Nothing But Blackened Teeth

Nothing but Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw is a horror novella. Cat and her friends go to a haunted home for a wedding, and things go south quickly.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

All quotes are from an advanced reader copy, and may or may not reflect the published edition.

From Goodreads:

Cassandra Khaw’s Nothing But Blackened Teeth is a gorgeously creepy haunted house tale, steeped in Japanese folklore and full of devastating twists.

A Heian-era mansion stands abandoned, its foundations resting on the bones of a bride and its walls packed with the remains of the girls sacrificed to keep her company.

It’s the perfect wedding venue for a group of thrill-seeking friends.

But a night of food, drinks, and games quickly spirals into a nightmare. 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.

“This is the problem with horror movies. Everyone knows what’s coming next but actions have momentum, every decision an equal and justified reaction. Just because you know you should, doesn’t mean that you can, stop.”

I enjoyed this short novella. It has all the elements of a larger story, and the epilogue was satisfying. I feel novella’s often leave something to be desired, and Khaw managed to avoid this. The plot of it was, at times, a bit confusing and all over the place. However, this is forgivable when logic gets thrown out the window in most ghost stories. The characters are already at one another’s throats from page one. This allowed for the tension to be set without a long build-up.

“If you’re going to debauch history, go big.”

Khaw did an interesting job of mixing gory horror with atmospheric writing. It caused some of the fear to be more telling than showing, which was a little frustrating. Our main character feels as though she is quickly losing her mind, and the story is from her point of view. Maybe she had lost her mind before even coming to the haunted house. The consistent references to the “rules” of horror felt very 90’s Scream, but it’s always something I appreciate.

“After all, isn’t that the foremost commandment in the scripture of horror? They who are queer, deviant, tattooed, tongue-pierced Other must always die first.”

If you’re looking for a quick, gory horror story- this is the novella for you. The imagery is dreamlike and dark. Our characters are perfectly unlikable, and our ghost is wonderfully terrifying. The ending to this was a bit confusing, but the epilogue cleared a lot up and wrapped things nicely for me.

“This,” Lin muttered, with too much glee, “is how supervillains are born.”

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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