Author: Elizabeth Miles
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Greek Mythology, Young Adult
Publisher: Simon Pulse US / Simon & Schuster Childrens Books UK
Publication date: August 30th 2011 / Septemnber 1st 2011
Hardcover: 352 pages
It’s winter break in Ascension, Maine. The snow is falling and everything looks pristine and peaceful. But not all is as it seems…
Between cozy traditions and parties with her friends, Emily loves the holidays. And this year’s even better–the guy she’s been into for months is finally noticing her. But Em knows if she starts things with him, there’s no turning back. Because his girlfriend is Em’s best friend.
On the other side of town, Chase is having problems of his own. The stress of his home life is starting to take its toll, and his social life is unraveling. But that’s nothing compared to what’s really haunting him. Chase has done something cruel…something the perfect guy he pretends to be would never do. And it’s only a matter of time before he’s exposed.
In Ascension, mistakes can be deadly. And three girls—three beautiful, mysterious girls—are here to choose who will pay.
Stand alone or series: Book 1 of Fury Trilogy
How did we get this book: ARCs from the US and UK publishers
Why did we read this book: When Thea first caught word of the novel, she immediately emailed Ana. We knew we HAD to get review copies of this book as soon as humanly possible. It’s FURIES, people!
Ana: I approached Fury with a mix of excitement and trepidation. Excitement because I love Greek Mythology and I love the idea of the Furies as personifications of vengeance and one of my personal favourite stories of all time features the Furies: Neil Gaiman’s The Kindly Ones (Sandman Volume 9). Trepidation because I’ve read some really bad Greek retellings of late and have become wary of what seems to be the latest YA fad. I did not need to worry. Fury takes its Greek inspiration as it should be: dark and unrepentant and then adds awesome contemporary YA issues to the mix to create one of my favourite novels of 2011.
Thea: I, too, was a little wary when I picked up Fury, but also incredibly excited and optimistic. Yes, many of the so-called Greek “retellings” we have read of late have been disappointing (to say the least) – but I couldn’t let that deter me. And wouldn’t you know it? I absolutely LOVED Fury. Brutal, vindictive, and utterly merciless, these furies are the real deal. It’s not the furies that make the book, though, but the protagonists. I don’t know if it’s one of my favorite novels of the year, but it’s definitely on the notable list.
On the Plot:
Ana: Anyone looking for cookie-cutter story about likeable characters better look elsewhere now: Fury is nowhere near anything like that. It is definitely more horror than paranormal/fantasy and unlike your typical paranormal YA, the danger is real and the characters suffer.
It features two main protagonists, Emily and Chase, who narrate this story in alternating chapters. Both are extremely unlikeable characters who have done horrible stuff (more on that later) and who start being following by these three girls. Chase becomes increasingly attracted to and obsessed with one of them whereas Emily is haunted by another. Soon enough it becomes clear to the reader that these girls are otherworldly until eventually it is revealed that they are the three Furies of the Greek Mythology out for vengeance for wrongdoings and Chase and Em are only their latest targets.
Here is the deal: I love the idea of the Furies but not because I condone vengeance/revenge but because it is a great way of dealing with this very topic and I can’t express how well Elizabeth Miles did this with Fury. The Furies are expertly incorporated into the story: first of all, they are as merciless and ruthless as they should be, and then there is the fact that their presence is very subtle as they are there in the background meting out revenge almost insidiously. Their presence creeps up little by little in the lives of Chase and Emily. This is psychological torture and horror at its best because it messes up with people’s heads, really pushing over the edge those who were already feeling guilty.
And this is what is awesome about this book: it takes the subject of crime and punishment and it opens it all up for discussion. It is not about glorifying vengeance at all, quite the contrary. Emily and Chase are terrible people who have done terrible things and they are guilty beyond any doubts. But do they deserve being punished like they are by the Furies? Do they deserve being punished at all? We are talking about flawed characters, teenagers just starting to live their lives and have made really bad choices and there is a real discussion to be had about the limits of forgiveness and the limits of punishment and whether people deserve second chances or not.
The author does make the Furies true to their Greek form but she also wrote the humans true to theirs as well: flawed, complex, prone to mistakes and also, prone to fight for their right to not have their fates decided by someone else. And that is really, really cool.
Thea: I completely agree with Ana. If you are looking for some typical teenage paranormal romance, in which a fury falls in love with, like, this HAWT high school dude because they are both just, like, misunderstood, think again. This is a brutal book that isn’t afraid to have ugly protagonists or go against the trend of romantic drivel so omnipresent in YA “retellings” today. No, Fury doesn’t flinch or sugar-coat anything – in this sense, it is as vindictive as its eponymous harpies.
