[Review] Thrall by Avon Gale and Roan Parrish

NOTE: This review is being posted with the promise that if/when I eventually return to this book and un-DNF it, I’ll write a full review that reflects that.

Thrall cover


I wanted to love Thrall, Avon Gale and Roan Parrish’s updated take on Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

I liked what I’d read of it, but loving it did not happen.

It’s a queer update on the classic vampire story, focusing on a couple (literally) of true crime podcast hosts and their (also queer) friends as they try to figure out the mystery of a missing brother and a suspicious dating application.

Honestly, at first, I devoured this book. I got the sample on kindle and powered through that before snagging a copy on the kindle a few days later when it was on sale. I thought it was pretty brilliant and brought the epistolary nature of the novel into the twenty-first century via text messages, forum posts, creepypasta wikia entries, social media posts, and blog articles. I’m also a huge fan of the queerness (not that I expected anything else from these authors) and the fact that one of the main podcast hosts is a Black woman.

But when it comes to what I don’t like?

For me, too little of the novel (as far as I’ve gotten at this point) is devoted to traditional prose. I feel like I’m unable to get into the characters’ heads and “see” what they’re going through because I’m reading about interactions and events documented and not so much… experienced. It’s weird. I’m literally getting to read these characters’ thoughts through journal entries and DMs and text messages, but I can’t connect with them the way I usually do.

(It’s not just the 21st century epistolary nature of the novel, Christina Lauren’s Half-Night Stand uses text messages, social media, and dating service chats in conjunction with standard prose.)

Thrall is also slow as hell.

That might be because they’re riffing off of Stoker’s work and Dracula’s not exactly a jog in the park or anything like that, but that doesn’t change the fact that even though I want to know what happens, picking it up started to fill me with dread because the plot kept crawling along and nothing was happening fast enough and I still had like two thirds of the book to go. Tens of thousands of words. At most a hundred thousand.

I don’t mind a good brick of a book (and it’s not that Thrall is bad at all), but the stars didn’t align for me in this case so the length really didn’t work for me and that’s a bummer.

If you like queer retellings of classic fiction – especially ones that bring them into our present – Thrall is a interesting, long book that might be your cup of tea.

For the moment, unfortunately, it’s not mine.