Most of the time I spent reading What Moves the Dead I could only think of one thing; that it is so similar to Mexican Gothic in its use of fungus/mold as the antagonist. Due to this, I actually had trouble focusing on the actual story T. Kingfisher was telling. Thus I wish that the Authors Note was at the front of the book, instead of the back, as in it Kingfisher admits the similarities to the amazing Mexican Gothic, as well she notes the differences and how a fungus/mold can be dangerous and sentient (if you will) in different ways. I think going in knowing that Kingfisher was aware of Silvia Morena-Garcia’s amazing novel would have helped me enjoy the story more. I’m a bit defensive of fellow Canadians (such as Morena-Garcia) as it’s just a bit tougher for us to get published and gain a huge following as our counterparts to the south and even in the UK.
All that said this is a solid story. I’d say it wasn’t quite as scary as I had hoped for. I didn’t have the shivers too many times and the atmosphere in general just didn’t hold the creepiness I like in a horror story. I think that’s because our leading lady is very pragmatic about the situation (and maybe because I was too fixed on the similarities to Mexican Gothic). Although I did find myself repeating (as I went to bed one night) ‘the dead don’t walk’ as a bit of a mantra and reassurance.
The most interesting part of the entire novel for me is actually not relevant to the main plot, that is Kingfisher’s explanation, early on, of the multiple types of pronouns used in this society. I wish we could adopt something like it for our own!! Instead of just male and female, there is a gender neutral/non-binary pronoun and even a pronoun just for soldiers (regardless of gender). I do wish more was said and explored about a character that would lack gender (literally as it’s not human); but at least the acknowledgement and handling of pronouns was done. That felt like a huge step forward and I can’t wait to tell my non-binary friend about it later today when I see them!
Overall the length felt appropriate, not too short nor too long, to tell the story and get to know the characters. While it wasn’t jump scary or all that chilling for me; What Moves the Dead was certainly well written, the plot organized sufficiently, and the characters real enough. I look forward to reading some of Kingfisher’s past novels (she has two prior) to see if I can enjoy her writing better when I’m not obsessed with defending Mexican Gothic against what I’m reading. I do really appreciate Kingfisher telling everyone to go read Mexican Gothic however. I too will echo that statement; but I wouldn’t dissuade anyone from reading What Moves the Dead. Just know that it will feel very reminiscent with the use of mold/fungus as the unusual antagonist of each situation.
Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.