20 July 2019

Review || To Be Devoured by Sara Tantlinger



What does carrion taste like? Andi has to know. The vultures circling outside her home taunt and invite her to come understand the secrets hiding in their banquet of decay. Fascination morphs into an obsessive need to know what the vultures know. Andi turns to Dr. Fawning, but even the therapist cannot help her comprehend the secrets she’s buried beneath anger-induced blackouts.

Her girlfriend, Luna, tries to help Andi battle her inner darkness and infatuation with the vultures. However, the desire to taste dead flesh, to stitch together wings of her own and become one with the flock sends Andi down a twisted, unforgivable path. Once she understands the secrets the vultures conceal, she must decide between abandoning the birds of prey or risk turning her loved ones into nothing more than meals to be devoured.
 


 




There's something intriguing and yet disturbing about Andi. Even from the first pages as we see Andi taking excruciating care to raise moths and harvest their wings after their deaths to craft her girlfriend a set of her own beautiful wings, you can see that something just doesn't click the same way with Andi. While she sees the beauty in the wings and believes it to be a perfect labouriously planned gift to show her love, Luna sees dead bugs as most people would. 

Andi soon starts obsessing over the vultures that circle near her place. How free the birds are from the restraints that humans put upon themselves. What it must be to be one, flying free above, with no other thoughts than to eat and devour. What carrion must taste like. 
Is this what the vultures do? These guardians of the underworld, these eaters of flesh and souls, what are the secrets hidden inside their curving vetebrae?

I don't frequently do trigger warnings on books. With horror, often anything goes. However, the one warning I will give about books is animal injury, pain and/or death. Kill someone? Ooooh. Chop them up into little pieces? Ahhh. Do the same to an animal? Oh hell, no. That said, consider yourself warned. The gore in this book is descriptive and graphic. Many of the scenes had me curling my lip into a snarl of disgust, unable to look away from the words on the page.

This is one of those stories that is unsettling in so many ways, from beginning to end. The language is macabre but poetic as we see Andi sinking deeper and deeper into her obsession. There is a beauty in her insanity that I didn't expect to find fellowship with, yet it was there, none the less. Her last therapist tells she must confront her internalized "perceived wrongness" and nothing illustrates Andi more. She's experienced loss and trauma at a young age. Is this what has molded her? And if, so can we blame her or instead, blame the circumstances that created her? In the end, Andi chooses her own fate in a most spectacular way rather than accepting the one that would be imposed upon her. 

If you like your horror on the psychological side, you can't go wrong with To Be Devoured. There's so much to this novella, but I don't want to give any of the good parts away. Some things a reader should experience for themselves!