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Horror Review – What Moves the Dead

What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher

Review by Cyndi J. (cyndij)

WHAT MOVES THE DEAD is a wonderfully creepy retelling of Edgar Allen Poe’s short story, The Fall of the House of Usher.  I previously reviewed Kingfisher’s novel NETTLE AND BONE, and liked it so much I grabbed this book as soon as I saw it.   Novella length, it expands the characters and provides a reason for the tragedy.

The year is 1890. Lieutenant Alex Easton has received a letter from Madeline Usher, a childhood friend and the sister of Roderick Usher, who was also a fellow soldier. Madeline writes the Lieutenant that Roderick is afraid she is dying, Easton determines to travel there at once and, as in Poe’s short story, the scene opens with the traveler gazing at the utterly bleak and depressing lake in front of the equally awful mansion.

As Easton stops to look at some very odd mushrooms, ka sees an Englishwoman with her paints and sketchpad. (Wait – what – ka? Yeah, you’re going to have to revise your mental image of the Lieutenant). Miss Potter is going to be of help of Easton, what help there can be at any rate.

Madeline is indeed deathly ill, and Roderick not far behind her, plus the entire atmosphere of the house and its surroundings is so unhealthful that the Lieutenant despairs of ka’s friends. There’s an American doctor there as well, who would do something if only he could figure out what.  Alex desperately wants to figure it out before it’s too late.

Kingfisher does not change the fate of the Ushers.  But Easton does find out what ails them, and it’s oh so unnerving. Ka is a wonderful character and I am happy to see that there’s another Sworn Soldier book coming (What Feasts at Night, scheduled for Feb 2024). In fact, all these characters, including Hob the horse, are so well done. The imagery is just as horrifying as Poe’s, without all the overwrought description – and no poetry, which frankly I didn’t miss.

In short, a really nice horror novella, and highly recommended.




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