October 8, 2019
St. Martin’s Press
Blurb: In 1998, a sixteen-year-old girl is found dead.
She’s posed on a swing on her boarding school’s property, dressed all in white, with no known cause of death. Whispers and rumors swirl, with no answers. But there are a few who know what happened; there is one girl who will never forget.
One year earlier: a new student, Violet, steps on the campus of Elm Hollow Academy, an all-girl’s boarding school on the outskirts of a sleepy coastal town. This is her fresh start, her chance to begin again in the wake of tragedy, leave her demons behind. Bright but a little strange, uncertain and desperate to fit in, she soon finds herself invited to an advanced study group, led by her alluring and mysterious art teacher, Annabel.
There, with three other girls—Alex, Grace, and Robin—the five of them delve into the school’s long-buried grim history: of Greek and Celtic legends; of the school founder’s “academic” interest in the occult; of gruesome 17th century witch trials. Annabel does her best to convince the girls that her classes aren’t related to ancient rites and rituals, and that they are just history and mythology. But the more she tries to warn the girls off the topic, the more they are drawn to it, and the possibility that they can harness magic for themselves.
Violet quickly finds herself wrapped up in this heady new world of lawless power—except she is needled by the disappearance of a former member of the group, one with whom Violet shares an uncanny resemblance. As her friends’ actions take a turn for the darker and spiral out of control, she begins to wonder who she can trust, all the while becoming more deeply entangled. How far will these young girls go to protect one another…or to destroy one another?
Purchase from Amazon: The Furies
One of the necessities in a horror novel or thriller is creating a character for whom the audience feels empathy or, at the very least, sympathy. If the reader doesn’t care about your character, then what happens to them is of very little consequence. The horror novel becomes the equivalent of a teen slasher movie with the intent to frighten not enlighten.
Several times throughout my reading of The Furies by Katie Lowe, I considered quitting mainly because the main characters, Alex, Grace, Robin, and even the narrator, Violet, are mean girl sociopaths. They take actions without caring. I won’t say caring about the consequences, but about anything at all. They take lives without exuding emotion. This desensitized approach made me feel as if the author were simply throwing horror scenes at me. I kept wondering, so what’s this all supposed to be about? What is the author trying to prove? That in the age of #metoo, it’s okay to let women take revenge on men, especially revenge that ends in murder? That if a man says something slimy, he deserves the same end as someone who does something horrible? And, at what point does vigilantism become okay? If we call forth ancient furies to do our bidding does that makes it fine?
Probably it would have helped to have the backstory of Alex, Grace, and Robin, to perhaps have formed a sympathetic basis for them. For the most part, Alex and Grace, are of little consequence, their characters melding together. Even though we know Violet’s backstory, that her father and little sister died in a car accident that she was also in, the author never successfully makes us care about Violet. While reactions and neediness may result from feeling so alone, they don’t allow us to feel a bond to her.
Each of these characters needed depth in order to make this a really good novel.
Lowe demonstrated her scholarly chops as she detailed classical stories to show gender hierarchy throughout history. While some were interesting, the Medusa paintings, for instance, most could have been paraphrased to make her point.
Which leads me to question why Anabelle had these four girls under her tutelage, feeding them stories about the oppression of women, teaching them about the Furies, if her intention was only to provide knowledge and not action. This is one plot hole; there are others.
With all of this and the fact that I really didn’t appreciate this novel, why didn’t I stop reading when I came across a despised animal sacrifice? The writing was good and a part of me kept hoping for “feeling.” I read so many novels, but so few of them are well written. This was one.
So, who would I recommend this one for? Extreme feminists who believe the end justifies the means; readers who enjoy reading very dark novels. If you’re looking for a “witchy” novel, pass this one by regardless of what the blurb says. Girls do three spells with varying results. I would not encourage you to read The Furies if you are appalled by animal sacrifice and animal cruelty; there are two incidents within. Violence is desensitized. While the genre is considered to be YA, I would recommend only for older readers on the YA spectrum.
I’m waffling between 2½ or 3 as a rating. Does good, intriguing writing justify a higher rating? I’m leaning that way.
3 out of 5 butterflies