From the award-winning author of The Twisted Ones comes a gripping and atmospheric retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic “The Fall of the House of Usher.”
When Alex Easton, a retired soldier, receives word that their childhood friend Madeline Usher is dying, they race to the ancestral home of the Ushers in the remote countryside of Ruritania.
What they find there is a nightmare of fungal growths and possessed wildlife, surrounding a dark, pulsing lake. Madeline sleepwalks and speaks in strange voices at night, and her brother Roderick is consumed with a mysterious malady of the nerves.
Aided by a redoubtable British mycologist and a baffled American doctor, Alex must unravel the secret of the House of Usher before it consumes them all.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise when I say this bizarre, somewhat disturbing cover first caught my attention. When I saw it was written by T. Kingfisher, an author I’ve been anxious to read, I immediately requested it from NetGalley. It’s been years since I’ve read The Fall of the House of Usher, and I’m not embarrassed to say I read a quick summary of it on the Spark Notes website before starting this novel.
“The dead don’t walk. Except sometimes, when they do.”
The above statement should give you an idea of what to expect from this book. Alex Easton, a nonbinary retired soldier, narrates the story. A childhood friend of both Roderick and his sister Madeline, they rush to the siblings’ home in Ruritania upon learning Madeline is dying. What they find is a horrific scene – an overwhelming amount of fungal growth on the grounds and lake, weird, unnerving hares, and a decaying manor. Madeline’s American doctor is also staying with the Ushers, and several amusing jabs (about Americans) are made at his expense, but he’s a good sport. Alex also comes across mycologist Eugenia Potter on the grounds who becomes a valuable source of information and is a wonderful addition to the story. Shout out to Hob for being one of the coolest horses I’ve come across in fiction.
The author does a fabulous job at bringing the house and grounds to life and has created some pretty macabre scenes that might not be for the squeamish. Although this is a retelling, she’s also expanded a bit on the story and added her own spin, something I found fascinating. Alex is Gallacian, and their language uses many different pronouns that are explained well, but might take some getting used to.
Whether you’ve read the Poe book or not, this is a gruesome tale I’d easily recommend to horror fans. I know I’ll be looking for more books by this author.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.