What Moves the Dead Book Review
Happy Halloween, witches! It may be the last day of October, but spooky season is far from over for us. So whether you need a spooky read to cozy up with tonight or are compiling a TBR list, I have just the book for you.
Genre: Mystery / Horror
Category: Spooky Read
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Rating: 5/5 Stars
Plot: 5/5 stars
Characters: 5/5 stars
World: 5/5 stars
The dead don't walk. Except, sometimes, when they do.
In this retelling of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher", T. Kingfisher explores the question: what if both Usher siblings had called friends to their home during their final weeks?
Our main character, Alex is a childhood friend of Madeline and served in the military with her brother. As a friend to both Ushers, Alex can hardly ignore the call when informed that Madeline is dying.
Much of the story plays out exactly as the original: the protagonist arrives at the family's decaying manor, feels the dread and unease pouring from the house and lake, and spends some time living with them, trying to raise the siblings' spirits as their health and minds deteriorate.
But Kingfisher provides explanations to questions Poe left unanswered in his original tale–– the cause of the sickness and madness, why Madeline was moving about days after her alleged death, what happened after she came for her brother, what happened to the house after their deaths.
I highly enjoyed the depth Kingfisher gave to the plot, and read almost all of it in one sitting. Kingfisher's writing style, with its conversational tone and hilarious commentary, makes you feel as though you’re sitting down with Alex to hear their story.
In addition to Alex and the Usher siblings, we meet a humble and bewildered American doctor, a formidable British mycologist, and Alex's sarcastic valet.
Considering this story is a little over 150 pages, Kingfisher does an excellent job of giving them distinct personalities and believability. They're all likable, and their banter (as well as Alex's funny asides) add some levity to balance out the creepiness.
Their stories––particularly Alex and Ms. Potter's––pack a lot of commentary on war, sexism, and inequality. I won't go into much detail so as not to spoil anything. But I will say that Alex and their military experiences provide LGBT+ representation.
As this is a Poe retelling, I'm sure you can surmise that this story has a gothic atmosphere. Between the rotting house, dark lake, dreary and remote landscape, fungal growths, strange animals, and the ailments overtaking the Ushers, this tome is dark, creepy, and lush. Kingfisher knows how to paint a hell of a scene.
If you love gothic stories, are a fan of Edgar Allan Poe, or just want a short and easy to read with a gothic atmosphere and horror vibes for spookytime, I cannot recommend What Moves the Dead enough. Kingfisher's story adds so much to Poe's original story, and there is plenty of levity between the character's interactions to lend a cozy vibe and keep it from being too heavy. This story hits all the marks, and is fantastic retelling.
Thanks for checking out my review! If you've read this story or end up reading it, I'd love to hear your thoughts. You can leave a comment below, or strike up a conversation on Twitter or bookstagram. If you want to keep up with us and get more spooky and cozy content, give us a follow online or subscribe to our newsletter so you never miss out!