BOOK REVIEW: NOTHING BUT BLACKENED TEETH BY CASSANDRA KHAW

Reading

Even if I wasn’t already a fan of Cassandra Khaw, which I absolutely am, I would have purchased this slim novel anyway based solely on the stunning cover art by Samuel Araya. All the adjectives that can be used to describe the cover—creepy, atmospheric, decadent, mysterious, monstrous—work doubly well for Nothing But Blackened Teeth.

Five college friends descend on an abandoned, thousand year old Japanese manor to celebrate the wedding of two of the group. But this isn’t just manor. Its walls, its very foundation, is filled with the bones of a bride who’s husband-to-be was killed, and the bodies of hundreds of other girls who were interred to keep her spirit company. This group of friends has been chasing the lure of haunted houses for years, and they’ve found the motherlode here. The manor was sealed up with everything inside it, from artwork to artifacts, and as fitting a building that’s a literal ossuary, everything has gone to rot and ruin, decomposition and decay.

What begins as a night of drinking and feasting soon degenerates into bickering and recriminations. These are friends in name only. It quickly becomes apparent that whatever relationships they once had have curdled, festered, and are now as deteriorated at the manor they find themselves in.

Then the ghost of the bride and her minions arrive.

Khaw has a gift for extravagant, unnerving language, and Nothing But Blackened Teeth is a tour de force. They meld toxic relationships, heartbreak and grief, Japanese folklore, brutal violence, and hallucinogenic horror into a black-hearted haunted house extravaganza. Khaw is a true original. They write like no one else working today, building dense, imagery-saturated scenes with delirious abandon.

Spooky season may be over, but don’t let that stop you from visiting this haunted manor. Just pray it lets you leave.

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