The City of Dusk by Tara Sim

Set in a gorgeous world of bone and shadow magic, of vengeful gods and defiant chosen ones, The City of Dusk follows the four heirs of four noble houses—each gifted with a divine power—as they form a tenuous alliance to keep their kingdom from descending into a realm-shattering war.

The Four Realms—Life, Death, Light, and Darkness—all converge on the City of Dusk. For each realm there is a god, and for each god there is an heir.

But the gods have withdrawn their favor from the once vibrant and thriving metropolis. And without it, all the realms are dying.

Unwilling to stand by and watch the destruction, the four heirs—Angelica, an elementalist with her eyes set on the throne; Risha, a necromancer fighting to keep the peace; Nikolas, a soldier who struggles to see the light; and Taesia, a shadow-wielding rogue with a reckless heart—will become reluctant allies in the quest to save their city.

But their rebellion will cost them dearly. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Angela Man and Orbit Books for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. The City of Dusk is available now.

Dark and complex, with intrigue and machinations aplenty, The City of Dusk was a fascinating book. I was a little surprised; it started out slowly, and I was often curious as to how the seemingly unrelated bits of narrative would mesh. While the book follows multiple points of view, each lends its piece to a whole that is bigger and much more complicated than I could have possibly hoped for.

The City of Dusk follows four heirs from separate houses (houses who worship different gods) as they try to unite and save their city. Each house has a different skill, for lack of a better term, which has to do with their patron god. I’m grateful for the list of houses at the beginning of the book. While the four heirs have very distinctive voices, I sometimes found myself forgetting who was related to whom and which house other characters belonged to.

While each of the characters offered a different and unique part to the story, Taesia was by far my favorite. She seemed to be more fully developed than some of the others. She was also a bit cantankerous and sarcastic, which I loved. She seemed happy to mock from the shadows, while at the same time fighting like mad to save her realm. It was a delightful combination of character traits, and I loved every chapter told from her point of view.

Angelica really annoyed me, although I couldn’t say why. There was something about her that felt very self-pitying, and it got under my skin pretty quickly. I did like the way her music acted as focus, though. That was extremely creative.

The political vying for position and the behind-the-scenes machinations were quite possibly my favorite aspects to the book. Everyone is so busy wondering whether they can trust the person they’ve formed an uneasy alliance with, that it adds almost a level of anxiety to the pages, which was a blast to read.

The descriptions were beautiful and the history and mythology that author Tara Sim has created is astounding. There’s so much to it! The city itself oozed personality and was almost a character in its own right.

It took a while for me to become fully invested in the book, but once it got going, The City of Dusk held me captive. This is an excellent start to what I’m sure will be an addictive series.

Legends & Lattes: A Novel of High Fantasy and Low Stakes by Travis Baldree

High Fantasy with a double-shot of self-reinvention

Worn out after decades of packing steel and raising hell, Viv the orc barbarian cashes out of the warrior’s life with one final score. A forgotten legend, a fabled artifact, and an unreasonable amount of hope lead her to the streets of Thune, where she plans to open the first coffee shop the city has ever seen.

However, her dreams of a fresh start pulling shots instead of swinging swords are hardly a sure bet. Old frenemies and Thune’s shady underbelly may just upset her plans. To finally build something that will last, Viv will need some new partners and a different kind of resolve.

A hot cup of fantasy slice-of-life with a dollop of romantic froth. (Taken from Amazon)

Thank you to the author for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Legends and Lattes will be available for purchase on February 22nd.

Legends and Lattes is a delight! Creative and sweet, with just the right amount of danger, I enjoyed every word. The book follows Viv, an orc who leaves behind a life of killing and looting to open a coffee shop. That’s right, an orc running a coffee shop. Not only is it unlikely, but no one in the city of Thune even knows what coffee is. Viv definitely has her work cut out for her! Luckily for her, she has a Scalvert’s Stone, which is supposed to bring success. Unluckily for her, someone knows she has it, and wants it.

The premise is so much fun, but what made it even better for me were the supporting characters. There was a wonderful group of unique misfits who slowly turned Viv’s dream into a reality that was so much more than she expected. From the succubus who really wanted to leave the reputation that comes with her race behind, to the rattkin cook, each character added a unique charm to Legends and Lattes. They showcased Viv’s character growth and added a little something extra. I can’t decide who my favorite character was: Cal the hob or Thimble, the rattkin cook. There was something intensely charming about the cook being a rattkin. I also loved Durias the mysterious gnome. I’m a sucker for sage-like characters and I would love to read another book set in this world, just about him.

