Epeolatry Book Review: The Mouth is a Coven by Liz Worth
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Title: The Mouth is a Coven
Author: Liz Worth
Publisher: Manta Press Ltd
Release Date: 11th, September, 2022
Synopsis: Have you ever seen a ghost? In Starling City, there are spirits on every street corner. Everyone in town seems to have at least one ghastly tale to tell.
So, it’s no wonder that a place like this breeds people like Blue and Julie, who summon demons just for fun and are obsessed with a local legend of a vampire named Matter. They hang out in dark clubs on a desolate downtown street and hope, desperately, that Matter will one day find them.
Because if they could become vampires, all of their problems will disappear. Just like the movies, they’ll never get old, and they will never die. They won’t have to worry about working or making rent, because the mundane world will no longer apply to them.
One night, their wish comes true: It turns out Matter is real. Except Blue and Julie soon learn that being a vampire isn’t exactly like you see in the movies. Abandoned, they are left on their own to figure out how to live as the undead – not to mention what to do with all those dead bodies piling up.
Liz Worth’s eighth book, The Mouth is a Coven is set in a fictional city in the 1990s. The story centres around two lovers, Blue and Julie, obsessed with the idea of becoming vampires. They will do whatever it takes to achieve their ascension. Taking loose inspiration from the infamous 1996 Vampire Clan murders set in Florida, the book dances around an ensemble of characters willing to lose what little they have to fulfill a spurious fantasy.
Described as a ‘conceptual vampire novel’ that attempts a different take on the genre, Worth tells the story in a lyrical, fairytale style, replete with the chorus, “There’s a story in Starling City…” (Surely the characters would appreciate this constituting a drinking game; it is repeated so often it feels infused with a knowing smirk.) The experimental lens points firmly outside mainstream literary fiction and adds a psychic distance that teeters on dissociation. This mirrors the unreliable narrators’ loose-and-slipping grasp on reality as seen fittingly through a haze of meditative occult rituals, drugs, and late nights at the local goth club.
While the atmosphere pays dutiful homage to the era’s grunge scene and the melodrama of the protagonists’ working-class quarter-life crisis, the focus never gets quite sharp enough to convey any sense of urgency. If you’re looking for strong character development, a page-flipping thriller or imagery that shares the emotional experience with the reader, you might be disappointed here. You’ll be hard-pushed to picture the characters, let alone intuit their responses or glean any gratification from the outcome. The inhabitants of Starling City serve as functioning cogs in this subdued theatre of the macabre, with Blue and Julie being our main observer-inheritors at the end of the carnage that unfolds just as soundlessly. The reader is kept at arm’s length, which is in itself a push-you-pull-you kind of haunting.
You might like this if you find joy in more off-beat vamp flicks like Byzantium, Only Lovers Left Alive, Let the Right One In, or teen goth witch odes like The Craft—The Mouth is a Coven similarly places magic and ritual in a modern urban setting, especially one where every scrap available is infused with sacred significance. Elsewhere, things horrifyingly just happen, as does Julie’s inexplicable tragic fate, and a peculiarly gory garden scene witnessed from an upstairs window. One thing this book does well is show up a naive, ambling spirituality for the hollow grandeur it bears. It’s a perfect example of the horror of asking “and then what?” without end.
Content warnings: Violence (graphic), bloodplay (moderate), suicidal ideation, dissociation (minor)
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