Review: Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw

cover of Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra KhawNothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw
Tor Nightfire (October 19th, 2021)
128 pages; $19.99 hardback; $10.99 e-book
Reviewed by Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann

It’s one of the most beloved horror tropes: A group of friends travels to an abandoned building rumored to be haunted. The friends are either going to film a documentary, or just see what happens when they attempt to spend the night.

Horror ensues.

It’s tempting to believe this trope has been done too many times to promise anything original but, thankfully, horror writers disagree and keep telling the story in their own, unique voice. Nothing But Blackened Teeth is the tale of a dysfunctional group of friends who are gathering together for an experiential, destination wedding ceremony inside a Heian period mansion notorious for its ghost-bride legend.

Strong comparisons to The Ritual by Adam Nevill in the set-up, with the focus on the tense dynamic between friends in order to build tension.

The setting is rich with potential for mind-numbing horror. The author holds back at first, developing an atmosphere rife with past hurts and wrongs; soon, the book slowly begins its descent into darkness.

All the characters are self-absorbed and preoccupied with their own circumstances. They are highly sensitive people; reactive to every small offense. Much to the reader’s dismay, everyone is utterly oblivious to the nature of their surroundings as they argue over mundane things.

The drama is entertaining and Khaw’s prose is wickedly sharp, but the emphasis on the characters’ relationships is a disproportionate distraction for such a short ghost story.

Eventually, Khaw indulges in terror-inducing imagery and some seriously unsettling scenes but it was quickly upstaged by more bickering and banter.

I enjoyed the darker twists and turns but ultimately, I wanted more. This is such a tease! I’m hoping that Cassandra Khaw has a lot more horror up her sleeve. I’m here for it.

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