4.25 Stars

Dawn Kurtagich
Published June 2019

*Review by Alexa*

Before the birth of time, a monk uncovers the Devil’s Tongue and dares to speak it. The repercussions will be felt for generations…

Sixteen-year-old photography enthusiast Zoey has been fascinated by the haunted, burnt-out ruins of Medwyn Mill House for as long as she can remember–so she and her best friend, Poulton, run away from home to explore them. But are they really alone in the house? And who will know if something goes wrong?

In 1851, seventeen-year-old Roan arrives at the Mill House as a ward–one of three, all with something to hide from their new guardian. When Roan learns that she is connected to an ancient secret, she must escape the house before she is trapped forever.

1583. Hermione, a new young bride, accompanies her husband to the wilds of North Wales where he plans to build the largest water mill and mansion in the area. But rumors of unholy rituals lead to a tragic occurrence and she will need all her strength to defeat it.

Three women, centuries apart, drawn together by one Unholy Pact. A pact made by a man who, more than a thousand years later, may still be watching…

You know the old adage “you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover?” Yeah, I’m sure you do. I mean, we’ve all heard it time and time again.  Usually, it’s good advice, especially when applied to human beings, and it’s advice I always try and implement in my daily life, but, and hear me out here, how often do we usually do this when talking about actual books?  I mean, the idea of a ‘cover buy’ is so popular on bookstagram because we all do it.  The amount of books that I’ve bought based solely on the cover is…embarrassing. Does it always work out for me? Absolutely not, Dear Reader.  Some truly underwhelming books have some truly dazzling covers.  Is the inverse true? Have I not read a book because it has an awful cover?  Sadly, yes, and I am positive I’ve missed out on some wonderful experiences because of it.

Teeth in the Mistis a great example of not judging a book by its cover.  If I had glimpsed this book while strolling through the bookstore, I would have walked right on by without a second thought…and it would have been to my great detriment.  This book has one of the worst covers I’ve seen in awhile, but the book itself is the magical, gruesome horror that my black heart has been craving (and not getting).  This book is creepy atmospheric goals: it’s smart, compelling, and somehow darkly whimsical while still being ghastly and visceral.  It scratched that spooky itch that so many of us feel, and gave me real story to go along with the chills.  There is a lot to unpack here, so let’s get right down to it, shall we?

She speaks the Corrupt. She speaks the Blasphemous. She speaks the Devil’s Tongue. 

There is a lot to like about this book, but my favorite aspect is the way in which the story is actually told.  There are three distinct timelines that are all interwoven inside and around the others, and each timeline has a distinct female MC. Each woman’s story is told from her own perspective, and each woman has a unique, strong, and time period correct voice.  The women—as well as all of the rest of the characters, really—are well developed with specific motivations that make sense and drive their actions.  These women are no wilting flowers, but they also aren’t perfect.  They make mistakes, and fall victim to their own fear, but each one manages to rise above and do what needs to be done.  The three timelines are woven together masterfully and come together at the end seamlessly.  It is a rare treat to find an author that can create such different voices and manage to bring them together into a single cohesive narrative.

I also really loved the formatting of the book itself.  Fans of the Illuminae Filesbooks will recognize some of the tricks the author used, but seeing it done with a horror book was delightful.  The formatting made sense to the story, and never distracted me, although I don’t know that it necessarily added much either.  It is done well and with restraint, but the book would have been just as affective without it.  It’s a risky move to add something like this to a book that is already brimming with storylines and characters, and I wonder if it would turn some readers off.

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Photo by Alexa

I want to talk about the mythology and lore in the story for a moment because it is done so very well.  Kurtagich uses the famous story of Doctor Faustus to her own ends, adding mythology and lore to an already unsettling tale.  This could make the story feel heavy and overwrought, but Kurtagich does it in such a judicious and seamless manner that it feels fully integrated into the story and never overdone.  Plus, I love mythology/folklore/backstory in my paranormal horror, so I was so very pleased that Kurtagich included so much of it.

The pacing of the story is deliberately slow and controlled, turning up the tension and suspense a small bit at a time. Sometimes this can be boring in a story, but here it made a constant building of pressure and unease with an intensity that made me want to keep turning the page.  The only time the pacing felt off was at the end of the book. I’ve always enjoyed a slow burn in horror, especially when the horror is paranormal in nature, and Kurtagich does such a wonderful job of building that burn…until she doesn’t.  The last quarter felt so rushed in comparison to the rest, and it was a little distracting.  Big revelations felt shoved together rather than the pieced out nature of the rest of the book, and it made the end feel slightly anticlimactic. This is really just me being picky, however, because the rest of the book was so spot on and well done.

Tempt a girl to evil using evil. How quaint your faith must seem to you. To bend it so.

The only other issue I had with the story is the way it ended.  Once again, we have a book being sold as a stand-alone that feels far too open ended to truly be one. I would love another book, and it seems obviously set up for another one, but so far I haven’t heard any rumblings of it coming to pass.  If it doesn’t, the ending still works, it is just a tad too oblique for my taste.  I like a story that makes me want to keep reading after the last page, but not because it feels like the author isn’t finished.  Also, and this really does annoy me, I’m not a fan of big twists/reveals happening so close to the end of a book. It feels like either a missed opportunity or a throw away moment, and it’s a disservice to the reader.

Overall, this book surprised me in the best way. The writing is lovely and poetic and a nice contrast to the evil and gruesome feel of the story itself.  The world building is solid and done in a delicate way that nevertheless provides a full view of the world we are thrown into, specifically the mountain and the cursed house.  I swear at times I could feel the mist creeping up my neck. I loved the three MC’s, especially Roan, and I could have easily read another fifty pages of these ladies.  I highly recommend this book for anyone looking for a YA horror that truly delivers on the scares, but is also smart and feminist leaning.  I have a feeling I will be thinking of this book for a long time to come.

Ok, time to let me know what you think?  Will you be adding this one to your October TBR?

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