CriminOlly thinks: Slow burn horror novella pays off horrifically in the final third 4/5
Title: Nothing But Blackened Teeth | Author: Cassandra Khaw | Publisher: Titan Books | Pages: 128 | Publication date: 19th October 2021 | Source: Publisher | Content warnings: No | Tolerance warning: No
Nothing But Blackened Teeth crept up on me like one of the creepy as hell monsters it features. It starts slowly and gently and, if I’m honest, didn’t grab me that much at first. The more I read though, the more I liked it and by the end I was completely swept up by the nightmare that had gradually unfurled.
It’s a shortish book (definitely a novella rather than a novel) and the premise is simple. A group of friends travel to Japan for the wedding of two of their number, staying in a huge and ornate mansion. The mansion, no surprises, is populated by demonic creatures from Asian folklore who begin to prey on their unwanted guests.
For the first half Nothing But Blackened Teeth is slow and very much character based as the various members of the party are introduced. I struggled a bit to keep engaged with it, what kept me going was the strength of the writing. The prose is unusually good, and the setting carried with it the promise that something was going to happen.
When it did, I was very glad I’d kept reading. The final third of the book is tight as a drum and absolutely terrifying. As the supernatural elements explode onto the page that pace ramps up and that excellent prose ties everything together wonderfully. It has the surreal, horrifying feel of the worst nightmare and kept my Kindle glued to my hands.
Sometimes novellas don’t work for me, having neither the punch of a short story nor the depth of a novel, but Nothing But Blackened Teeth walks the tightrope beautifully. It’s the perfect length for what is a fairly simple horror tale, and the balance between build up and climax has of big time. I’ve seen a few less positive reviews floating around for this one, but I thought it worked very well indeed.
A group of thrill-seeking friends in search of the perfect wedding venue plan to spend the night in a Heian-era mansion. Long abandoned, and unknown to them, this mansion rests on the bones of a bride, and its walls are packed with the remains of the girls sacrificed to keep her company.
Their night of food, drinks, and games quickly spirals into a nightmare, as the house welcomes its new guests. For lurking in the shadows is the ghost bride with a black smile and a hungry heart.
And she gets lonely down there in the dirt.
Content Warning: None
Tolerance Warning: All good