The coffee shop itself became another character and I fell in love with it. There was something cozy and calming about the way it was described. I loved the descriptions of the coffee and goodies that could be found there, and I would love to nibble on a thimblet!

The pacing was excellent, the story itself was sweet, and the ending was perfect. Legends and Lattes would be the perfect book to read on a rainy day with a cup of your favorite hot beverage.

Revenge of the Beast by Jack Meggitt-Phillips- The Write Reads Ultimate Tour

Lemony Snicket meets Roald Dahl in this riotously funny, deliciously macabre, and highly illustrated sequel to The Beast and the Bethany in which Bethany and Ebenezer try to turn over a new leaf, only to have someone—or something—thwart them at every turn.

Once upon a very badly behaved time, 511-year-old Ebenezer kept a beast in his attic. He would feed the beast all manner of objects and creatures and in return the beast would vomit him up expensive presents. But then the Bethany arrived.

Now notorious prankster Bethany, along with her new feathery friend Claudette, is determined that she and Ebenezer are going to de-beast their lives and Do Good. But Bethany finds that being a former prankster makes it hard to get taken on for voluntary work. And Ebenezer secretly misses the beast’s vomity gifts. And neither of them are all that sure what “good people” do anyway.

Then there’s Claudette, who’s not been feeling herself recently. Has she eaten something that has disagreed with her?
Genre: MG Fantasy
Length: 288 Pages
Publishing: 30th September 2021
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Revenge-Beast-2-Bethany/dp/1534478922
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58410828-revenge-of-the-beast

Thank you to Aladdin publishing and The Write Reads on Tour for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. The Beast and the Bethany: Revenge of the Beast will be available for purchase on March 22nd.

Delightfully wicked, The Beast and the Bethany: Revenge of the Beast had me roaring with laughter (as opposed to the Beast, who was possibly simply roaring for the fun of it), and happily devouring every word.

My favorite duo of not-quite-good-guys is back in this sequel to The Beast and the Bethany, and everything seems to be hunky dory. Or is it? Okay, so neither Bethany nor Ebenezer have any idea how to be do-gooders, there’s a fancy shirt that seems to have a mind of its own, and Claudette the bird is acting oddly…but those are all normal everyday difficulties that people deal with all the time. Right?

The author is back in fine form with this fantastic book, continuing the hijinks that follow Bethany and Ebenezer, while at the same time sneaking in themes of friendship and making good choices (it’s done so slyly that I promise your children won’t notice, parents). At the same time, it is incredibly entertaining. I found myself laughing aloud at parts.

New characters are introduced, and the reader is treated to a more complete look at old ones. While our three main characters are all wonderful, Ebenezer continues to be my favorite. In Revenge of the Beast, a little more is shown about his past and how the Beast came to be involved in his life. Ebenezer struggles with his newfound less-selfish outlook and watching him grow and develop as he deals with change is a joy.

As with book one, Revenge of the Beast would best be enjoyed by older children (and adults!), although it would be a fun read-aloud for younger kids who like a slightly macabre twist to their books. Think Roald Dahl and you’ve got the general idea.

Plan to run away from the Beast, but toward your favorite bookstore to pick this book up! Better yet, go ahead and pre-order it: I guarantee you’ll love it.

About the Author:

Jack Meggitt-Phillips is an author, scriptwriter, and playwright whose work has been performed at The Roundhouse and featured on Radio 4. He is scriptwriter and presenter of The History of Advertising podcast. In his mind, Jack is an enormously talented ballroom dancer, however his enthusiasm far surpasses his actual talent. Jack lives in north London where he spends most of his time drinking peculiar teas and reading P.G. Wodehouse novels.

Wild and Wicked Things by Francesca May


On Crow Island, people whisper, real magic lurks just below the surface. 

Neither real magic nor faux magic interests Annie Mason. Not after it stole her future. She’s only on the island to settle her late father’s estate and, hopefully, reconnect with her long-absent best friend, Beatrice, who fled their dreary lives for a more glamorous one. 

Yet Crow Island is brimming with temptation, and the biggest one may be her enigmatic new neighbor. 

Mysterious and alluring, Emmeline Delacroix is a figure shadowed by rumors of witchcraft. And when Annie witnesses a confrontation between Bea and Emmeline at one of the island’s extravagant parties, she is drawn into a glittering, haunted world. A world where the boundaries of wickedness are tested, and the cost of illicit magic might be death. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Redhook publishing for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Wild and Wicked Things will be available for purchase on March 29th.

