“What Moves The Dead” is the second story (the other being Nettle & Bone) that I’ve read by T. Kingfisher and unfortunately, not my favorite. This spooky novella is a retelling of “The Fall of The House of Usher” by Edgar Allan Poe and that alone is why I requested it from Netgalley. This review will be short, sweet and spoiler free.
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.
Though this novella is only 176 pages long, it still felt too long. There were many things I liked; primarily the setting, Madeline, the creepy hares and Hob, the horse. There were some truly spooky moments, however, Kingfisher just never took the story to its full potential. I also felt this way about Nettle & Bone.
Her stories walk the line between Young Adult and Adult in a way that leaves me dissatisfied. There’s not enough grit, drama, tension and in the case of this story, horror. Though this is only a novella, it took me a week to read it because while I didn’t hate it, I was bored for the first 60%. I was especially bored with the main protagonist, Alex Easton. Easton was simply one of those characters that I found to be annoying. She spent a good bit of time trying to be funny but the humor never worked for me.
I think I would have enjoyed this story more if it was edited down. There were many conversations that didn’t seem to add anything to the plot. If those would have been cut out and the spookiness amped up, this could have been a winner.
I like T. Kingfisher but I don’t think she’ll ever be a favorite author for me. However, if you’ve read something amazing by her and think I should read it, let me know! Thanks for reading and have a great day!