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A Tale of Witchcraft

by Joe Augustyn

Pub Date: July 15th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0615667560
Publisher: WildCat Press

Strange animals and mysterious murders force the town of Greenville to confront its demons in Augustyn’s debut novel.

A star turn in her high school talent show seems to transform Felicia Miller’s life. But not long after the applause has died, she finds herself at Devil’s Point, at the mercy of five boys in masks and black robes, who take their turns raping her and leave her unconscious in the woods. Saved by the local witch, Granny Dola, Felicia becomes a “werecat,” with the ability to shape-shift into various felines. She transitions from a Maine coon to a saber-toothed tiger and avenges herself on the gang of five, led by “delinquent demigod” Wally Sutter. But big-cat sightings and dead teenagers become more than Councilwoman Mandee Madisson and her cronies at the Concrete Development Corporation can stand. With the same focus she utilizes to slash arts funding in schools, Mandee tries to snuff out the increasing “animal human conflict,” which puts Felicia and her friends in further danger. Augustyn’s action scenes are strong, full of guts and gore and, eventually, guns. Like Felicia, though, the book suffers an identity crisis. The narrator alternates between rapid-fire scenes reminiscent of slasher movies and a saccharine, “The show must go on!” sensibility—or, in this case, “The Halloween show will go on as planned.” The first 20 pages could easily be taken for YA fiction, but the gang rape of the title character sends the book careening into NC-17 territory. When the attack first occurs, it’s described in flashes of quick, oddly eroticized images. As it plays out in Felicia’s memory, the brutal event and its aftermath are hard to believe. When, after the crime, she has an intimate moment with her dream boy, she thinks, “It sucks that those bastards did this to me.” The narrator writes, “she was reeling from an olfactory gangbang,” to describe the blossoming of her heightened, catlike sense of smell. Such an insensitive metaphor may alienate some readers.

An infelicitous tale of witchcraft.