What Moves the Dead is a close retelling of The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe, though Kingfisher adds to the twist at the end with something dark and alien. This book was delightfully creepy, hitting the reader with that gothic atmosphere that is so enthralling. I loved the atmosphere. Fungi must be popular as a horror element of fiction these days (I know there are fungi in Mexican Gothic too), but the way Kingfisher had this novel’s fungi was wonderfully scientific and anatomical – perfect for the early Victorian setting. That paired with the dead, who seem to not be very dead at all, makes for a good old-fashioned spook.
The reason I am giving this book only three stars is that, for me personally, it could have been creepier, and the twist could have been a bit more mysterious. I find that the more you reveal about a horror, the less horrific it is. The less you know about it, the more unknown it is, the scarier it becomes. Not that the dead walking the earth isn’t scary in itself, but we end up finding out the reason, which took the feeling of dread away from me. In Poe’s original story, we really don’t know why the House of Usher and its inhabitants fell, and that is why the story is so creepy and horrific.
Here are some things that Kingfisher added to the story that I did like:
The narrator, the one who goes to visit the House of Usher, is (I’m pretty sure) transgender, with their country having a separate gender for sworn soldiers in a fictional Galacia. I thought that was an interesting bit of lore for this story’s earth.
I did like the characters, and I think Ms. Potter, the amateur mycologist, is my favorite. I wish we saw more of her, but she graces the story as our resident fungus expert. She also takes no nonsense, and I want to be like her that way. I also liked Denton (sp?), who is, at first, kind of a stupid American, but in the most endearing way.
I recommend this book as a pretty good retelling of Poe’s short story. Now that I have read this novel, I look forward to checking out more of Kingfisher’s work.
*I listened to the audiobook on Scribd*
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