Saturday, February 24, 2024

Blood is Key in Marina Yuszczuk’s Thirst

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Two women. Two times. Two species. Thirst by Marina Yuszczuk is a romance novel like I haven’t read before. Beautifully translated by Heather Cleary, this is a character study done on a bloody backdrop. Buenos Aires was not prepared for either of them. And I’ll be honest, neither was I. You can sink your teeth in on March 5th when this releases from Dutton.

I want to begin, as the novel does, with our vampire. She is… inhuman. That sounds like a given, I understand. But I was impressed. Yuszczuk truly embraced the otherness of the vampire as character. No, embrace isn’t even the right word. She delighted in it. I had so much fun reading some pretty unhinged scenes. I love when an author goes past my expectations. And this vampire? She went past them. And then kept going.

But, interestingly, she also stops. I debated discussing this detail in this review, but I don’t think it’s really a spoiler. It is advertised as being told “across two different time periods,” after all. But someone asked me about this and I’ve been mulling it over. It is across two times, but they are sequential. Maybe it’s my own bias as a reader, but I expected more of a back-and-forth. Choosing not to do that resulted in, to me, almost a feeling of two novellas tied together.

Thirst Cover
Thirst Cover

I don’t mean that in a negative way. I actually think it was kind of brilliant. It means we as the reader fully know both sides of our pairing before their stories connect. It also further highlights the stark differences between our blood-lustful vampire and our grieving human. Personally, I don’t believe that contrast would be as impactful if we’d been skipping between their timelines. It’s like how cold water can feel warm after being in even colder water. The differences become highlighted in comparison. 

Which brings us to our human character. Grief horror has become one of my favorite subgenres. And her story is quintessential grief horror. She’s losing her mom. And if you ever wondered how agonizing a slow death can be, this will get you close. But it goes so much deeper than that. She’s divorced and struggling with being a single mother. She’s hitting a wall at work for the first time. This is a woman losing her place. She’s losing her self. And what she really needs is something to hold on to. Some thread to follow back to steady ground. 

That thread of course leads to a certain vampire. Again, this is not a plot spoiler. It would actually be quite difficult for me to spoil this book. The magic happens in the reading. It’s in the journey. I went in not knowing much at all, as I am wont to do, but I can’t see how knowing something in the official synopsis would harm this experience. That’s one of my favorite things about the whole “no plot, just vibes” descriptor some books get. It can’t be diminished by a little information.

I think this is a must-read for any vampire fan. But I also think even non-horror readers could find something in these pages. Yes, there is a lot of blood. And there are quite a few explicit scenes. But I never felt fear. And while I do believe fear is a secondary emotion in the best horror novels, I understand some people don’t like to be scared. This one is described as genre-blurring for a reason. It has the cadence of literary fiction. Just you know, with more sacrilegious violence.

Image and quote courtesy of Penguin Random House

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