What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher is a moody gothic novel that is a horror lover’s dream. It has the classic horror atmosphere you would expect from an Edgar Allen Poe story as it is based off of his short story ‘The House of Usher.’ Its 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 wonders, “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 that I feel this landscape of horror severely lacks. Kingfisher constructs this novel through the exploration of a few brilliantly written characters, and it’s literally just vibes.
We have Maddy’s super paranoid brother who seems to be ill as well as 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 understanding 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 its own subgenre. Its 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.
What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher is available for purchase now at your local independent bookstore or wherever fine books are sold.
If you enjoyed Cidnya’s review, check out more here: