Horror Book Review: Transmuted by Eve Harms

Horror Book Review

Eve Harms
Publication Date: July 15, 2021
Publisher: Unnerving
Genres: Horror

Holy hell, what did I just read . . . and what is wrong with me that I loved every bizarre moment? This was a blood-splattered, gore-soaked, sexualized immersion in body horror, and it’s utterly fantastic. With Transmuted, Eve Harms has layered multiple stories and genres atop one another, stitching them together in a freakish, monstrous tale about beauty, obsession, and love.

Isa is a social media celebrity, a transgender video game streamer who has been crowdsourcing the funds for facial feminization surgery. Just when it seems her dreams are about to come true, however, a family emergency guilts her into sacrificing her own gender-affirming surgery for her estranged father’s experimental treatment. Having missed her chance, not to mention let down her fans, she’s in a depressed, vulnerable state when the too-good-to-be-true offer of a free, experimental feminization treatment comes her way.

For starters, I thought Harms did a fantastic job of capturing Isa’s situation, depicting her gender dysphoria perfectly, and making her struggle between identity and expression something with which any reader should be able to empathize. Hers is a familiar sort of body horror, and the scene in which she confronts her reflection speaks volumes.

The body horror isn’t hers alone, however – the whole book is full of it. The stuffed animals with human eyes and dentures, the beautiful artist disfigured by a nose scar, the alchemical horrors of her paintings. Everywhere we look, there are vivid, horrifying reminders of the tortured and the tormented, the victims of self-esteem as much as social prejudices. It all begins to come together when Isa undergoes her first experimental treatment, a nightmarish affair of suffocation and drowning, melting flesh and splintering bones, that may have all been inside her head, but which prove to have real-world implications.

Beneath all that horror, that desperate search for self-validation, there’s a wonderful friendship that keeps Isa anchored, and a sweet romance that gives us hope – until it doesn’t. There are three moments where the book pivoted hard for me, three twists that shocked me, disgusted me, and just left me reeling. When Harms goes all-in on the body horror, it’s like Edward Lee, Clive Barker, and Carlton Mellick have been Transmuted into something freakish . . . and entirely fascinating.

The last third of the book is almost too much, too distanced from the personal horror of Isa’s dysphoria, but the interplay of art and identity, of passion and obsession, works, and the way Isa transforms herself is the kind of heroism you witness with your stomach in your throat and your fingers over your eyes. It’s intense, over-the-top, and increasingly bizarre, but goddamn if I didn’t love where it takes us.

Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀ 

My sincere thanks to the publisher for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.