If you follow the horror book community you’ve probably seen this book floating around for a bit. It’s been hyped up and anticipated and is finally available now that October crawls to an end.
You can purchase a copy of ‘Nothing But Blackened Teeth’ by Cassandra Khaw here.
TW include but are not limited to death, gore, and self-harm.
A group of frienemies stay at an old haunted Japanese mansion for a wedding and pretty much get what they asked for. It’s not a typical haunted house story but familiar enough you’ll appreciate all the chills.
What I liked (no spoilers)
A fun and different concept
The concept is what got me interested in the first place. I like the haunted house trope and have always been interested in Japanese horror mythology. I’ve read plenty of gothic horrors that take place in England and of course the US but this was a refreshing take on the trope.
The writing is grotesquely purple and pretty
This book is written beautifully, with lots of purple prose. I’ll admit it borderlines on being pretentious but hey, writers gotta write. I ain’t mad. Some people won’t care for this and I’ve seen reviews complaining the author was trying to be clever. Yes, and she succeeded.
Yes to all the creepy vibes
The creepy factor was on high and that’s what I’m here for. Do you see that cover? Not a marketing gimmick, the book delivers on it. The tension build-up, in the beginning, was well done and it’s usually my favorite part of horror stories. This goes back to the writing, some of those descriptions are just perfect.
Neutral observations (no spoilers)
These are things I noticed that didn’t bother me while reading but are worth mentioning for casual readers.
You don’t need to know everything
You won’t get much explanation about the character’s background or anything else for that matter. You as the reader are a fly on the wall, you’re just kind of thrown in the story to watch what happens. Accept this and go with it.
You would not want to be friends with these people
The characters aren’t traditionally likeable but in horror, they don’t need to be. People don’t always act their best during scary, intense situations and this book showcases that in all its messed-up glory. Be glad they aren’t your friends.
Opportunities to learn something different
The reader is given no explanation of Japanese mythology or words. Unless you are familiar with the culture, its mythology, and language you might have to Google a few things. But don’t let this phase you. You can Google what you don’t know, or pass entirely and still understand what’s going on. It’s okay to look stuff up and learn.
Final Thoughts (no spoilers)
Overall, I thought this was a good quick read, especially during the last bit of October. It gives all the creepy feels and doesn’t require a long commitment. It’s the kind of book where you just go along for the ride. You’re going to have lots of questions but forget those and enjoy the dark metaphors.
What I didn’t like
Not really the book’s fault but mine for not paying attention when I ordered it. I was expecting a full-length novel, especially for the price, and got a 130-page novella. But I think some of the developmental aspects could have been helped with more detail. The characters aren’t well-rounded and fall flat because they don’t get enough screen time and the whole plot felt rushed.
It has meta-references
There are sections in this book where characters call out popular horror tropes and then the book does those tropes. Unless it’s a satire this doesn’t really work for me. Maybe I completely missed something but I don’t think this book was meant to be funny.
Calling out a lazy trope or cliche and then using it doesn’t make it okay that you did the thing. If anything, it’s worse because you know you’re being bad and still doing it.
Can’t believe I’m complaining about this. My favorite four-letter word starts with “F”, and it’s not “food”. With that, I’m not a big fan of it being used frequently while reading. Not sure why, but seeing it more than once in a sentence of dialogue feels clunky to me. If it’s narrowed down to one character, who happens to speak that way, fine, but when every character talks like a sailor, they all start to sound the same and I think that was the problem here.
The ending was meh
I didn’t love or hate it, it just kind of happened and I accepted that. When all the creepy stuff gets turned up to 11 the characters seem to ignore the supernatural like it’s normal. And that kind of ruined all the wonderful tension built up in the beginning. It was like the author constructed an amazing setup and then discarded it on the side of the road.
Also, the trope subversion of killing off the all-American, pretty boy was called out by the comic relief character in the middle of the story. Lin tells you exactly who is going to die with no spoiler warning. But that goes back to the book trying to be meta.
Let’s End on a Good Note
No book is perfect and it’s important to recognize flaws but I like to end things on a positive note. This was an enjoyable book that only took a few hours to read. I loved the writing and the creepiness that seeped off the page and fit perfectly with October vibes. This was a fun addition to my horror reading list and I recommend it’s worth checking out.
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