I have been on a bit of a Japanese Horror kick recently, especially where books are concerned. So when I was lucky enough to win an Advanced Reader Copy of Cassandra Khaw’s upcoming title ‘Nothing But Blackened Teeth” it seemed like an obvious choice to kick off this column.
Since the book doesn’t come out until October, this will be a safe and spoiler free review. The last thing I want is to discourage anyone from reading it, though I do think the novella will be hit or miss for readers.
The premise of the book is excellent. A wedding party that takes place at a haunted Japanese mansion? Tension between the characters in the foreground with spooky things in the back drawing ever nearer? It sounds great, and I’ll be the first to admit that the book was hard to put down. I also enjoyed Khaw’s style of writing, which consists largely of metaphors, similes, and very poetic prose. That is not a style for everyone, but it was something I personally appreciated while reading.
What I appreciated less were the characters. I liked the protagonist well enough in theory. Since she was a troubled, spooky, queer, twenty something named Cat, I may be a bit biased. What I struggled with were the dynamics between her and her so-called friends. While some of the relationships are outlined very clearly, others are more vague. We see the world through her eyes, and it was difficult catching up to how some of the groomsmen and wedding guests knew one another outside of knowing Cat. Perhaps more difficult than it should have been for such a small cast of characters.
At the heart of it, that was my issue. I don’t mind being dropped in the deep end of a situation, nor do I mind mysteries that go unanswered. For a novella in particular, I feel like some things are better left to the imagination. But this book is two parts atmosphere to one part plot. An interesting read, undoubtedly, but with nothing to sink those blackened teeth into I fear that it doesn’t have much staying power.
Complaints aside, I am absolutely glad to have read it. It was an engaging, spooky way to spend an evening. For that alone I would recommend giving it a chance. Especially if you like Japanese horror, flowery writing, or just find yourself with a desire to get lost in a different world for awhile.
For those of you who are interested in experiencing the book for yourself, you can preorder from Amazon:
It is expected to release on October 19th, just in time for a spooky, Halloween reading night.