cover image Breakable Things

Breakable Things

Cassandra Khaw. Undertow, $17.99 trade paper (250p) ISBN 978-1-988964-37-9

Khaw (Nothing but Blackened Teeth) packs a gruesome punch with the 23 bite-size horror stories of their powerful but slightly uneven debut collection. A brace of standout tales, the stunning and folkloric “You Do Nothing but Freefall” (written with A. Maus) and “A Leash of Foxes, Their Stories like Barter,” both center on vulpine characters. The eldritch and haunting “Don’t Turn on the Lights” and “An Ocean of Eyes” offer glimpses into unknowable horrors, with Khaw wisely allowing readers only a peek into expansive worlds and magic systems. Many of these tales, including “Goddess, Worm” and “And in Our Daughters We Find a Voice,” interrogate gender, trauma, and power, delivering complex female characters who are by turns deeply understandable and entirely unforgivable. While Khaw’s signature lyrical flair will draw readers in, it sometimes verges on overkill, with style clouding substance until character, theme, and plot are entirely obscured by extended metaphors and writerly flourishes. It won’t be for everyone, but the distinctive authorial voice and uncanny atmospherics will surely find some fans. Agent: Michael Curry, Donald Maass Agency. (Nov.)