Addictive and haunting, Wild and Wicked Things was also a bit problematic. The book initially drew me in with beautiful prose, dripping with magic and secrets. However, the pacing caused me to pause and I found my attention wandering at parts.

I was immediately interested in the book’s setting, which has a wild and carefree overtone with more somber themes lurking just underneath the surface. I’ve read that it takes inspiration from The Great Gatsby, and the juxtaposition of the darker aspects of the storyline with the glitter that’s seen on the surface felt very reminiscent of Gatsby to me. That being said, Wild and Wicked Things is very much its own unique book.

There was quite a bit of content that I struggled to read. The fault is mine: the author has kindly provided a content warning list for the book (here) which I was unaware of when I picked it up. That being said, I feel that the author did not add any of it merely for shock value; rather, it was all part of the story she envisioned and it did further the plot.

I loved the lush feel of the book, and the glitz of it all. I was fascinated by the mysteries lurking beneath the surface. Ultimately, though, the bits that didn’t work for me- the characters that weren’t quite as fully-rounded as I was hoping and the pacing issues- lessened my enjoyment a little. That being said, I am sure that there are many who will find themselves lost in a beautiful world and will appreciate the slower pacing. Give it a go!

Book of Night by Holly Black

Charlie Hall has never found a lock she couldn’t pick, a book she couldn’t steal, or a bad decision she wouldn’t make. She’s spent half her life working for gloamists, magicians who manipulate shadows to peer into locked rooms, strangle people in their beds, or worse. Gloamists guard their secrets greedily, creating an underground economy of grimoires. And to rob their fellow magicians, they need Charlie.

Now, she’s trying to distance herself from past mistakes, but going straight isn’t easy. Bartending at a dive, she’s still entirely too close to the corrupt underbelly of the Berkshires. Not to mention that her sister Posey is desperate for magic, and that her shadowless and possibly soulless boyfriend has been keeping secrets from her. When a terrible figure from her past returns, Charlie descends back into a maelstrom of murder and lies. Determined to survive, she’s up against a cast of doppelgängers, mercurial billionaires, gloamists, and the people she loves best in the world ― all trying to steal a secret that will allow them control of the shadow world and more. (taken from Amazon)

Featuring one of the most delightfully messed-up main characters I’ve read in a while, Book of Night is both wickedly clever and dangerously entertaining.

In a world where “quickened” shadows can be shifted according to the wearer’s mood, Charlie Hall’s shadow is disappointingly ordinary. It does not grow, act of its own accord, or shift on its own. That’s a good thing, since she has enough on her plate as it is. The thing is, Charlie Hall has never seen a bad decision that she isn’t willing to make. Con artist, thief, barista, and certified disaster, trouble has a habit of finding Charlie. To be fair, she doesn’t do all that much to avoid it. Ostensibly done with conning and stealing, Charlie nonetheless works in a bar that crime likes to frequent, she dates a man whose day job is cleaning up the messes left by violence, and she has a knack for upsetting the wrong people.

In a world such as that, it is inevitable that Charlie would be sucked back into a life of conning and stealing. This time the stakes are much higher: Charlie has to find a way to hopefully con her way out of a situation where every solution seems to spell death. The entirety of Book of Night is planned pandemonium, and I was hooked.

This is Holly Black’s first foray into adult fantasy, having garnered a huge fanbase in Young Adult fantasy. While Black’s signature twists and turns are present, the relationships are much more established, allowing me to enjoy the nuances of the characters without being distracted by relationship woes. Don’t get me wrong; as with everything else in her life, Charlie’s relationship with her boyfriend Vince follows the path of most resistance. However, the complications lie in the characters themselves, as opposed to their relationship status. In fact, seeing how Charlie interacted with the people around her was an excellent mirror into the morass of her rather messed-up psyche.

The story is sprinkled with scenes from the characters’ pasts, better developing both their personalities and the world. And it is such a cool world! Manipulators of shadows, known as gloamists, use their shadows to grasp at power, some legally and some otherwise. The wielders of power are fantastical, but the way the power is used to manipulate and control is completely familiar and believable.

There is always something going on, but never at the cost of the plot. The twists seemed to come out of nowhere, yet when I traced back the scenes in the book, the clues were right in front of me. The ending is fantastic, perfectly messy, instead of being tied into an overly neat little bow. While there could be a sequel, which I would gladly read, I almost hope that it is a standalone because the ending hit so well. Book of Night is an exciting urban fantasy from an author who can easily conquer any genre she chooses to write in.

