Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
In this twisting and pitch-black horror tale from Khaw (Nothing but Blackened Teeth), a voiceless mermaid plucked from the ocean ventures into a snowy forest alongside a melancholy plague doctor. These unlikely traveling companions soon encounter a village of mutilated children and uncover the architects of this bizarre encampment: three surgeons obsessed with immortality and the reconstitution of the body. As more of the village's terrible secrets come to light, the mermaid and the plague doctor must rely on each other to survive. Khaw's prose is rich and gorgeous ("In my dreams, I still swim that soundless black, still travel its eddies of salt and cold nothing"), and the surprising tenderness at the story's heart is only magnified by the violence and gore that surround it. Both elements prove devastatingly effective in constructing a folklore-infused world that feels wholly unique for contemporary horror fiction. Expertly blending a gothic atmosphere with elements of splatterpunk, this brilliant novella is not to be missed. (May)
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Review by Library Journal Review
What if the Little Mermaid laid eggs and her hatched children's hunger laid waste to her prince's land? Khaw's (Breakable Things) latest novella tackles this question with a brutally visceral but seductive opening sequence. The mermaid, who's been held captive and rendered mute by her husband, meets up with the only survivor in the land, a plague doctor. They soon come upon a band of children gleefully hunting another child at the direction of their keepers, "The Saints," three adult cult leaders who rebuild the near-death child with parts taken from themselves. Told in three sections, each satisfyingly complete as its own story, and ending with a cliff-hanger, this compelling tale features strong worldbuilding, innovative uses of body-horror tropes, lush language, and a captivatingly direct narration as it takes the protagonists and readers on a journey to contemplate what it means to be "saved." VERDICT With this brilliantly constructed tale that consciously takes on a well-known story and violently breaks it open to reveal a heartfelt core, Khaw cements their status as a must-read author. For fans of sinister, thought-provoking, horrific retellings of Western classics by authors of marginalized identity like Helen Oyeyemi and Ahmed Saadawi.
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