Author: Cassandra Khaw
Publisher: Tor Nightfire
Release Date: October 19th, 2021
My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
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.)