*This review was originally posted in Grimdark Magazine. You can find it here.

Cover Reveal: Blue Shadow Legacy by Anca Antoci

Today I’m excited to be able to share a glimpse of the cover for Anca Antoci’s upcoming release, Blue Shadow Legacy. The third book in the Chimera trilogy, Blue Shadow Legacy looks to be a heart-pounding conclusion.

So, what is Blue Shadow Legacy about?

On the brink of war, the freedom of chimera outcasts and vampires hangs in the balance.

All seems lost when the Council runs coordinated attacks and destroys the Resistance’s secret camps. It’s time for shifters, vampires, and creatures of the Underworld to set their differences aside and make a united front. They expect the Huntress to lead them to victory, but they don’t know the truth about the prophecy that gives them hope. For Rae to save them all, she will be consumed.

After becoming a shadow and training her magic, Rae is ready for a new challenge. Unfortunately, the only constant in her life is that nothing ever goes as planned. When an army of witches gets ready to obliterate what’s left of the Resistance, Rae strikes a deal with a hellhound to save her friends.

An unexpected visit into the Underworld gives Rae a new perspective, an unlikely ally, and a fighting chance, but at what cost?

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/60047251-blue-shadow-legacy

Are you ready for the cover?

Here it is!

About the Author:

Anca’s overactive imagination pours into her stories bringing otherworldly creatures to life. She writes about mystical creatures, mystery, and adventure with a hint of Romance.

Her debut novel, Forget Me Not, is the first part of a trilogy published in 2020.

Before starting her writing journey, Anca was active in the blogging community as a fantasy book reviewer. The fanfiction stories she wrote long before she dreamed of being a writer are still popular and available on her blog. Although not as often, she still posts book reviews and book recommendations on her blog www.summonfantasy.com.

Living in Romania, Anca speaks English as a second language and is quite self-conscious about her accent, which is why she never speaks in her videos on TikTok. She loves taking long walks through the parks to recharge her batteries before a writing sprint. She loves cooking and can often be found in the kitchen trying out a new recipe while an audiobook keeps her entertained.

Oil and Dust by Jami Farleigh

When all has been lost, we find ourselves…
Out of the ashes of destruction, a new world has arisen. The plagues of the past—the worship of greed and pursuit of power—are gone. Now, the communities that remain in this post-apocalyptic world focus on creating connections, on forging futures filled with family and love. And all with the help of hard work, hope… and a little bit of magic.
Artist Matthew Sugiyama knows this well. Traveling the countryside in search of the family he lost as a child, he trades his art for supplies—and uses his honed magic to re-draw the boundaries of reality, to fashion a world that is better for those he meets.
Following glimpses of visions half-seen, Matthew—and the friends he encounters along the way—will travel a path from light to darkness and back again. A road where things lost in the past can only be found in the love of the present, and the hope for the future.
And he will travel this path wherever it leads. From joy to sorrow, from tears to laughter. Because Matthew is the Elemental Artist, and he knows that though dangers arise, humanity will always triumph… in a world he has painted in shades of Oil and Dust.

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Oil and Dust is available for purchase now.

With Oil and Dust, words fail me. It is at times both familiar, yet utterly unique. It is a hopeful book, yet it still contains sorrow and longing, and a person with (in my opinion) a hole in his heart. One can’t have hope without darkness or loss, after all.

The world has changed. Both futuristic and reminiscent of the past, things are simpler. Bartering and sharing are the norm, with people working together and sharing what they need. Gone are greed, and the search for power. It is in this world that we find our main character, Matthew. Matthew is an artist of a different sort, and highly sought after. However, something is missing for him and this leads him to go on a journey, in search of his long-lost family.

The writing is wonderful, sometimes slow but never plodding. Instead, the author takes her time building a world rich in detail. As Matthew travels this world, it grows, becoming larger as his viewpoints shift. He also changes as he sees new places and experiences new perspectives. Matthew is the sort of character that I love to read about: he is supremely human, with human strengths and flaws, and his emotions are painted so clearly that I couldn’t help but feel exactly what he was feeling. I hoped for him, was sad for him, and wanted him to succeed. His character development is astounding.

The characters he encounters along his journey are equally well-developed and, while I loved them (Akiko in particular!) , it was their interactions with Matthew that really made them interesting to me. Despite the fascinating setting and the great side characters, at the end of the day it was Matthew himself that made this book the experience that it is.

Oil and Dust is a triumphant debut novel, memorable and touching. I highly recommend this gem of a book.

