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The Furies | Katie Lowe | Review

1998. A sixteen-year-old girl is found dead on school property, dressed in white and posed on a swing. No known cause of death.

After the death of her father and sister in a car crash from which she was the only survivor, Valerie is starting over at Elm Hollow Academy, a private girls' school with a mysterious past. The history of Elm Hollow intertwines with 17th century witch trials and, far more recently, the disappearance of a student who was part of a secret society that Violet now finds herself invited to. Along with her new friends, Robin, Alex, and Grace, Violet meets their teacher, Annabel, in a secret part of the school each week to learn about women of art, literature, and history, including the school's own rumoured history of witchcraft that Annabel swears isn't real.

As Violet becomes entangled with her new friends, she starts to wonder about the girl they knew before, the one who went missing, who was Robin's best friend before Violet, and who apparently even looked a little like Violet. Robin envelopes Violet in her world of drinking, taking drugs, and spending time with older, university boys, and when this new world turns on Violet, Robin promises to make it right, using one of the rituals Annabel swore would never work. Violet falls further into the dark world that her new friends inhabit, tumbling deeper and deeper into the darkness, folding herself more and more into their group, until a body is found. Then, suddenly, Violet finds herself jealous of a dead girl, and unsure whether she can trust the friends she has become so linked to, after all.

The Furies is a dark, chilling tale of the intense friendships teenage girls can form and how that intensity can go horribly wrong. Annabel's lessons are meant to help the girls find a kind of power, but the power they try to harness is not the kind that Annabel intended. The novel is told from the perspective of Violet, older, looking back on the events of her teenage years, and it starts with the image of a dead girl on a swing. This vein of horror and decay permeates throughout the story, in the descriptions of the rundown seaside town surrounding Elm Hollow, in Violet's own home, where her mother has left her sister's bedroom exactly as it was the day she died, and even in Violet's interactions with her friends, shrouded in the smoke of cigarettes and pot, and flooded with wine.

This is a slow burn of a book, things take their time to come to fruition, but this works to give the sense of unease time to truly build. The girls' exploration into witchcraft and the myth of The Furies of ancient Greece being summoned to the school weave seamlessly into the almost claustrophobic friendship between the four girls, and make it all the more powerful that the true horrors in the story are not fantastical at all, but very human, and very real. Lowe's writing is extremely atmospheric, her descriptions enough to make anyone's skin crawl. The Furies is a dark and obsessive novel, perfect for fans of The Graces by Laure Eve, but who want something even darker than that.

An ARC of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley for review. All opinions expressed are the reviewer's own.

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