Book Review: A Queer Vampire Novel That Reads Like a Classic

Talbot Mathias has always felt different. He’s never been able to really connect with his adoptive parents, has had difficulty making friends at school, and has been tormented for his sexuality ever since entering Mariner High School. As dark visions begin to consume Talbot’s nights, his days grow worse and worse because of the vicious treatment at the hands of Thomas Burke, Randy Erickson, and Jared Peters, three stars of the Mariner football team. But what neither Talbot nor his tormentors know is that a haunting transformation is seeping its way through his veins. Pushed to the breaking point, Talbot does something that changes the course of his life forever.

Now a vampire, Talbot learns that he comes from a line of Born vampires-the Mathias-the only humans in the world with the genetic pre-dispostion to vampirism, and Talbot discovers a family he never knew he had. As Talbot navigates his new existence as one of the undead, his horrific dreams of a woman bathing in blood in the bowels of an ancient castle only get worse, and he begins to feel her calling to him-drawing him to her. As Talbot becomes more and more entrenched in the world of the immortal, the shadow war between the Created vampires and the Mathias-Born is revealed.

A bloodthirsty and infamous Bloody Queen awakens, and is hell-bent on purifying the vampire world of the Created; leaving only the Mathias to rule. Through this war, Talbot Mathias discovers that the only one who has any power to stop her is him, and in the process, Talbot unravels the mystery of himself and the mother he never knew. Blending myth, history, and science, Instructions In Flesh is a compelling vampire novel that not only bites the jugular, but goes straight through the heart, exposing the pains of youth and the courage in confronting your own worst fears.

Goodreads Synopsis

Overall Rating


Spooky Rating


Quick Take

Instructions in Flesh by Marcus James is an imaginative vampire novel that captures the classic aesthetic of the undead, while presenting a new idea of how vampires come to be. The story is traumatic and gruesome, while also being classically enchanting. This is a must read for any fan of the immortal.

At that moment, an understanding passed between them. It was a kinship of conscience, an awareness of their position in the world – a world between the living and the dead. The world of shadows, beyond what others knew or could comprehend. They were death; they were immortal, unchanging, and continual.

From Instructions in Flesh by Marcus James

Tell Me More

I am a huge fan of vampires and am always on the lookout for horror novels that focus on the undead. When I came across Instructions in Flesh by Marcus James, I knew that I had hit the jackpot. How could I pass up a queer vampire horror story?

I often find that books revolving around vampires are either romantic, or gruesome, but Instructions in Flesh is both. It is erotic and enchanting, while also heartbreaking and brutal. James knows how to paint a picture, and I quickly became enthralled in his world. Talbot Mathias is a great main character, and following his journey of abuse due to his sexuality was soul-crushing but so realistic. It was easy to feel connected to Talbot and watching him become a vampire and enter this new world was beautiful.

While Talbot is the center of the novel, there is an excellent cast of vampires who were all intriguing and carried such intense personalities that it felt like they surrounded me as I read. Their actions felt taboo to read about yet tantalizing all at once. There was an air of classic horror that surrounded the novel, and I enjoyed the traditional gothic feel of the writing.

However, I did find that the descriptions could often be lengthy and hard to read. It felt like I was being told about the setting and characters, rather than being shown. James was clearly trying to paint a picture of the vampires and the world they lived in, but I would have preferred more fluid descriptions. I also have to mention that there is a graphic sexual assault scene early on in the novel, as well as suicide. So, if those are triggers for you, please proceed with caution. But these graphic scenes are integral parts of the story, and helps the reader empathize with Talbot.

Instructions in Flesh by Marcus James is a beautiful addition to the vampire horror genre, and it is a must-read for anyone who enjoys vampires paired with queer fiction. I was deeply impacted by Talbot’s story, and I feel thoroughly changed upon reading the novel. This is a hidden gem of the horror genre, and it deserves more recognition.


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