The Bone Shard Emperor by Andrea Stewart

The Emperor is Dead. Long live the Emperor.  
 
Lin Sukai finally sits on the throne she won at so much cost, but her struggles are only just beginning. Her people don’t trust her. Her political alliances are weak. And in the north-east of the Empire, a rebel army of constructs is gathering, its leader determined to take the throne by force.  
 
Yet an even greater threat is on the horizon, for the Alanga–the powerful magicians of legend–have returned to the Empire. They claim they come in peace, and Lin will need their help in order to defeat the rebels and restore peace.  
 
But can she trust them?  (taken from Amazon)

Book two in the Drowning Empire series, The Bone Shard Emperor was a wild ride full of action, betrayal, and heart-in-your-throat plot twists. Nothing happens as expected, and it’s fantastic.

The Bone Shard Emperor picks up soon after The Bone Shard Daughter ends. We are still following the points of view found in book one, although a few characters find themselves crossing paths. This is one of the main changes in dynamic: the new interactions. Instead of being on separate but related paths, the book slowly brings the characters into contact with each other. Some form alliances. Others…not so much.

While the world is well developed (and massive), it’s the characters that drew me in and kept me enthralled. Phalue and Ranami, now married, grapple with Phalue’s new role as governor. There are new obstacles and a new twist in their relationship: a scrawny urchin who may be hiding something. While still not my favorite points of view, Phalue and Ranami add a different angle to the story, fleshing it out well.

Meanwhile, Lin finds herself head of a kingdom that is, quite literally, drowning. I am always curious why anyone in their right mind would actually want to be in charge, so seeing her motives and the shifts in her viewpoint was fascinating. She is no longer the idealistic and motivated character she was in The Bone Shard Daughter. Instead, she is a person struggling to keep her head above the dark waters of politics, alliances, secrets she must keep, and an approaching army. From being rather ambivalent about her for the first half of book one, I have gone to eagerly reading the next part of her storyline, wondering if she can somehow hold the fraying kingdom together. I loved the combination of vulnerability and sheer stick-to-it-ness that Lin displayed. She didn’t quit, even when she really probably should have.

Jovis (and Mephi!) once again stood out as my favorite storyline, although things are a little different now. Jovis is now Lin’s Captain of the Guard, and his relationship with her is complicated, to say the least. They are both hiding big things, while at the same time trying to learn who to trust. His part of the book felt like it was always about to tip over into chaos, but never quite did. Author Andrea Stewart kept the multiple threads of his narrative held together wonderfully. Nothing was forgotten, and every action had consequences that were both far-reaching and sometimes flat-out terrifying.

Stewart has come into her own, her writing skillful and confident. The narrative flows wonderfully and the pacing is magnificent. The Bone Shard Emperor felt like a roller coaster, building up speed as it hurtles from drop to turn, turning everything on its head before plunging you straight into an astonishing confrontation. If the series continues on in this vein, it will easily become one of my favorites.

Read this one sooner rather than later.

Originally published in Grimdark Magazine.

Sacaran Nights by Rachel Emma Shaw

SACARA IS DECAYING. THE DEAD WALK THE STREETS, FUNGI LIGHT THE NIGHT, AND DAGNER MUST FIGHT TO KEEP THE ROT AT BAY.
Legacy is everything in Sacara. Those few who inherit live only to keep theirs alive, protecting the ghosts of their ancestors from the corruption seeping into every corner of the city.
Dagner longs to leave – to create a legacy for himself and see the world beyond – but he is trapped by an inheritance that was never meant to be his. When a figure from his past returns to claim the legacy Dagner has sworn to protect, he must decide if he will forge his own path, or stay and make the sacrifices needed to save the city of the dead.

Thank you to the author for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Sacaran Nights will be available for purchase on October 28th.

Rachel Emma Shaw is the author of Last Memoria, an incredibly unique book which has stayed with me since I first read it (review here). I am delighted but not at all surprised that Sacaran Nights continues in this vein with multiple layers begging to be peeled back and examined.

The book follows Dagner, a contradiction in sorts. Dagner is a figure at odds with himself. He struggles with his desire to be an upstanding member of a community that only sees him as worthy of their attention because of the inheritance he wasn’t supposed to have. Part of him longs to live up to their expectations and succeed them. In a city where death is everywhere and the dead are celebrated and revered, he wants to make his ancestors proud. He wants to be the perfect match for his fiancé, whom he loves in the worshipful way that might eventually prove to be unhealthy. Another part of him, however, loathes Sacara and all that it is. He hates the dark, the fungus rot, the society that would normally never accept him. That part of him wants desperately to leave.