Elizabeth Miles essentially writes a psychological thriller with a paranormal edge with her debut novel – as Ana says, the terror builds gradually over the course of the book for the dual protagonists. Em has harbored a long-standing crush on her best friend Gabby’s boyfriend and finally acts on that attraction when her bff is out of town; Chase is literally from the wrong side of the tracks and will do anything to fit in – even when it comes at the cost of those around him. Then, three beautiful girls arrive in their small, wintry town, and begin to insinuate themselves in Em and Chase’s lives…
As Ana says, the message of this book is NOT one of glorifying furies or vindictiveness. Rather, Fury is a smart novel that stays true to the furies of Greek myth, as well as the very familiar flaws of humans. Even though Em and Chase have done horrible things, they are rendered as sympathetic because they are people – and readers, privy to their thoughts and emotions, understand their motivations and know that they are just regular people, struggling to make their way in the world. So who, then, has the right to judge them or punish them for their actions? Is it OK for Furies to mete out their particular brand of cruel justice? In Fury, the answer is a resounding no. I love that Ms. Miles doesn’t try to glorify or romanticize furies in any way, but rather critiques and explicates the mythological creatures.
From a pure writing perspective, Elizabeth Miles does a fantastic job of building tension and letting the horror of this novel unfold slowly – a glimpse of a girl here, a crushed red flower there. Tautly written and suspenseful, Furies does stick with familiar tropes – but the book also takes some huge risks. By the second half of the book something BIG happens (completely unexpected and practically unheard of in YA books, especially of the paranormal persuasion), and things kick into high gear. Furies builds up to a frantic crescendo of action and reaches a heartbreaking conclusion. I cannot WAIT to see what happens in the next book.
On the Characters:
Ana: With regards to the characters, the most outstanding quality of protagonists Chase and Emily is how unlikeable they are. Even though I couldn’t stomach the two, I could see they were really messed up teens, Chase most of all. That doesn’t excuse their truly regrettable behaviour (Chase was a bully and a jerk; Emily was stealing her best friend’s boyfriend) but they both had a degree of earnestness and naivety that made them almost sympathetic.
In fact the vast majority of characters in the book were just a huge bunch of creeps, bullies and bigots and the important thing is that they are not represented as heroic or in any way even remotely positive. I mention this because I read a few reviews on Goodreads calling out the slut shaming and bigotry – but I thought these were portrayed as BAD things and not condoned by the text in any way.
Finally, I need to mention my favourite character: Drea. She is a very secondary character who eventually helps Emily to figure out who the Furies are and someone, whom, I hope, will have her own arc in the sequel. Out of all characters, Drea is perhaps the only one who could be described as truly heroic in a more traditional way and I loved that she is the one to voice what this book is really about:
You don’t know anything, Emily Winters. All you know is your own little world and your own little life. But listen. The Furies aren’t doing anything good. I don’t want them to do anything other than disappear. Because what happens when I make a mistake? Who decides my fate? Me. Or at least the people around me. Not some otherworldly demon-goddess chick hell-bent on destruction.
Thea: I actually disagree with Ana because I found both Em and Chase to be extremely sympathetic characters, despite their actions and missteps. The thing is, no one is perfect. Everyone screws up. People cheat on their significant others, they laugh at the expense of someone else, they say cruel things, they bully, they fight, and they backstab. In high school, this is even more true as teens are just realizing the scope of their actions and struggling to grow up. I actually applaud Ms. Miles for this ugly, unflinching look at the actions of teenagers – so many times, high school feels so sanitized in YA novels (especially when there are vampires or whatever paranormal entity involved). Everyone has done something they are not proud of, and we just happen to be watching Em and Chase when they do those things.
Chase’s actions are much more dramatic than Em’s, but even though he has been a colossal asshole, reading his narrative, one understands his fear, and anger, and sense of impotence in a world where his friends get everything they want, while he has to pretend and struggle so hard to fit in. A poor kid living in a trailer with his mom, Chase has fought tooth and nail his way up the social ladder at school, and will do anything to protect his standing – and this is from where Chase’s motivations stem. Proud, desperate, and with enormous abandonment issues, it’s easy to see where Chase is coming from.
