Nothing but Blackened Teeth, by Cassandra Khaw

Now that I’m back in the book reading habit, I’m also back in the book impulse-buying habit. A few weeks back, I happened to see Cassandra Khaw’s Nothing but Blackened Teeth (2021), on the shelf, and was intrigued.

It is a very short book, really a novella, of 124 pages. That makes it a quick read, and I finished it over the course of two nights.

The premise will summarize why it caught my attention in the first place: a group of friends arrange to rent out a Heian-era mansion in Japan for the wedding of two of them. Though the day starts pleasant enough, there is history between members of the group, and tensions start to build quickly.

Those tensions are nothing, however, compared to the threat that awaits them all. One of them had heard stories that a jilted bride had been buried in the basement of the house, and that every year a maiden had been sacrificed to keep her company. That bride does not rest, however, and she is looking for more companions…

Nothing but Blackened Teeth is a very fast-paced story. It is narrated from the point of view of Cat, one of the guests and a woman with a history of mental illness. Cat is very aware of horror story tropes, and she is constantly pointing out where her companions are making all the wrong choices. It ends up being very meta, in a Scream-movie sense.

My one criticism is that I kinda wish the novella spent a little more time with the characters before everything goes to hell. Their backstories are well thought out and interconnected, but it feels like the main threat manifests just as we’re really digging into their conflicts. But part of the charm of Nothing but Blackened Teeth is that it moves along at a rapid pace, giving it the feel of a TV horror anthology episode.

The supernatural horror is well done, and there are enough twists and turns in its short run to keep readers guessing. Overall, Nothing but Blackened Teeth is a fun creepy story that will keep you entertained for a few nights. I’m curious to look into more of Cassandra Khaw’s work now…

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