives a letter from their childhood friend Madeline Usher informing them that she is dying, Alex travels to her home. However, what they find is a crumbling manor covered in fungus, Madeline in a worse state than previously thought, and many, many strange hares.
I was honestly so pleasantly surprised by this oddly charming yet still horrifying tale. This book truly falls into the "CottageGore" category - super dark, yet also incredibly atmospheric. T. Kingfisher created a chilling yet strangely adorable read. I highly recommend this one!
Oh, and Beatrix Potter's aunt is a character so....
*I received an ARC from the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and views in this review are my own.
T. Kingfisher does it again!
In this retelling of Edgar Allen Poe's short story, "The Fall of the House of Usher," Kingfisher expands the narrative and explores questions that went unanswered in the original.
When I first started the book, I was on the fence. The main protagonist, Lieutenant Easton, is a war veteran and I just wasn't sure how much I could relate to them. As I kept reading though it turned out that Easton's internal monologue was just as interesting as what was happening in the story, and I no longer needed convincing to root for their survival.
The length of the book felt short, though I guess comparatively to the original story it added quite a bit (don't quote me on that, I've never read "The Fall of the House of Usher"). The pace clipped along once I got into it, which didn't take very long in itself, and the horror that happened was only *just* on the side of disgusting enough to keep me from putting the book down.
I would recommend this book to people over Mexican Gothic, but that's also because MG really grossed me out, and, happily, What Moves the Dead did not as much. I also enjoy T. Kingfisher as an author, I think her writing voice is easy to follow and enjoyable to read.
I have come to the conclusion that T. Kingfisher is one of my must read authors, and I will pick up any story that she puts out. This was a short book which I read in one sitting. I loved the character of Alex Easton and found myself chuckling several times at their inner monologue and conversations with Hob the horse (who is also delightful).
Very grateful for the advanced copy, and I cannot wait to read whatever comes next from T. Kingfisher.
Kingfisher has a clearly-established affection for sensible people. Even if their hobbies or their choices are unusual or actively dangerous, she likes people who ask the basic questions and run away at the appropriate times. Hence the previously unnamed narrator of the short story gets a name in What Moves the Dead, and a personality besides. Alex Easton, an officer and childhood friend of the Ushers, arrives at the gloomy estate and kicks off the story. Alex and Roderick served in the war together, but he was not drawn back into contact by their mutual ghosts. Instead it is Madeline who spurs Alex’s visit, having written Alex a letter so disturbing that ka had no choice but to go to her side.
A note on the pronouns: Alex is a sworn soldier of the fictional country Gallacia, and uses the neopronouns ka/kan, which specifically refer to anyone serving in the Gallacian military regardless of previous identification. Gallacia has several other extremely useful pronouns, including one that I would certainly like to hear more about that is for “rocks and God.” But to return to the point: Alex encounters some early difficulty explaining kan sworn status to Dr. Denton, an American who has witnessed a bit more of the Ushers’ decline. He is at a loss to explain their feverish temperaments and odd behavior, and so he and Alex can largely only wait for the inevitable.
But what, exactly, is inevitable? Alex is perplexed that the Ushers will not leave their miserable home for a more hospitable climate, since it’s clear the moldering walls and grimy passageways are contributing to Madeline’s illness. Their genteel poverty cannot keep up with the decay, but is it more than pride that keeps them at their family’s estate? In trying to understand the hold it has over then, Alex tries to learn more about the countryside, only to find even stranger things creeping across the moors. Kan training and steely resolve may not be enough to fight dangers too huge to comprehend and yet too subtle to be seen, but ka will try.
What Moves the Dead is not the scariest of Kingfisher's work. That honor belongs to The Hollow Places, or perhaps The Twisted Ones. Instead it's persistently unnerving, perhaps taking a note or two from Jeff VanderMeer's Authority with its infestation of uncanny hares. Later revelations were no surprise, not with that opening chapter and not with any knowledge of the original short story. Fortunately, the book is not relying on my least favorite trope, the twist. Instead, Kingfisher builds an atmosphere of dread quite literally from the ground up. You will be afraid of the earth. You will be afraid of the air. You will be afraid of the water. You will, in short, be kept reading by your fearful certainties that something is certainly amiss, and that possibly everything is very wrong.
