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Vengeance Bound by Justine Ireland

Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Synopsis: Cory Graff is not alone in her head. Bound to a deal of desperation made when she was a child, Cory’s mind houses the Furies—the hawk and the serpent—lingering always, waiting for her to satisfy their bloodlust. After escaping the asylum where she was trapped for years, Cory knows how to keep the Furies quiet. By day, she lives a normal life, but by night, she tracks down targets the Furies send her way. And she brings down Justice upon them.

Cory’s perfected her system of survival, but when she meets a mysterious boy named Niko at her new school, she can’t figure out how she feels about him. For the first time, the Furies are quiet in her head around a guy. But does this mean that Cory’s finally found someone who she can trust, or are there greater factors at work? As Cory’s mind becomes a battlefield, with the Furies fighting for control, Cory will have to put everything on the line to hold on to what she’s worked so hard to build.

Review: Yeah, write what you know, but what about read what you know? The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty, one of my top two favorite novels, finds Smithy Ide alone after his parents die in separate hospitals after a car accident, and he embarks on a solo bicycle trip across the country to claim his mentally ill sister’s body in Los Angeles. In The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, my other top favorite novel, eminent butler Stevens leaves Darlington Hall most likely for the first time since he began his 30-year career, to travel the English countryside and seek out Mrs. Benn, a former housekeeper he’s trying to convince to return to service at Darlington Hall, a woman he was possibly in love with, but would never have admitted it.

And then there’s Travels with My Aunt by Graham Greene, in which the timid Henry Pulling is content with his dahlias and ordering dinner by phone from a delivery service, before his previously unknown Aunt Augusta arrives to whisk him on many journeys with her, which he has never experienced before.

Smithy is who he is by choice, before circumstances dictate that he try something totally outside of who he is. So is Stevens. So is Henry. I’m the kind who can amiably chat with people, who doesn’t mind social gatherings but doesn’t actively seek them out, who prefers reading at home and writing over dating or going to any speed-dating thing or just going to a club or some book-related gathering, whatever it might be. (Despite Las Vegas offering dozens of nightclubs, I’m not the clubbing type.)

Even at my beloved Pinball Hall of Fame on Tropicana Avenue, it’s only me and the pinball machines. No one else and nothing else. The arcade machine there that has Galaga, my favorite video game, is badly calibrated anyway.

So naturally, that’s why I gravitate to Smithy and Stevens and Henry. They live life like I do, at least at the beginning of each novel, although I am far less timid and reserved than Henry, and certainly not as formal as Stevens, and definitely not as fat as Smithy is early on. Again, these men have all made choices, as have I. Yet, I’ve never come across a novel in which the main character doesn’t have a choice in being alone, until now.

That novel is Vengeance Bound, which introduces Amelie Ainsworth, and the Greek Furies, Tisiphone, with the wings of a hawk, and Megaera, with a Medusa hairstyle, who live in her subconscious, breaking out and doling out violent justice through her as they see fit. At the beginning, Amelie breaks out of Saint Dymphna’s, a mental institution in Savannah, Georgia, with her roommate Annie, Tisiphone slashing at the face of Dr. Goodhart on the way out, a sham of a doctor with whom Amelie has a dark history, the extent of which is naturally revealed later on. Much later on. You see, author Justine Ireland has the gift of making a reader curious about what’s going to happen next, of wanting to know more about Amelie, where she came from, how the Furies came to take up residence inside her head, but not the skill. Amelie goes from Savannah to West County Pennsylvania, stopping at points on the way for the Furies to dish out their justice to such lowlifes as a pimp in South Carolina.

In West County, Pennsylvania, she registers for high school under the alias Corinne Graff so that no one can track her past. These school days are interminable, and just like the men she and the Furies kill in the name of justice, they feel like a lot of padding. She falls in with a group that includes Adam, who likes her but she doesn’t like him back. Amber hates her, Mindi is clingy and is neck-and-neck with Amelie in the issues department, and Amelie loves Niko. Oh does she love Niko, right from the first meeting. That’s all there is to read for a while. Amber hates her. Amber still hates her. Whoa! That’s…not a surprise. Amber really hates her. And she loves Niko. She still loves Niko. She loves Niko even more now, but as with those previous times, she’s unsure about pursuing him because of the Furies, and worries about what they might do to him if they don’t like him. However, they don’t say anything while she talks to him, while she falls for him further. Or at least I think she does. I wasn’t sure when I read about it for the fourth time and beyond.

On top of all that, Amelie is worried about losing control and the Furies overtaking her completely, over and over and over. The padding feels suffocating enough that we go between understanding Amelie’s life as best we can, giving a little more depth to her, and wondering when, if ever, the story will continue, when we’ll have a new situation to read about, something new happening to Amelie besides what we’ve read over and over.

Ireland is an amusing sneak, though. It’s not until the final third of the novel that we learn how Amelie came to be possessed by the Furies, the kidnapping that lasted four months. But that’s a long slog and it’s almost not worth it to know because with all the padding, maybe Ireland doesn’t want us to know. Maybe she just wants us to have read most of her novel, know her name, and hopefully look forward to her next one. But it all feels desultory. There is some interest in how the Furies decide that their victims are guilty, but when it’s done yet again, what is there that we haven’t already read? And Adam, Amber, even Mindi, there’s very little connection there. Sure Amelie loves Niko, but he doesn’t seem like much either. It becomes a chore to read most of this, except for what we came for, when it finally appears. Ireland at least knows how to write those details.

The end of the climax suggests a spin-off, and a more vengeful bent the next time, not questioning as much as Amelie has been. If Ireland is keen on doing this, she shouldn’t stay in one place. Niko admits that there isn’t anything to do in West County, so there’s the answer. Travel more, but not by mentioning it in passing as has been done here. Center stage. Explore this new mind as the towns keep changing. That’s the only way, because a repeat of this fills me with dread. Greek mythology transferred to modern times isn’t enough. There has to be more. Waiting and hoping for better over the course of 150 pages is not it.

Review by: Rory

Rating: 2.5/5 DIAMONDS
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