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  • Mandy McHugh

Nothing but Blackened Teeth, Cassandra Khaw: A Review

3.5 stars rounded up This cover blew me away. I could not wait to get my hands on this one after I saw it making the rounds on Twitter, so I was thrilled when I saw this approved in my queue.

When a group of friends reunites to celebrate a wedding, old scars are rehashed, and the backdrop of a haunted Heian-era mansion becomes very much alive with their presence. Phew, what a ride. This book is like a fever dream. At just over 1100 kindle pages, it was a quick read with big bite. The story is energetic and powerful. No spoilers, but if you love thematic storytelling, haunted houses, ghosts with horrifying histories, and visceral imagery, you'll want to pick this up asap. Overarching themes also worked really well within the story. I loved the different friendship dynamics and how they played out in the stress. I could've read more about the labyrinthine house and how they handle the unknown, and Khaw did a wonderful job piecing together authentic voices with complex personalities. The meta nature of their discussions was hilarious, so even though there were some frightening things happening, rarely did I go a few pages without laughing at some horror movie reference or trope. There were a few things that kept this from being a five star for me. The language was overly flowery--something I don't necessarily mind; give me all the metaphors and similes--but it could have been pared down. Some unique comparisons and imagery were repetitive, and instead of adding to the character's depth, I got caught up on how often I'd seen them doing one particular action. This might've stood out more because of the length of the prose, but I thought the comparisons would've been more powerful if they'd been a tad more selective. Don't get me wrong: the descriptions were beautiful, but I would've loved to see more exploration of the house/mystery before jumping into the climax and conclusion. Overall, Nothing But Blackened Teeth was a quick, lyrical, haunting bite of horror. I'd recommend to fans of horror based on Japanese lore, flash fiction with an edge, or anyone looking for a quick, but impactful read. Big thanks to Tor Nightfire and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.

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