Haunted houses. Messy people making bad decisions. “Destination horror.” What could go wrong? Nothing But Blackened Teeth is a quiet piece of character-driven horror that draws on Japanese folklore while also shining a light on the horrors of fractured relationships. I absolutely loved this novella and can’t wait for you all to read it – it’s perfect for Spooky Season!
About Nothing But Blackened Teeth
Publisher: Tor Nightfire • Release Date: October 19, 2021 • Pages: 128
Age Range: Adult • Genre: Horror • Format: eBook • Source: Netgalley
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.
🏚️ Haunted House “destination horror” setting
😱 Evocative horror writing & slow-building sense of unease
💔 Exploration of fractured relationships
🧠 Mental illness and recovery from trauma
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bisexual rep, racially diverse group of characters
alcohol and drug use (marijuana), blood, body horror, death, loss of a loved one, suicide attempt referenced
My Review of Nothing But Blackened Teeth
First of all, props to the cover designer/artist because my GOODNESS is it nightmare fuel that really helped ramp up my horror while reading. Also, you should look at this piece of cursed content. You’re welcome.
“The manor seemed to breathe in, drinking her promise.”
Ever wonder what do get your friends as a wedding gift? When you’re rich and privileged like Phillip, perhaps you “rent”… “obtain permits”… uh, dubiously acquire a Heian-era mansion for the night for a bit of destination horror fun because the bridge and groom really want to be married in a haunted location. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, especially after the group discovers the history of the mansion: it rests on a foundation of the bones of the sacrificed. But the bride-to-be is ecstatic and her groom is eager to please, so they stay despite the fact this obviously won’t end well for them. (Something our main character Cat is quick to point out: the Rules of Horror and how this won’t end well.)
“Even if it was hungry. Even if it was a house with rotting bones and a heart made out of a dead girl’s ghost, I’d give it everything it wanted just for scraps. Some unabridged attention, some love. Even if it was from a corpse with blackened teeth. Anything to feel alive again right now.”
The writing is fast-paced and engaging, vacillating between beautiful prose and a sharp vividness with ease. I know purple prose isn’t for everyone, but I think it is executed incredibly well in this novella because it’s about more than the horrors of basically being hunted by an ohaguro-bettari. This is character-driven horror, so time is given to describing the setting as well as the complicated history and character relationships: this is truly a group of people who should have just let their friendships drift apart and I enjoyed the tension between the characters just as much as with the environment itself.
All of the characters are fully developed with a complexity that’s impressive given the novella’s length. I particularly enjoyed the exploration of privilege through Phillip’s character and how self-centered he is in the face of everything: “your ego wounds you. I was just its instrument.”
“Apologies didn’t exonerate the sinner, only compelled graciousness from its recipient.”
Mental illness and recovery from trauma are a beautiful subplot that I didn’t expect but am incredibly thankful for. A lot of times when mental illness makes its presence in horror it’s a plot device to further a ~is this supernatural or mental illness~ vibe, which I don’t appreciate. Khaw explores the difficulty of recovery from trauma through the main character Cat with intense care, and I found myself ugly crying in my bed because I felt seen in a way I never had before.
“The words, each time they came, felt so repetitive that I could tune a clock to their angst, sawed through me. You can’t move forward when someone keeps dragging you back.”
Some of my favorite horror lies not in jump-scares but in the horror of everyday life. Nothing But Blackened Teeth is most certainly full of nightmare-inducing horror, the mundanity of life and recovery. This isn’t Gothic but it definitely taps into aspects of Gothic horror that I enjoy, particularly the slow-building sense of unease and a focus on decay – both in setting and in personal relationships. Cat’s begrudging loyalty to a group of people who don’t seem overly fond of her highlights a part of depression and trauma that isn’t discussed often: feeling obligated to them forever because they were there for you when at your lowest.
Ultimately, Nothing But Blackened Teeth is a book of desperation and sadness as much as it is about horror. There’s a loneliness in both Cat and the ohaguro bettari that belays the fact they are surrounded by people (or the bones of other sacrifices), and in this way I felt almost sorry for the ohaguro bettari because Khaw did a good job juxtaposing her with the main character.
Highly recommended to fans of hauntingly written horror that juxtaposes the horrors of the real world with the supernatural. Nothing But Blackened Teeth is a haunting story that will engulf you and stay with you long after reading, and one you may wish to read with the lights on…
Recommended if you enjoyed…
If you live in the United States or Canada, be sure to pre-order a copy of Nothing But Blackened Teeth and submit your receipt to receive this terrifying pop socket.
No two readers experience a book in the same way; this was mine, but what about you?
💬 Have you read Nothing But Blackened Teeth yet? If so, what are your thoughts?
💬 Did I convince you to add this book to your TBR?
💬 What are your favorite haunted house horror books? What should I add to my TBR?