The Spirit Bares Its Teeth
Andrew Joseph White
Published September 5, 2023
About The Spirit Bares Its Teeth
Mors vincit omnia. Death conquers all.
London, 1883. The Veil between the living and dead has thinned. Violet-eyed mediums commune with spirits under the watchful eye of the Royal Speaker Society, and sixteen-year-old Silas Bell would rather rip out his violet eyes than become an obedient Speaker wife. According to Mother, he’ll be married by the end of the year. It doesn’t matter that he’s needed a decade of tutors to hide his autism; that he practices surgery on slaughtered pigs; that he is a boy, not the girl the world insists on seeing.
After a failed attempt to escape an arranged marriage, Silas is diagnosed with Veil sickness—a mysterious disease sending violet-eyed women into madness—and shipped away to Braxton’s Sanitorium and Finishing School. The facility is cold, the instructors merciless, and the students either bloom into eligible wives or disappear. So when the ghosts of missing students start begging Silas for help, he decides to reach into Braxton’s innards and expose its rotten guts to the world—as long as the school doesn’t break him first.
This book makes me realize how often I eat while I’m reading. I do not recommend doing that while reading this book– which is probably an obvious idea. It’s a horror novel, after all.
One of the main reasons this book hit my TBR list is that I was so blown away by the author’s debut, HELL FOLLOWED WITH US, which is a post-apocalyptic horror novel. If you ever wondered how post-apocalyptic stories and reimagined history could overlap, this pair of books would make a good study.
If I had to describe this book in under ten words, I would say, GIRL, INTERRUPTED but make it queer horror/historical fantasy. Just like his debut, Andrew Joseph White delivers stark prose and anguished characters. The relationships between some of the characters provide bright spots and soothing moments between the intensity of the other scenes.
I really appreciated the romance thread and the hopefulness that a few of the characters find as they form relationships with one another. It does get into some pretty intense body horror and gruesome medical descriptions, so this won’t be a novel for everyone. I also appreciate that the author includes a content warning at the front of the book.
All in all, horror will never be my favorite genre, but I am absolutely in awe of writers like Andrew Joseph White who deliver fast-paced, deep stories with incredible characters and unforgettable moments. If you’re looking for a dark, twisty horror novel with a hopeful undertone, grab this one immediately.
Recommended for Ages 14 up.
Silas is transgender and has autism. Another character is transgender. Brief mentions of women who have romantic feelings for each other.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used a bit frequently.
In one scene, a man grabs Silas and forces a kiss on him. Kissing between a boy and girl. Some characters shame others for being sexually active or for doing something perceived as flirting or being alone with a man.
Characters with violet eyes have the ability to see into the spirit realm and communicate with the spirits of people who have died. When men do this, it’s a sign of power, but women with this ability are told they’re sick and must be “treated.” (Read: tortured until their captors are satisfied they are submissive enough.)
Very specific descriptions of medical procedures, such as a hysterectomy. Some instances of torture. For example, one woman is forced to walk with glass in her shoes every day. A girl throws another girl down the stairs. At one point, a girl attacks another girl, choking and hitting her. A girl bites another girl. A man presents a woman to an audience after having removed her eyes, tongue, and teeth. The woman has apparently self-inflicted wounds on her wrists that look as if she bit herself.
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