The pacing is a perfect complement to this creeping dread, feeding out just enough information and action to maintain the perfect state of anticipation. Anyone worried from the first chapter that Kingfisher will veer too hard into adopting 1890’s style need not worry. There is a loose adherence to phrasing and attitudes, but Kingfisher’s trademark humor and forthrightness remain intact, and drive character development forward as well.
There’s so much forward motion in this book that I finished it in two breathless days, eyes glued to the page at every opportunity. Horror fans, Kingfisher followers, and Poe aficionados will all find something to love in What Moves the Dead—and more importantly, will find something to make them shiver.
What Moves the Dead is a retelling of the classic Edgar Allen Poe's, House of the Usher and it is done remarkably. This is a horror novella and it is fantastic. I cannot recommend this book enough and cannot wait for everyone to get their hands on it. 5/5.
**Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for the advance e-copy**
What a wonderful retelling of "The Fall of the House of Usher"! I loved Easton, the sworn soldiers, and Angus. Miss Potter was also a colorful character and a lovely addition. Perfectly creepy and compelling, I highly recommend for fans of Poe, horror, or gothic lit.
A brief and engaging horror story based on Edgar Allan Poe's short story "Fall of the House of Usher." This tale has more of a sci-fi body horror approach than supernatural and offers relatively mild scares (unless the reader if particularly affected by body horror) with a side of dry humor. The characters are likeable, the writing is incredibly well done, and the plot is engaging and fast-paced. Overall a quick and delightful read.
T Kingfisher has a way with characters that, no matter the time period or genre she's writing in, it creates an unputdownable book. This one was no different. It's delightfully creepy in that particular gothic way, and Easton was a phenomenal main character to pull us through the story. I heartily enjoyed.
A swift and compelling re-telling of THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER, one that doesn't really try to change too much or do anything else besides, well, do a retelling of USHER. There are mushrooms, there are strange miasmas, there's a fire and a ghost and all that you'd expect. A great afternoon's read.
This book was absolutely fantastic. I've already added it to our list for order this year and will recommend it to students.
This well written re-telling of the Edgar Allan Poe classic is well worth a read. Fast paced and suspenseful with enough original ideas sprinkled in to keep it interesting even if you are familiar with the original story. I devoured this book in a very short space of time, I would highly recommend it.
“𝑻𝒉𝒆𝒚 𝒔𝒂𝒚 𝒎𝒖𝒔𝒉𝒓𝒐𝒐𝒎𝒔 𝒔𝒑𝒓𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒖𝒑 𝒘𝒉𝒆𝒓𝒆 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒅𝒆𝒗𝒊𝒍 𝒘𝒂𝒍𝒌𝒔, 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒘𝒉𝒆𝒓𝒆 𝒇𝒂𝒊𝒓𝒊𝒆𝒔 𝒅𝒂𝒏𝒄𝒆.”
This was my first T Kingfisher book. Needless to say, I need more of them…now. It was an easy read that absolutely consumed me.
ᴡʜᴀᴛ ᴍᴏᴠᴇꜱ ᴛʜᴇ ᴅᴇᴀᴅ is one of my most anticipated reads for 2022.
Please do yourself a favour and read ᴛʜᴇ ꜰᴀʟʟ ᴏꜰ ᴛʜᴇ ʜᴏᴜꜱᴇ ᴏꜰ ᴜꜱʜᴇʀ before starting this, as this is a retelling of that story by Poe.
ᴡʜᴀᴛ ᴍᴏᴠᴇꜱ ᴛʜᴇ ᴅᴇᴀᴅ is creepy, eerie and unsettling. It’s everything I could have ever wanted and it absolutely made my skin crawl with nerves and anticipation.
A gothic, dilapidated mansion. Hares behaving strangely. And fungi, lots and lots of fungi. I am here for all of it. 🍄
We also meet a relative of Beatrix Potter pop up. Strangely enough, the hares made my brain drift to Peter Rabbit (my fave) before I even got to the character.
I absolutely loved everything about this. It’s one of the books I will definitely be reading again.
And let me just say the cover is one of my absolute favourites that I’ve ever seen.
Side note: if you see me running to buy ᴍᴇxɪᴄᴀɴ ɢᴏᴛʜɪᴄ, it’s because she told me too. Basically, T Kingfisher says to read it and I was like WELL OKAY, cause 🍄.