The follow-up to T. Kingfisher’s bestselling gothic novella, What Moves the Dead .
Retired soldier, Alex Easton, returns in a horrifying new adventure.
After their terrifying ordeal at the Usher manor, Alex Easton feels as if they just survived another war. All they crave is rest, routine, and sunshine, but instead, as a favor to Angus and Miss Potter, they find themself heading to their family hunting lodge, deep in the cold, damp forests of their home country, Gallacia.
In theory, one can find relaxation in even the coldest and dampest of Gallacian autumns, but when Easton arrives, they find the caretaker dead, the lodge in disarray, and the grounds troubled by a strange, uncanny silence. The villagers whisper that a breath-stealing monster from folklore has taken up residence in Easton’s home. Easton knows better than to put too much stock in local superstitions, but they can tell that something is not quite right in their home. . . or in their dreams.
I don’t get involved in the genre wars, mostly because I don’t think they’re very interesting. But one of the latest flare ups was a recent discussion about “cozy horror” and whether such a thing even exists. For some purists, the concept of “horror” precludes any sense of coziness.
I don’t engage, but when someone inevitably asks for a recommendation for Cozy Horror, I jump, and the name I hit them with first is always T. Kingfisher.
There’s little question about Kingfisher’s horror bonafides, and What Moves the Dead, the novella that transforms Poe’s Fall of the House of Usher into a sporror/body horror freak out, is both creepy, horrifying, and just plain dripping with atmospheric dread. But there’s also something so comforting, so cozy, so… nice, about the books, that the horror feels almost more terrifying by contrast.
Much of this comes down to Kingfisher’s characters, mostly plucky, sarcastic, women with nary a fuck left to give, surrounded by a cast of lovely weirdos. No matter the dangers her character face, there seems to be, for the most part, a warm and loving world to return to.
Nowhere is this better on display that in Kingfisher’s follow up novella, What Feasts at Night.
Kingfisher brings back our core characters from the first installment: Alex Easton, Angus, and Ms. Potter, now taking an extended stay in the sworn soldier’s family hunting lodge in their native Gallatia. We get a grouchy housekeeper, her developmentally disabled son, and a friendly priest to round out the cast, and dang if it isn’t cozy.
A great deal of What Feasts at Night could almost be a Regency Era story, with a blooming romance kept under wraps, visits from the local priest, and long dinners full of conversation.
Oh, there’s also a vengeful ghost that begins feeding on the guests and finally on Easton, stealing their breath as they sleep, and some of those passages, especially in the book’s climax, are both terrifying and visceral. And what goes on in the stables is not to be mentioned.
Add to this a deepening investigation of Easton’s backstory, specifically their struggle with PTSD related to various war campaigns, and we have a story that uses its cozy framing to great effect, almost lulling us to sleep before the dream imagery reasserts itself in terrifying ways.
What Feasts at Night is fun, scary, and delightful. It also feels a little slight beside What Moves the Dead. And that’s okay. One is given the distinct impression that Easton and crew will be back for the next installment, and the next, and personally, I’m more than happy to follow these characters through any sort of plot Kingfisher wished to throw at them.
What Feasts at Night will be available Feb 2024.