Book Review: Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khwa

Nothing But Blackened Teeth is a horror novella that combines haunted houses, Japanese folklore, and the break down of old friendships. I received an early review copy from the publisher through NetGalley. When a group of five friends rent an old Heian era mansion in Japan that is supposed to be haunted for two of them to get married in old conflicts between the friends cause tensions to rise and things end up not going to plan. The premise of the book pulled me in but it was the cover that convinced me that I needed to read this book.

The story is told from Cat’s perspective and she is their with Phillip, the only white guy in the group, fiancées Nadia and Faiz, and best friend, Lin. Its clear from the start that Cat had some short of metal health episode prior to the story that has greatly impacted her relationships with her friends and Nadia only invited her because others wanted her there. Phillip the riches of all of them helped rent this location because Nadia always wanted to be married in a haunted house and Faiz agreed to do it before their main wedding. The ghost story associated with the mansion is that a wedding was supposed to take place their but the groom died before arriving so the bride told the wedding guest to bury her alive in the foundation of the house. The bride would keep the house standing until her grooms ghost come home and every year after they would bury a new girl in the walls so the ghost won’t get lonely.

Everything seems to be going fine just drinking and partying until Nadia suggests that they play Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai which is translated as A Gathering of One Hundred Ghost Stories. Where everyone in a room would tell a ghost story and then extinguishing a candle and who ever could survive without flinching won the game. Cat ends up being the one to tell the last story which she tell their story of the night and mentions that the house knows that they are there and she saw a girl earlier. They go searching for the ghost and Nadia ends up disappearing and a ohaguro-bettari (a female yokai dressed as a bride) pretending to be her. They have awakened the spirits of the house.

As a group they end up finding a book that tells them how to get Nadia back but Faiz and Phillip end up arguing and Faiz stabs Philip. With Phillip dead Cat suggest that they make his death count for something and complete ritual to save Nadia. They burn down the mansion to cover it up and stop anyone else making the same mistakes. The book ends with everyone having gone their seprate ways and not really being friends anymore.

In many ways this is a story about how friendship fall apart told through a horror story and ghost. I loved this story but did wish I knew a little more about the groups past as I didn’t completely understand how they got to this point at the start of the book. Great for horror fans or anyone intrigued by the cover. Currently, Nothing But Blackened Teeth is scheduled to be released in October 2021.

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