Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Mini-Review: What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher

What Moves the Dead
by T. Kingfisher

Tor Nightfire
Publication Date: July 12th, 2022
Hardcover. 176 pages.

About What Moves the Dead:

"From the award-winning author of The Twisted Ones comes a gripping and atmospheric retelling of Edgar Allan Poe's classic 'The Fall of the House of Usher. '

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."

Although this book could easily provide enough to talk about for a full review, I've opted to make this a mini review in order to avoid spoiling too much about it since it's a shorter book. 

What Moves the Dead is a skillful and engaging retelling of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher," and I can't think of better hands to have put this in than T. Kingfisher's. This story follows retired solider Alex Easton as they venture out into the rural area of Ruritania to visit their dying friend. Once there, they discover that the nature and fauna of the area is a bit odd, and the cause of her dying friend's illness seems more suspicious than they initially thought.

What I liked: Alex Easton had a fantastic narrative voice that was deadpan in delivery and full of a dry wit that kept me fully engaged throughout the entire story. I loved the combination of creepy, witty, and general oddness that existed in this story, as it made for a reading experience that kept me entertained while also created an atmosphere that left me feeling a bit tense and unsure what was going to happen. A lot of the creepiness isn't right in your face, but there's always this unsettling feeling that permeates the atmosphere and keeps you hooked as a result of Kingfisher's careful, persuasive, and captivating prose. Of course, there were also some disturbing elements that were in your face, and T. Kingfisher handled those perfectly (and truly I'd expect nothing less). I loved the sinister quality of the house itself, its inhabitants, and the lands surrounding the house. And speaking of its inhabitants, I loved the somewhat eccentric cast of characters that were a part of this story and I continue to think this is one area where Kingfisher truly excels.

What I didn't like: Things felt a little slow-moving at times and I felt most plot points were mostly pretty obvious. Since it's a retelling I don't really think that's a huge problem because I already knew the plot in the first place, but I could see someone picking this up without knowing the retelling aspect finding some things a bit lackluster. I appreciated the slower pace and willingness to move throw the story at a reasonable pace that really allowed for Alex to get to the House of Usher, connect with the people there, and slowly realize some things are very, very off. I didn't liked this one quite as much as I've loved The Twisted Ones and The Hollow Places, but it's not really due to any major fault of the story and therefore I have very little to add to this "what I didn't like" section. 

If you're in need of something a bit creepy and a very disturbing with just a touch of dry, witty humor, then look no further because What Moves the Dead is the answer!

*I received a copy of What Moves the Dead courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Buy the book: Amazon | Bookshop.org


  1. I'm about half way through this and it feels SO familiar to me. And not because of the retelling aspect. But I love her writing and the characters are great, especially Alex.

  2. I'm an Edgar Allen Poe fan, I've also read this, I think my review probably reflected my bias for Poe, I loved it. My only complaint was the dialogue was younger than the characters. If you enjoy gothic horror, you might check out my review for Leech by Hiron Ennes. It's not a retelling, but it is Poe-esque.

  3. I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of this one!! Great review!