I loved how Dagner’s warring desires were played out in his relationships. His fiancé, Revana, represented what he saw as the good and pure part of himself. He seemed to always see himself as not quite good enough for her, just as he felt like he was lying about who he was. His friend Merany allowed him the freedom to be himself, question, and show anger at the society that discards those they deem not important. Dagner is easily one of the most complex and believable characters I’ve read recently. He was often plagued by self-doubt and indecision, regret, and bitterness at the hand life dealt him, but at the same time his actions showed a person who has not given up or given in. Dagner was wonderful.

The world itself was a fascinating one, dark and alien. There were descriptions of different fungi at the beginning of each chapter which I thought was interesting, especially since the names and descriptions changed based on the area. I also thought the variety of fungi was pretty cool. It seemed like the sort of dangerous that is really pretty. It lent an atmosphere of lurking sadness to the book.

The author’s writing style won’t be for everyone. Instead of giving a detailed background of what everything is and why it functions the way it does, the reader is put right in the middle of the world and given information as the book progresses. I personally love this sort of writing, as I am not at all a fan of info dumping. It does demand attention, though, or you will get lost. The first bit of the book is slower, but it is far from boring. It gave me time to become fully immersed in both the characters’ lives and their struggles.

As much as I enjoyed Last Memoria, I thought Sacaran Nights was even better. It brilliantly utilized the fantasy genre to explore grief, loss, and regret in ways both beautiful and raw. I highly recommend it.

Nothing but Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw

A Heian-era mansion stands abandoned, its foundations resting on the bones of a bride and its walls packed with the remains of the girls sacrificed to keep her company.

It’s the perfect venue for a group of thrill-seeking friends, brought back together to celebrate a wedding.

A night of food, drinks, and games quickly spirals into a nightmare as secrets get dragged out and relationships are tested.

But the house has secrets too. Lurking in the shadows is the ghost bride with a black smile and a hungry heart.

And she gets lonely down there in the dirt.

Effortlessly turning the classic haunted house story on its head, Nothing but Blackened Teeth is a sharp and devastating exploration of grief, the parasitic nature of relationships, and the consequences of our actions. (taken from Amazon)

Brooding and dark, Nothing but Blackened Teeth drew me in and kept me off-balance. Always on the precipice of scary, it never quite tipped over. Instead, it stayed an eerie book, one that has crawled its way into my head. I’ll be thinking about it for a long while, reliving bits and pieces of the creepy story.

Nothing but Blackened Teeth follows a group of friends who decide to rent a Heian-age mansion for an odd sort of wedding celebration. The thing is, they’ve heard it’s haunted. That’s the draw for them: they’re hoping to experience the otherworldly and the disturbing. Well, wish granted.

The story goes that originally a woman’s fiancé died on his way to marry her at the mansion. She decided to be buried alive so that she could wait for her husband like one does, I suppose. Women continued to be sacrificed, one per year, so that the buried bride wouldn’t be lonely. In all honestly, the origin story for the haunting is the part that I found to be the weakest. It just didn’t inspire that anticipatory shiver that I was hoping for.

None of the characters are particularly likable and at first, I found myself viewing them through the slasher-film lens. You know: this one will die first because they sleep around, this one next because they don’t believe in the danger, etc. However, such was not the case. The tropes became jumping-off points for complex, multi-faceted characters, each with their own flaws and fears. Half of the fun of Nothing but Blackened Teeth was watching the complicated relationships fray and slowly dissolve as the characters’ pasts caught up to them.

The story begins with Cat, a woman who is still coming to grips with an unspecified mental illness. It has affected her past and she is still in the midst of learning to cope with it. There’s Phillip, the charismatic and super rich sponsor of the mansion rental. There’s Faiz and Talia, the engaged couple. Cat and Talia have beef, and their issues with each other add to an already tense situation. Last, there’s Lin, who is a master pot-stirrer. It’s these tangled relationships and hidden emotions that really elevate Nothing but Blackened Teeth to the fascinating tale that it is.

Author Cassandra Khaw played with motifs of relationships and mental health in ways that felt a little reminiscent of Shirley Jackson (if Jackson had a penchant for gore). There were times when I wondered what was happening and what- if anything was being imagined by one character or another. Nothing but Blackened Teeth is a riveting book, perfect for fans of creepy tales with a little extra bite.

This review was originally published in Grimdark Magazine. You can find that here.