Book Review: THRALL by Jennifer Quintenz

BooksKristina PinoComment
Braedyn is a normal girl just trying to survive high school with her two devoted friends, Royal and Cassie. Together they’re doing a pretty good job of shrugging off the slings and arrows cast their way by the popular crowd when a new boy, Lucas, moves into the house next door. Suddenly Braedyn finds herself falling in love for the first time.
But as her sixteenth birthday approaches, Braedyn discovers humankind is at war with the Lilitu, an ancient race of enticing demons that prey on human souls. Her father is a member of the Guard fighting against the Lilitu – and so are the new neighbors, including her crush, Lucas.
As her world starts to unravel at the seams, Braedyn learns the right answers aren’t always clear or easy. And as for “good” and “evil” – it all depends on how we choose to act.
Inspired by the ancient Mesopotamian myths of Lilith and her offspring, Thrall explores first love, strong friendships, and taking on adult responsibilities against the backdrop of powerful supernatural forces and life-and-death stakes.

Though I was already intrigued by the synopsis (quoted above) for this story, it would be remiss of me to leave out that a big chunk of the reason why I gave it a chance is because the author is so darn nice. Being a cool person always makes it 100% more likely I'll look into your work, and I have to be choosy about what books I take on for review these days. So when this came my way, I was more than happy that the decision was almost made for me after a more than pleasant email exchange with Quintenz.

Though Thrall is a debut novel, it doesn't read like the kind of work that new authors tend to release, and this might be in part to Quintenz's previous work with graphic novels and writing for television. The writing is tight, lacking superficial fluff, and it gave me hope that YA Paranormal Romance is still doable. This is absolutely a situation where taking something with an open mind paid off.

The pacing is brilliant, and up until around the 65% point of the book, the narrative slowly built up and up towards the action. The bottom 35% of the book is fast-paced, but not rushed. Quintenz gave us ample time to get to know the characters, get a handle on the relationships they had with each other, and become attached to a few people (always dangerous in these kinds of stories). Their frustrations became mine, and I found myself tense with excitement as I stumbled over the words in an attempt to read faster and faster.

There's a lot to love about Thrall besides its intriguing story mixed up with old myths and legends. Its cast is diverse, but not two-dimensional. Braedyn, the main character, doesn't have the traditional home life with two parents, but the one parent she does have is fiercely loyal to and protective of her in all the best ways. Another point for Braedyn is though she stumbles a little along the way, she shoulders the responsibilities given her (and consequences of her actions) without turning herself into a martyr. This is only the first book in a series, and as I already brought up albeit subtly, anything paranormal can mean the end of a character you love at any time, and sometimes without warning. But I'm happy to report that I was thoroughly satisfied with the ending, which tied the ends nicely for this tale, but left enough questions for the series to continue. It doesn't make this book objectively better that it has a happy ending, but I personally like them.

Thrall brings plenty of action and excitement to the big battle between angels, demons, and the humans in between while also maintaining a whole lot of heart. Though this sort of story is done often - you know the one, the main character is right in the middle of all the drama and it's up to them to save the world - the paranormal aspects of the story didn't take over completely. Like any good YA novel, it focused a lot on growing up, and relationships, and choosing the right path, even when it isn't easy. Responsibility, self-discipline, and the importance of teamwork were also big themes. Combine that with the aforementioned non-fluff aspect, and you've got yourself a well-written story that is absolutely worth your time and support if YA (and/or paranormal romance) is your thing.

Thanks again to Jennifer Quintenz for providing me with a review copy, and I'm looking forward to catching up with the other two books that are currently released in this series!