Em is also laid bare for the world with her narrative. Although she acts on her off-limits crush, Em isn’t just a backstabbing bitch that gleefully throws herself at her best friend’s boyfriend, Zach. Even though she does a horrible, horrible thing by betraying Gabby’s trust, we see that she feels incredible guilt for her actions and justifies the relationship because she genuinely thinks that Zach loves her and not Gabby, and will break the news to her soon. It’s a familiar tale, and I loved that instead of judging these teens for their actions, Ms. Miles shows them as real people. We understand these characters, we sympathize with them because they are reflections of reality. Fury certainly doesn’t condone their actions, but these characters aren’t demonized, either. And I think that is what sets the novel apart.
Final Thoughts, Observations & Rating:
Ana: Fury is an edgy, dark Paranormal YA which incorporates elements of Greek Mythology in a way that blew my mind away. THAT’s how you do Greek Mythology-meets-Paranormal YA, folks. Highly recommended.
Thea: I wholeheartedly agree. Fury completely took me by surprise, and is the perfect antidote for lackluster retellings and paranormal mediocrity. Absolutely recommended.
Notable Quotes/Parts: From Chapter 1:
Emily Winters stood in front of her bedroom mirror, a fluffy white towel wrapped around her torso, as she tried to work a tangle from her dark, dripping hair.
The room was quiet, except for the radiator next to her closet—it made its trademark ticking sound, one that had kept her awake as a child. She always imagined an old witch trying to claw her way out of the wall. But she was used to it by now. Just like the tiny mole above her right eyebrow—she’d had it since birth, and the only time she ever noticed it was when someone else commented on it.
Someone like Zach McCord, for example. Last week in earth science, the class no one ever paid attention in, he’d leaned toward her to steal a peek at her quiz. Then he’d looked up into her eyes and touched the edge of her eyebrow. “Beauty mark,” he’d said. A shiver had run through her as he turned around, and that was that.
Out of the corner of her eye, Em saw something white flash by her window. As she whirled to look, she heard another heavy thump.
She cinched the towel tighter, her heart hammering and her mind immediately churning out visions of robbers and murderers. She waited a second, listening, but heard nothing more. Clutching her plastic comb, she approached the window to peer outside. The front porch light shone on the blanket of winter snow covering the brittle, dark yard and the driveway that sloped down to Em’s quiet street.
Of course someone hadn’t tried to break in, she told herself, lowering the comb with an embarrassed smile (and seriously, of all the weapons she could have picked—a comb?). Nobody got robbed in Ascension, and certainly not in this part of town. It must have been a clump of snow falling from the old oak tree next to the house.
No sooner had her heart stopped pounding when the bing of the chat messages began: first one, and then several more, in such rapid succession it sounded like an alarm clock.
Em sighed and went over to her laptop, which was sitting among books and papers on her bed. Em hated working at the desk in the corner of her room—she used it mostly for clothing storage. Currently, the desk chair was completely obscured by a mound of scarves, dresses, and vintage blazers.
Gabs357: Em? U there?
Gabs357: um hello?
Gabs357: K well I’m getting ready and I was wondering, hair up or hair down?
Gabs357: Emmmmmm! U promised to help! Also I’m torn between the blue sweater dress (w/short slvs) and new jeans w/pink ruffled top . . . what do u think? And where’s my black cardigan—do you have it?
Gabs357: Are you getting a ride from Chauffeur or should we come get you?
Gabs357: I think I’m going to go with the dress. Are you even alive????
“I’m wearing jeans and a black shirt, in case you’re wondering, Gabs,” Em muttered. Moving her favorite stuffed animal, a zebra named Cordy, out of the way, she slid onto the bed to type a response.
Zach McCord had won Cordy for her last summer, when Em and her best friend, Gabby, had gone to the county fair. He stopped at one of those freaky machines, the ones where you manipulate a giant claw in order to grab a plush animal from below. Zach, who was ridiculously talented at all things physical, had somehow clawed up two prizes: a pink bear and the zebra.
Zach had casually tossed Em the zebra. “It’s cute,” he’d said. “Different and cute. Like you.” For the rest of the day, his words had filled her with a warm glow, and ever since then, Em kept Cordy on her bed. Sometimes, she found the stuffed zebra offered a better set of ears than any of the humans around her.
Zach had given the pink bear to Gabby, of course, who had squealed and planted an enormous kiss on Zach’s cheek.
Which was as it should be. Because Zach was Gabby’s boyfriend.
You can read the full excerpt online HERE.
Additional Thoughts: Make sure to stick around as later today we have author Elizabeth Miles over for a guest post, and a chance to win a copy of Fury!
Ana: 8 – Excellent, leaning toward 9
Thea: 8 – Excellent
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