Rating: 5 out of 5
Felix Blackwell’s horror novel Stolen Tongues is one of the creepiest books I’ve ever read! I love horror, but I don’t find most horror novels “frightening” per se. This book is different. It just happens to tick all the boxes for me. Knowing someone’s standing outside your door. People behaving under some sort of outside influence. Something waiting for you in the shadows. Being stranded and alone in the middle of nowhere when all of the above is happening. And best of all, where most creepy books start off fairly normally and wait to work in the creepiness until a third or half of the way through, this one gets creepy pretty much from the get-go, and then stays that way.
Faye and her fiance Felix are on vacation. Faye’s parents have lent them the use of a cabin they own in the woods up on a mountain. It’s snowy and beautiful out in the woods, but Fay and Felix aren’t alone. They start to hear what sounds like people calling out in the woods, or a person practicing speech. This seems to be somehow tied to the fact that Faye sleep-talks and sleepwalks. Faye hears the voice of her grandfather, who is dead, while Felix hears the voice of his mother, who is alive. There are many footprints in the snow around the cabin the next morning, and Faye and Felix become desperate to escape.
I particularly like the fact that the characters are capable of believing once incontrovertible evidence is shown to them. Although they each come to believe that something supernatural is happening at different times, they don’t waste 90% of the book insisting nothing’s wrong.
There is some Indigenous People’s folklore in here, but I think it’s handled well. The two Indigenous characters are neither all-knowing nor all-powerful. They can’t just wave some sage around and chant until the spirits go away, and they too have their weaknesses. They’re fully-developed characters who can hurt and be hurt.
Felix and Faye are also excellent characters. When Faye starts not just sleep-talking, but sleep-answering some unseen person’s questions, both of them start to go insane. And there are some fascinating secrets at the base of this mystery.
Even just re-reading my notes to write this review makes me tense! I haven’t found a book to really creep me out in a long time, and this one gets there right off the bat.
Content note: creepy, and very occasionally bloody.