Received to review via Netgalley
I didn’t expect to come away from this book thinking about how oddly tender and romantic it was! Which is not to say it would appeal to someone who is looking for those things, because there’s a lot of gore and darkness as well, and this is definitely more dark fantasy/horror than romance. It’s just that out of that dark story, the friendship that grows up between the narrator and the plague doctor really shines.
I think the juxtaposition of that against the gore and darkness actually makes it feel a lot stronger, where it otherwise might feel unsatisfactory for want of detail.
Khaw doesn’t give you a lot to work with here in terms of setup or worldbuilding: each piece of information you get is fed to you a sliver at a time, with many unanswered questions left over at the end. You don’t know every step that brought the characters to where they are, nor exactly where they will go from the end — these things are just sketched in, leaving the horror and the relationship between the two main characters in strong relief.
It would not, on the surface, be my kind of book, but the plague doctor won me over.