I love books about secret societies, so I was beyond excited to get my hands on a copy of Katie Lowe’s début novel The Furies. It takes place at an elite New England boarding school, and chronicles one girl’s quest to be accepted by the other students. Unfortunately, the execution of the story did not work well for me, and I came away from the novel with a feeling of overall dissatisfaction.
When Violet first sets foot on the grounds of Elm Hollow Academy, she’s filled with optimism. Her home life isn’t the greatest, and Elm Hollow seems like the perfect place for her to start again, completely dedicate herself to her studies, and leave the darkness of her past behind. She knows fitting in might be a challenge, since her life has been nothing like the lives of affluence and luxury enjoyed by her fellow students, but she’s determined to give it her best shot.
She’s only been on campus for a short time when she comes to the attention of three of Elm Hollow’s most popular girls. Alex, Grace, and Robin are everything Violet has always wanted to be: self-assured, beautiful, and mysterious. Plus, they’ve been taken under the wing of the fascinating Annabel, the academy’s art teacher. Annabel runs a secret, after hours study group, and when Violet is invited to join, she feels like she’s finally achieved something great. Under Annabel’s tutelage, the girls begin dissecting the school’s past, uncovering dark and dangerous secrets with possible ties to the occult.
As time passes and Violet and the others delve ever deeper into the sordid rituals conducted by some of Elm Hollow’s previous students, things take a sinister turn. Things at the school are not as great as they at first seemed, and Violet will be forced to choose between the new life she’s carved out for herself and doing what she knows to be right, even if it costs her everything.
Everything about The Furies sounds fabulous, doesn’t it? I picked it up expecting something fast-paced and twisty, something pretty dark and addictive, but what I got was something totally different. The prose feels stilted, and the author tells us far more than she ever shows – which was especially problematic when it came to the relationships between the various characters. These girls are supposed to be part of a tight-knit social group, but most of their time is spent sniping at each other. They come off more like rivals than friends, and it was difficult for me to understand why they continued to spend time with one another.
The novel is supposed to be a thriller with some supernatural elements, but very little of the suspense feels believable. I would have enjoyed the book much more if the author had chosen to write a straight thriller or a fantasy novel rather than trying to combine the two and falling short of the mark. Many of the supposed twists were obvious and clumsily executed, causing me to roll my eyes on more than a few occasions.
Some deeper insight into Violet’s past would have made her easier for me to relate to. We know she experienced a great deal of tragedy, but the details are quite sparse. She carries around quite a bit of guilt, but we aren’t allowed to understand exactly what she feels guilty about. I would have liked the author to flesh her past out for me, helping me to make sense of her motivations and desires.
The Furies is a book with a lot of unrealized potential. I wanted to get lost in its pages, but huge plotholes pulled me out of the story again and again. It left me with way more questions than answers, making it a read I can’t recommend.