The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher
Reviewed by Sarah Deeming
When Mouse’s grandma dies, she must clear out the house. But Grandma was a hoarder, and the place is so cluttered in some spaces Mouse is walking on things, not linoleum. There is only one space that is not cluttered floor to ceiling, Mouse’s step-grandfather’s room. It is as neat and sparse as when he died years ago, and still contains his diary. Instead of finding the ramblings of an older man, Mouse stumbles across a story of the Twisted Ones, beings who followed her step-grandfather from Ireland to America and possibly, potentially, probably, drove him to his death.
Alone in the forest that surrounds Grandma’s house save for her dog, Mouse has to face the very real likelihood that the Twisted Ones are still watching the house.
I find myself torn by The Twisted Ones. I wanted to love it. It’s a horror story set in the woods with a hoarded house, the atmospheric setting with the steady build of creepiness pack an incredible punch at the start. But I found the tension didn’t take. As a first-person narrative, Mouse tells us she is OK and it is all down to her dog right at the start, so it doesn’t matter how terrifying things might appear for her, we know she makes it through.
The rest of the characters are definitely minor characters. Towards the middle, an elderly lady living in a commune called Foxy begins to take the significant supporting role. However, by this time Mouse has already leant on a couple of other characters, leaving me uncertain whether I should invest energy in caring about Foxy or whether she was going to fade like the others.
Another area that broke up the flow for me was the journal Mouse found. Her step-grandfather, Cotsgrave, was given the diary of a young girl which Mouse’s grandma hid from him because she was an evil woman who liked to make people’s life miserable. To recreate what was lost, he rewrites the diary mixed in with his thoughts and experiences.
Now, I have no issue with this Inception-style story within a story. I quite enjoyed that element, the change of tone and the way it was incorporated. What slowed my reading was Mouse’s almost constant critiquing of Cotsgrave’s work. Mouse is an editor by trade, and so she comments on everything from Cotgrave’s sentence structure, grammar, and the racist attitudes he displays, unconsciously or otherwise, through his journal. I just wanted to read it for myself, make my own decisions on the sort of man Cotgrave was rather than be told what to think by Mouse.
As an atmospheric, creepy read, The Twisted Ones has some great moments. The descriptions of place all build to something grand, the realm of the Twisted Ones, in particular, is alien and ethereal, but for me, knowing that Mouse would be OK lost a bit of the tension.