TITLE: Stolen Tongues
AUTHOR: Felix Blackwell
AGE RANGE: Adult
A romantic cabin getaway doesn’t go exactly as planned.
High up on the windswept cliffs of Pale Peak, Faye and Felix celebrate their new engagement. But soon, a chorus of ghastly noises erupts from the nearby woods: the screams of animals, the cries of children, and the mad babble of a hundred mournful voices. A dark figure looms near the windows in the dead of night, whispering to Faye. As the weather turns deadly, Felix discovers that his terrified fiancée isn’t just mumbling in her sleep – she’s whispering back.
This is a tough book to rate and review because my feelings on Stolen Tongues are a bit scattered at the moment, so bear with me, folks.
If I rated Stolen Tongues solely on the horror element, it would be a 5-star read. There are descriptions in this book that gave me chills, had me looking over my shoulder at night, and made me nervous to peek out the window (especially because my windows all face the woods!). Felix knows how to tap into the primal elements of what freaks us out, and I’m impressed by how well he kept it up — despite a few slow moments, for the most part, I was unsettled from start to finish.
That said, I can’t rate an entire novel solely on the creep factor. Most of the characters in this book felt flat and uninspired, as well as frequently self-contradictory. There are a great number of plot threads that are left loose in the end, and I was left with more questions than answers.
The most frustrating element of Stolen Tongues, however, was the Native American representation. I’d read social media posts where the author discussed his desires to provide positive, nuanced characters and to avoid making the mistakes that we see so often, so I went into this with a (mostly) open mind. That said, I can’t help but feel like Felix ultimately made the exact same mistakes he preached against: the Native American representation lacked depth, felt halfway stereotypical, and — spoiler alert, click the spoiler tags at your own risk —
CLICK FOR SLIGHT SPOILER:
two of the three Native characters served as nothing more than fulfilling the “wise Native man becomes a sacrifice to save the white people” trope.
As you can tell, I have a lot of feelings about Stolen Tongues. Native American representation is important to me, not only because diversity in stories matters, but also on a personal level (my grandmother, who helped raise me, was half-Sioux; while I’m certainly too white-passing to even pretend that I know what it feels like to be marginalized for being a Native American, I still find immense joy in good rep, and frustration when it’s poorly done). With that in mind, do I recommend Stolen Tongues? I honestly don’t know. I did really enjoy the scary elements in this story, but so much of it left a bitter taste in my mouth, and I personally don’t believe I’ll be reading other books from this author.
WARNINGS (no spoilers):
possession, being stalked by an entity
WARNINGS (VERY SPOILER-Y):
grief, child loss, stillbirth
three side characters are Native American (see review for notes on this)
— destiny ♥
While this was clearly a difficult review to write I appreciate it so much. I would curious to know what came out of sensitivity reading etc. with this book, given the intent yet lack of execution regarding the representation. Loved your thoughts.
Thank you. ♥ Yeah, the author’s note mentioned that some people essentially tried to talk him out of writing this story, or at least talk him out of the Native characters, but that at the end of the day, “you gotta write what you wanna write”, basically – it wasn’t a great look. :/
[…] Howling Libraries […]