Urban Fantasy is turned onto its Science Fiction side in The Furies by Mark Alpert, which brings us a new kind of witch that is simply misunderstood and shows how magic is simply science wrapped in mystery. Alpert brings a refreshing authenticity to his story, creating a believable world which draws the reader in. The present setting shows us that beautiful brand of science fiction that is just within our grasp.
For centuries, the Furies have lived among us. Long ago they were called witches and massacred by the thousands. But they’re human just like us, except for a rare genetic mutation that they’ve hidden from the rest of the world for hundreds of years.
Now, a chance encounter with a beautiful woman named Ariel has led John Rogers into the middle of a secret war among the Furies. Ariel needs John’s help in the battle between a rebellious faction of the clan and their elders. The grand prize in this war is a chance to remake the human race.
The plot is definitely the best asset of this story. That may seem like a redundant statement but many times the story is simply fueled by interesting characters or an epic world. Instead, Alpert lets us relate to the alternate history of a family that changed history. The interesting twist is that this family is exclusively matriarchal, showing women who shaped history as we knew it and faded into the background to keep their secret. In present day, this matriarchal society has had a revolution from the men who feel powerless. This new take on history was unusual and thought provoking, inspiring the reader to see power imbalance in unconventional manners.
One thing that I have to give credit to Alpert for is his command of the settings he chooses to use. I thought the initial New York backdrop was as convincing as Columbia. This balance of different geographical areas was used wisely and the reader could always feel like they were transported there.
While his plot and locale were well written, I couldn’t help but be annoyed at his two main characters. I can’t say that I didn’t like them because they weren’t well thought out or even that they were stereotypes. I just found them to be really unlikeable. The female protagonist, Ariel, is the less well rounded of the two. She is quite flighty in her mannerisms and doesn’t show much conviction, changing her mind at the drop of a hat. We are told that Ariel is quite intelligent but we are never shown this. She seems to mold to what the story needs her to do rather than be an influential creation that changes the story. Her paramour and male counterpart is John Rogers, a man who almost seems to be Alpert’s attempt at a man who warms the female heart. I must admit that John did no such thing for me and I was frustrated by how many times he wanted to give up on life.
There were a lot of small details that really highlighted the story. The Furies is a book of factions and those factions take familiar guises to stay under the radar. This helps add to the realism as the FBI is introduced along with a motorcycle gang and the Amish. Alpert plays on the known yet unknown, making use of sub cultures of the U.S that many readers will only know peripherally.
While I enjoyed the thrill of the plot, I found a lot of elements to be a bit predictable but nonetheless interesting. The ending was by far the most disappointing but it fit the characters well. I think I truly just didn’t relate to them at all and therefore had a hard time connecting with their decisions as characters. Despite my dislike of the characters, I really enjoyed The Furies for the action and storyline.