Book Review: The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Saga Press (October 1, 2019)
Length: 400 pages
The Twisted Ones was a fun novel featuring the perfect blend of humor and horror, with the first element provided mainly in the form of the main character’s incredibly infectious voice, while the second came via the setting’s creeptastic atmosphere. You’ve got an old house in the middle of the woods, filled with decaying trash and other ghastly things like scary baby dolls. Meanwhile, the locals also know better than to go wandering among the trees, for it is said the laws of reality work differently here, and unwary travelers might suddenly find themselves stumbling through a veil into another world. Not to mention, the woods is home to monsters—strange, grisly creatures made from dead bodies and grinning skulls.
But of course, being a newcomer, Mouse was unaware that any of this awaited her as she rolled up to her late grandmother’s house, at the behest of her father who wanted to see if anything could be salvaged from the property. One look, however, was enough to tell Mouse the answer. Dear old granny was a mean, miserable bitch in life (no, seriously, she was a real piece of work), and in her last days, seemed to have become quite the recluse and hoarder as well. The place is filled from top to bottom with useless junk, but being the dutiful daughter, Mouse decides to stick around and help clean it out. Together with her loyal coonhound Bongo, the two get ready to settle in for the long haul.
But soon, during her walks in the woods with Bongo, Mouse starts coming across impossible things, like a grassy hill where none was supposed to be, or odd stones carved with unnerving pictures and symbols. And then came the most frightening discovery of all—a gruesome effigy made of animal bone and body parts, hanging from a tree. Mouse knows she shouldn’t let her imagination get away from her, and yet she can’t help but feel the thing might have been alive—watching and waiting. Worse, among her grandmother’s cluttered belongings, Mouse finds an old journal that belonged to her step-grandfather. To anyone else, the old man’s writings would have sounded like the nonsensical ravings of a disturbed mind, but after seeing what she did in the woods, Mouse has reason to believe her step-grandfather must have been terrorized by the same horrors plaguing her now.
Be sure not to let the cheery, affable nature and tone of the narrator fool you into thinking this is a light and airy novel, because this one was downright CREEPY. In particular, there was a scene around halfway through that made me regret my decision to read this book after dark, as I ended up having a bit of trouble falling asleep that night, my attention drawn constantly to the window to make sure nothing was peering inside. Anyone who’s read The Twisted Ones will probably know exactly which scene I’m talking about.
But let’s back up and talk about how this book captured my attention and love immediately, starting with the first page when readers were introduced to Mouse, a middle-aged editor who just got out of a bad relationship and is in desperate need of a distraction. Right away, you knew this was a strong and independent lady who knew how to take care of herself, and who wouldn’t let a setback stop her for long. In the end though, what I adored most about Mouse, and what made her so relatable, was her easygoing and funny personality, and I lost track of the number of times where she said something that made me burst out laughing.
To be sure, finding this balance between fright and fun was the best surprise, and what I loved most about The Twisted Ones. And I guess seeing such a strong, vivacious and easygoing character like Mouse go to pieces with terror at the things she sees in the woods also somehow emphasized the novel’s horror for me.
Other aspects I enjoyed include the side characters, like Foxy and Tomas, and of course, who can forget sweet, goofy Bongo, who brought so much bounce and joy and to this story—to the point where I would insist horror fans who are also dog lovers must read this book. In terms of criticisms, I honestly can’t think of much, though I suppose if push comes to shove, I would say the ending might have been a tad on the weaker side due to some disjointedness.
Still, as you can probably tell, I had a great time with The Twisted Ones. This was my first experience with Ursula Vernon, who is writing here as T. Kingfisher, but it certainly wouldn’t be my last! Overall, I loved the mix of creepiness and humor, and after a string of horror books that failed to leave much of an impression this October, I’m also relieved and happy to finally read one that didn’t disappoint! Highly recommended if you’re looking for a spine-chilling read this season that’s also tremendously entertaining.