In Nothing But Blackened Teeth, a group of friends reunite to celebrate a wedding. Ever the thrill-seekers, they visit an abandoned Heian-era mansion. But the mansion’s history is a dark one. It’s been a long time since its ghost bride had company. Soon, the group finds their evening spiralling into a nightmare, the ghost bride feeding on their friction.
Nothing But Blackened Teeth is nothing short of a creepy and chilling tale. It’s sharp and terrifying. Set in a massive, abandoned home with ghosts lurking within its very foundations is a foolproof way to evoke a sense of unease as readers wait for the inevitable explosion of every horror tale.
Khaw does an excellent job building that atmosphere. Through Cat, readers gain a solid enough understanding of the taut relationship between her and her friends. As the story unfolds, the tension between the group adds to the suspense Khaw weaves into the fabric of her story. It follows that this group would remain friends after enduring so much together, but readers also wonder, why would they? Is it the house exacerbating whatever bad blood still exists, or maybe the group is simply tired of tiptoeing across thin ice. Regardless, it leaves readers wanting to learn more, to see how this will play out.
Another interesting aspect is how Khaw literally spells out horror tropes just as activity in the house escalates. More interesting still is that Cat, her narrator, fits into the “you die first” category, yet she’s integral to the story. Khaw writes with a clear understanding of the genre. And she uses that to her advantage. She brings readers on a journey that checks all the boxes, yet she doesn’t fall prey to the often predictable nature of horror. By the book’s conclusion, she leaves readers craving more.
The only pitfall, in my opinion, is the overall writing style. I won’t deny that Khaw writes beautifully. Her descriptions are vivid, and choosing to write with a first person POV only enhances the story. However, I felt that the style was too florid at times to fully mesh with the overall tone of the story. I found myself getting too lost in descriptions and having to re-read some passages. There were points where I fell out of the story. Despite the skilled lyricism of Khaw’s writing, it would’ve better served the story had this been presented in verse over prose; it would’ve allowed some of the more singular moments and explanations to thrive on their own without taking anything away from what was happening.
On the whole, Nothing But Blackened Teeth suits those who immerse themselves in the genre. Regardless of my own hangups with the writing, I did find myself enjoying the story. I wanted to learn more about the house, and the group, and how everything would come together. The book lends itself to reading in one sitting. And though it’s short, Khaw manages to bring a fleshed out story to the table.
Nothing But Blackened Teeth is available now online and in stores.