So T Kingfisher’s The Twisted Ones is an (indirectly) Lovecraft-inspired work of fantasy horror. It’s actually based on some super-old-timey Victorian fantasy horror that Lovecraft only wrote a letter about, but it’s inspired by his letter as much as the original story, so hey: Lovecraftian it is.

And it feels Lovecraftian. At first, as in Lovecraft’s stories, there’s this sense of mystery, of things beyond human comprehension, ancient beyond time and unknowable and ps super fucking creepy. The book is suffused with creeping dread and eldritch horrors glimpsed only briefly and partially. I was reading it alone at night, and not gonna lie, I turned on some very unnecessary (but at that moment, extremely necessary) lights.

But if you’re finding it too scary, just keep reading, because then you get to the part that—as in Lovecraft’s own stories—takes all this horror and turns it into a more-or-less straight fantasy novel. The mysteries are explained and made visible, which necessarily robs them of their power to horrify. (The book lampshades this at one point, noting that even though you’d think this should be the case, the protagonist was still pretty friggin’ scared—which, fair enough, if something is actually happening to you, different story. But as a reader of fiction who doesn’t have to deal with unpleasant realities, yeah, not so scary anymore.)

Of course, there’s also the ways this book is not like Lovecraft—it’s got a protagonist who feels like a real person, most notably. The book is in first person, and it’s a great narrative voice; I’m not normally a fan of fantasy-horror, but got pulled along for the ride by the narrator, a woman who reminds me of an older, more mature version of Gideon the Ninth.

Recommended for anyone who likes Lovecraftian fantasy-horror written by a better writer than Lovecraft.


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