The Spirit Bares Its Teeth is heartbreaking, ferocious, atmospheric and mind-blowing historical fantasy with perfect autism/neurodivergent and queer representation.
Table of Contents
The Spirit Bares Its Teeth by Andrew Joseph White
Publication Date :
September 5, 2023
Publisher : Peachtree Teen
Read Date : October 3, 2023
Genre : Fantasy / Historical Fiction / Horror / LGBTQ
Pages : 384
Disclaimer – Many thanks PRH International for eARC via Edelweiss.
This post contains associate links.
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.
Review of The Spirit Bares Its Teeth
The Spirit Bares Its Teeth is atmospheric, thought-provoking, and outrageous historical fantasy that bares the soul of women and queer people’s situation in the Victorian era.
The Spirit Bares Its Teeth takes place in 1883, London, follows a trans main character Silas, whom the world sees as Gloria, is trying to find escape and freedom from society norms to marry a man and so he tries to get the speaker seal in the Royal Speaker Society gala but unfortunately, he caught and is admitted to Braxton’s Sanitorium and Finishing School where the female students are kept busy and undergoes private treatment to mold them into perfect marriageable wives.
Not only the treatment is cold, cruel, and abusive but Silas discovers the girls go missing from the school. It was interesting to see if he could figure out what happened to the missing girls, and what school was doing to them before it took him too.
The writing is touching, emotive, descriptive and often graphic. The Spirit Bares Its Teeth is told in first person narrative from Silas’ perspective. There are so many trigger warnings that one need to be aware of before diving into this book – medical experiments, graphic details on the medical surgeries, sexual assault (on page)/rape (implied), sexual harassment, abortion, forced institutionalization, conversion therapy, sexism, transphobia, forced marriage, abusive parents, miscarriage (mention), suicidal ideation.
I loved reading about all the characters in the book. Even though I wanted to strangle villains, they too were interesting. Silas is of course my most favorite character. He is scared soul, having gone through so much since he figured he didn’t conform to his birth sex. I hated his parents for forcing him to be something he wasn’t.
It shattered my heart to see how it broke him, making him doubt and scared him to the point he learned to hide listen to the voice within him he called rabbit that kept him confined and choose the safest path for survival. That I think most rabbit-hearted people can relate to. Even with everything he was through and what his rabbit heart kept telling him, he had so much courage and hope that no one could extinguish.
He wasn’t big on showing compassion and emotions towards others nor he gets people and yet cared for them in his own way. His reactions and actions are realistic and genuine. I’m sure many can relate to that. His passion for medicine and dream to get a degree one day is also something no one could dissolve. I loved how he kept looking for clues and proof to save himself and the others. What he did in the end, the way he conquered his inner rabbit was horrifying and yet amazing.
I loved most girls in the Braxton’s. Not all of them had a backstory, we just get to see that in few lines and yet it felt like we knew them. They all were scared, they all wanted to survive, to get out of this hell hole even if that meant at the cost of each other’s life and yet they somehow shared a bond and unity. They cared for each other.
Edward/Daphne was my most favorite side character. I loved Daphne for seeing through Silas, understanding and supporting him throughout the book. They made perfect couple that I didn’t anticipate until she revealed her true identity and I loved how that made Silas not alone in the world. It was amazing how they both together could be themselves and could shatter that inherent doubt their parents put in them. Elizabeth was my second favorite for helping Silas from the beginning. I just hate what happened to her.
I liked paranormal layer in The Spirit Bares Its Teeth. I have read other books that highlighted how London was so into seance in this time period. I liked how author added his own twist with violet eyed Royal Speaker Society, a male-only privileged society that performed seance, communicated with spirits and how they made male-powering rules, banning any women from performing the seance and punishing them if they are caught.
All the themes and layers were so well written. It was outrageous to read what women went through in the book, how they were forced and confined to a sanatorium for not wanting to marry, defying parents or men, for having a feminist spirit, showing anger or emotions, having their own opinion, performing seance (that was only male right)… all in name of veil sickness.
It also made me hate my own kind for bowing to patriarchy, willing to hurt themselves and the other women just so they could be spared of more cruelty and be safe under the thumb of their men. It truly tugged at the strongest cord of my feminist spirit. It was amazing how author reaped open the wrongs of men and Victorian society, and the sufferings of women and queer people. I sure feel grateful for not being born in this era. (If I was, I sure would be like Mary! not exactly trying to lessen the competition but ferocious like her)
I anticipated the climax. I knew Silas would open the veil and all the spirits would take their revenge but events leading to that point and what happened after that were temse, horrifying, outrageous. The end was so very satisfying, uplifting and hopeful. I still wonder how that third person escaped and, as per last page conversation, I would like to know if they are going to take their revenge?
Overall, The Spirit Bares Its Teeth is heartbreaking, ferocious, atmospheric and mindblowing historical fantasy with perfect autism/neurodivergent and queer representation. This is absolute masterpiece and I’m sure reading anything author writes. If you need a book for spooky season, look no further.
I highly recommend The Spirit Bares Its Teeth if you like,
Spooky atmospheric read
Historical fantasy with paranormal/ghost element
Trans main character
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