What Feasts at Night by T. Kingfisher horror book reviewsWhat Feasts at Night by T. Kingfisher horror book reviewsWhat Feasts at Night by T. Kingfisher

Alex Easton, protagonist of T. Kingfisher’s 2023 novella What Moves the Dead, is back with a second adventure in 2024’s What Feasts at Night. Joining Easton is loyal batman Angus and the unflappable British mycologist Miss Potter. This go-round, Easton and company face less of the science and more of the supernatural.

Alex Easton is Gallacian by nationality (a small imaginary country somewhere in central Europe). Easton is a “sworn soldier,” anatomically female but living as a man as part of the military. Sworn soldiers have their own pronoun in Gallacian, “ka” and “kan.” (Two other groups have unique pronouns; clergy and deities themselves.) “Ka” and “kan” are used clearly throughout the text, but here, in the interest of clarity, I will use “they/them” for Easton.

Now retired from the army, Easton was enjoying life in Paris, but Miss Potter planned a visit to the old country, and Angus is eager to accommodate her. This means opening up the remote hunting lodge Easton inherited. Easton sends off a message to the lodge caretaker, but as they and Angus arrive, they’ve heard nothing. They find the caretaker missing, the lodge neglected, and the spring house only a few paces from the back door blocked by a piece of stone that obstructs the flow of the water. Angus soon discovers that the caretaker died several weeks earlier, of an inflammation of the lungs. The caretaker’s daughter is quick, defensively so, to add “and that’s all it was!” Meanwhile, village gossip whispers of a folkloric creature called a moroi, who sits on your chest while you sleep and steals your breath.

In the village of Wolf’s Ear, it’s almost impossible to find anyone willing to work for them. Angus finally hires the resentful Widow Botezatu and her grandson Bors, and then Miss Potter arrives, completing the party at the lodge. Easton suffers from disturbing dreams, but it’s Bors who soon sickens, moving like a sleepwalker, barely able to breathe. Folk remedies and divine assistance from the local priest change nothing, and in the end, all Easton possess to fight the phenomenon is soldier skills. Who knows if that will be enough?

Kingfisher evokes a forbidding atmosphere long before the first dream appears. The woods are strangely hushed, a silence Easton notices and is disturbed by. Easton suffers both from tinnitus and waves of hyper-vigilance and anxiety, called “soldier’s heart” in the book (we’d call it PTSD). Often, during everyday events, Easton suddenly knows that at any moment the enemy will attack. One of the most thoughtful and thought-provoking moments in the story occurs when Easton meditates on the nature of war. Civilians see “war” as an event, but Easton knows it isn’t an event; it is a place. And soldiers go back to that place from time to time. It’s a powerful metaphor that transcends PTSD to encompass the entire experience of war and how it changes someone.

But the challenge here is to defeat an adversary who can move freely in dreams. Against the dark and vaguely threatening lodge and the near-silent woods, the decency and practicality of the three protagonists stands out. Even though Bors is a victim, the moroi soon has Easton in its sights, and even Easton’s faithful and expressive horse Hob. Without spoilers, I will say I was very worried for Hob while I read this.

I used the word “decency” above, and that’s a very old word that I’ve come to associate more and more with Kingfisher’s work. People struggle to do the decent thing in the worst circumstances. In What Feasts at Night, even the moroi is less “evil” than we might expect, depicted not as a wicked manipulative being, but a monster seeking justice however it can, since justice was denied it in life.

Altogether original, drawing from familiar folktales while creating a new folklore, What Feasts at Night delivers an engrossing, scary, personal, and satisfying read that might still leave you looking over your shoulder at night.

Published in February 2024. After their terrifying ordeal at the Usher manor, Alex Easton feels as if they just survived another war. All they crave is rest, routine, and sunshine, but instead, as a favor to Angus and Miss Potter, they find themself heading to their family hunting lodge, deep in the cold, damp forests of their home country, Gallacia. In theory, one can find relaxation in even the coldest and dampest of Gallacian autumns, but when Easton arrives, they find the caretaker dead, the lodge in disarray, and the grounds troubled by a strange, uncanny silence. The villagers whisper that a breath-stealing monster from folklore has taken up residence in Easton’s home. Easton knows better than to put too much stock in local superstitions, but they can tell that something is not quite right in their home. . . or in their dreams.


  • Marion Deeds

    Marion Deeds, with us since March, 2011, is the author of the fantasy novella ALUMINUM LEAVES. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies BEYOND THE STARS, THE WAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, and in Podcastle, The Noyo River Review, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She’s retired from 35 years in county government, and spends some of her free time volunteering at a second-hand bookstore in her home town.