A review by storyorc
What Moves the Dead, by T. Kingfisher

dark funny sad medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No


What Moves the Dead slots in neatly between Mexican Gothic and Dracula in the Something in This Spooky House is Fucking With My Friend genre. Would LOVE to see it get the limited series treatment in a few years.

The characters are the stars of this show, with Easton and Ms. Potter shining brightest. They aren't even new concepts - ka is a roughish ex-soldier and she is a chronically underestimated spinster respectively - but they feel fresh, immediate, and funny. I'd love to hang out with them. Angus was a bit too reliant on stereotypes but I was pleased how the resident American, Denton, both embodied and rose above his.

The setting carries enough hinted-at depth to sustain a whole series. It overshadowed the plot a few times, but rightfully so. The late 1800s of this world are just different enough to spark curiosity while still being able to leverage the very real weariness of war needed to sell the veteran characters. I at times felt like I was reading War & Peace through the narrator of Slaughterhouse 5. Gallacia was my favourite invented nation of course, conjuring up a ridiculous amount of charm for a people that seemed so stubbornly hopeless, and I am distraught that I can't visit and stumble over their idiosyncratic pronouns for myself.

My issues with the plot are:
  1. Too much dramatic irony between what the reader immediately gathers and what Easton believes for most of the book.
  2. We miss out on seeing Easton at kan full strength because others withhold information from kan too long for tenuous reasons.
  3. The end was slightly too easy for my tastes. There was a beautiful piece of suspense but then it was over while I was still expecting the dramatic final confrontation.

Finally, I congratulate Kingfisher on keeping the book no longer than it needed to be for the shape of its plot. I stand a good chance of re-reading this one.

(PS - Enjoyers of this novel should also check out Annihilation, though it takes place in a swamp rather than a house.)

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