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Thrall by Mary SanGiovanni
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I wasn't too sure about what to expect with this book. I've known about Mary SanGiovanni for years, both from her books being sold (Amazon recommendations, Thunderstorm Books emails) and from her regular contributions to the podcast "The Horror Show with Brian Keene." For whatever reason though, I've only read a single chapbook by her. I think that I found her novel covers off-putting: THRALL and The Hollower trilogy had covers with monsters on them which for some reason made me think "I don't want a monster book." I know, a really stupid reason but at the same time a reason that kept me from reading her books. Also I had seen her writing frequently compared to H.P. Lovecraft and I'm not really a Lovecraft fan. I don't hate him but I don't remember being seriously spooked by anything of his that I read. Anyway, THRALL. The book was interesting, enjoyable, gripping at times, frequently weird, and unfortunately a little off. First a summary and then I'll see if I can explain.

Jesse Coaglan escaped from his hometown Thrall, New Jersey and was living in Ohio; he planned to never return. That all changed when Mia, his ex-girlfriend, called saying that she needed help to escape along with her young daughter. So Jesse returns, bringing his best friend Nadia, and finds the town much stranger than before. And before included black holes opening up in a grocery store and bleeding nuns and blood flooding down Main Street. Once in town, he gets help from his boyhood best friend and a few others as they hunt for Mia and a way to escape.

In general, I found a lot of positive about the book. The characters all had personalities that were easy to identify and remember; they were also just like people I knew growing up. The events that happened in the story were also easy to follow and picture. There were a couple events that seemed convenient but nothing more so than any other horror book. And I did figure out how to defeat the "big bad" before they came on the scene but that was more luck than anything. I think though that the reason I found the book a bit off is the same reason that I'm not crazy about Lovecraft: even despite all the monsters and spookiness, I wasn't really afraid. I didn't get that chill down my spine, that sense of fear or dread. Sure, if I was a character in the book I would be totally scared but as a reader, that emotion was just missing. Don't get me wrong though; the book is very well-written and enjoyable. I was just left wanting. I think I need a quiet horror novel right now as opposed to monsters or short stories or the inbred hillybilly mutant novel that was next in my "to-read" pile. If you are a Lovecraft fan, you'll probably find THRALL to be excellent! I do plan on reading another book by SanGiovanni and seeing if I can find that missing fear, maybe THE FADING PLACE. ( )
  dagon12 | Jul 19, 2017 |
I'm having a very difficult time writing this review. Overall, I liked the story. I found it original and compelling, but I also found it to be a bit wordy at times, and it seemed the characters kept finding themselves in the same situation in slightly different locations. With that being said...

Thrall, is a small town in New Jersey. A town that Jesse Coaglan was lucky to get away from. In the author's words, "With time and distance, he thought he'd gained a good handle on what was real and what wasn't now...Like the black hole, for instance, that had opened up at the Grocer-Rite! over the dairy aisle, sucking in four shoppers, two cashiers, and a stockroom boy. Or the phenomenon of the bleeding nuns...and then there was the night that blood streamed down Main Street..."

Jesse, figured he'd never be going back there, but a phone call from an ex-girlfriend changes his mind. Jesse must return to Thrall. He needs to save Mia and her young daughter, Caitlyn, from the town he escaped from.

Jesse asks his best friend, Nadia to make the trip from Ohio, to New Jersey where he finds his boyhood friend Tom keeping the monsters at bay. And indeed there are monsters. There is also a mist-like cloud, the people of the town call The Raw. It comes and goes, mostly showing up at night and those that wander into it generally don't come out, at least not in one piece.

Expect the weird in Thrall. Weird, as in an entire apartment complex moving from one part of town to another. Weird, as in a number of statues that seem to pre-date the town's earliest settlers, packed away for a number of years, suddenly back on display and no one knows how they got there.

Thrall is filled with memorable characters who find themselves wanting to get out of town, even if it kills them. And you know what, it just might.

Thrall was originally published as a signed limited edition hardcover, but is now available for the masses as an e-book and is currently available for FREE from the Kindle Lending Library for Amazon Prime members and it's also available as a CD audiobook through AudioRealms’ horror imprint, Dark Realms. ( )
  FrankErrington | Sep 8, 2012 |
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