Review: The Twisted Ones - T. Kingfisher
Published: Gallery / Saga Press, October 2019
My Rating: 4/5 stars
“Everybody yells at Orpheus and Lot's wife. Put yourself in their shoes for five minutes and you'd yell a lot less, I promise you.”
It’s only thanks to the Goodreads Choice Awards that this book came to my attention, because for some reason it’s been flying under my radar since its release. Without any expectations, just hoping to have an enjoyable time, I went into this one blind. After I’d finished, despite having read 3 of its competitors in the final rounds, I had to change my vote for the Best Horror novel in the Goodreads Choice Awards: this was the most fun I had with any of them. The Twisted Ones follows Mouse, a young woman tasked with clearing out her deceased and estranged grandmothers rural house in the remote forest. To her horror, she discovers that grandma had been a hoarder for years before she died, and this project might turn out far harder than expected. What captures her attention however, are mysterious writings from her grandfather she discovers among the rubbish. Writing that hint at something awful nearby. Mouse and her loyal dog Bongo end up with more than they bargained for, as the woods slowly reveal their secrets to them.
Blair Witch, 2019…? It’s increasingly hard to be original when it comes to creative expression, writing, and especially horror. With a market as saturated as this one, we’ve seen all the tropes before, whether it be in a horror classic novel by Edgar Allen Poe, or a random creepypasta you found on reddits nosleep page. Fifteen-year-old me visited the latter frequently, which let older-me to be burned out on horror for a long time. There is only so many times you can read a Blair-witch rip-off, or mysterious faceless creature that somehow loves to “smile” at the protagonist before it becomes annoying, rather than scary. Predictability kills suspense, and for me, the success of a horror novel largely depends on its originality and ability to surprise me. The Twisted Ones succeeded in that in one aspect, yet failed in another. Let’s just get the big word out: this was a bit too much Blair Witch 2019 for me. Effigies in the trees, hits at witchcraft and paranormal entities in the forest… It’s quite the familiar set up. Despite that, The Twisted Ones maintains its atmosphere and suspense well throughout the story. Even though I had some idea where the story was going, I still wanted to continue to find out. On top of that, I also enjoy the ending as, unlike the Blair Witch, it isn’t too ambiguous and actual answers are provided.
The Mouse, the Dog and the Creatures in the Woods The main reason that I kept wanting to continue was my attachment to the characters. Melissa aka Mouse is exactly how I like my horror-protagonists: she’s smart, snarky, realistic and actually has the one and only relatable motive for running into a creepy-crawly-infested forest: saving her dog. Her narrative tone brings a touch of lightless and snark to the darker themes of the story and actually made me grin at times with the way certain situations are described. It’s the type of gallows humour where a character in a desperate situation pokes fun of the bizarreness of it all, and I’m here for it. Speaking of the dog: Bongo is a main character of his own, and thanks to the descriptions of our protagonist we actually get an impression of the kind of dog he is, and the relationship his owner has with him. I love reading about animals like this, and the element of a dog in danger added enough suspense for me to be on the edge of my seat until the end. Both the character and Kingfishers narrative voice made this novel very enjoyable, and an easy 4- to 4.5 star read for me. I do feel I have to subtract some points for a lack of originality in the storyline, so I’m settling with a 4-star rating.
The Twisted Ones is a deserving finalist in the Goodreads Choice Awards, and in my opinion, would even deserve to win. I can recommend this book to anyone who likes horror, and is okay with putting up with a familiar story, as long as it’s told by a phenomenal voice and great characters.
Find this book on Goodreads