Stolen Tongues by Felix Blackwell

Felix Blackwell managed to craft a captivating and unsettling narrative that digs its way under the reader’s skin. Like many of the best horror stories, Stolen Tongues envelops the reader in an atmosphere that conveys a sense of both helplessness and fear. As the characters and their plight become more three-dimensional and fleshed out, the threatening force looming in the shadows becomes more unreal and difficult to comprehend. That alien and unfamiliar threat mingling with the all-too-real lives of the protagonists it imperils propels this story beyond the realm of casual, easily dismissed horror literature.
When Felix and his fiance, Faye, begin their romantic getaway at her parents’ cabin in the Colorado Rockies, there’s no way they could have anticipated the disquieting experience that would greet them. If they’d only known the sinister history of Pale Peak, the cabin that rested there in the dark forests, and the way that past resonated within Faye’s dreams and psychology, they certainly would not have stayed.
What unfolds from there is a feverish and unreal sequence of events that follows the couple from waking life into their dreams, influencing their relationships, and impacting everyone who seeks to help. And as the terror escalates, the reader can’t help but wonder if anyone will walk away without being led into the darkness by the creature speaking with stolen tongues.
Growing up in and near the Black Hills of South Dakota and having spent a good deal of my life in the Rocky Mountains of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and Idaho, I feel like Blackwell captured the beauty and isolation of the environment. Just as importantly, he captured the way these mountain forests can play tricks on people unaccustomed to such places.
As someone who has spent most of his life straddling the outskirts of Indigenous cultures, I appreciated Blackwell’s attempt to avoid exhausted and exhausting tropes while incorporating elements of those cultures in his story. My former step-mother and half-sister are Lakota, my ex-wife, multiple ex-girlfriends, numerous friends, and my teenage daughter as well. This book doesn’t treat the Indigenous characters as overly romanticized token characters, but it does treat them with respect and obvious appreciation for the history of North America before the arrival of European colonizers.