Fantastic Reviews - Horror Book Review
The Sorority: Eve cover The Sorority by Tamara Thorne

The Sorority: Eve (240 pages)
The Sorority: Merilynn (203 pages)
The Sorority: Samantha (256 pages)
Pinnacle Books - copyright 2003,  cover art by Newton

Book reviewed in September 2003
Rating: 7/10 (Recommended)

Review by Aaron Hughes

Interview with author Tamara Thorne

          Remember the thrill of swapping ghost stories around a campfire when you were ten years old?  Each of the three volumes of The Sorority begins with a flashback to summer camp, setting the tone perfectly for the rest of the books.  As every ten-year-old around a campfire knows, the reason you tell scary stories is that it's fun.  Too many of today's horror writers are so concerned with being stylish that they forget to have fun.  Tamara Thorne never forgets, and as a result The Sorority is a whole lot of fun to read.

The Sorority is a trilogy of horror novels, or more accurately one long novel published as a serial, following four students at California's Greenbriar University who have pledged a sorority with some very dark secrets.  The four women are the title characters Eve, Merilynn, and Samantha, and their mutual friend Kendra.  Eve, Merilynn, and Samantha first met at the cheerleading camp near the university, where some very spooky things occurred.  (Do cheerleading camps for ten-year-olds really exist?  If they do, I hope my daughter doesn't find out.)  Although they hadn't seen each other for the eight years since, they are soon drawn together by their powerful shared experiences.  Each of them has a turn as the central character of one volume of The Sorority, with Kendra always there to help provide continuity.

Of the four women, the only one who seems a likely candidate for a conservative sorority like Gamma Eta Pi is Eve, who is beautiful and popular and a devoted cheerleader and a genuinely nice person just the same.  Merilynn and Kendra are drawn to the house through their love of folklore, because the sorority is closely linked to the abundant local legends, including that of Holly Gayle, the sorority's resident ghost.  Kendra has heard these stories from prior generations of her family, who were servants at Gamma Eta Pi.  Her family's history of servitude is one of several hints that Kendra is black, but Thorne never tells us this directly.  Samantha is interested in the sorority because she aspires to be an investigative reporter, and her reporter's nose smells something funny going on at Gamma Eta Pi.

There is indeed something funny, and deadly, going on at Gamma Eta Pi, and it all starts with the intimidating house president, Malory Thomas.  Malory and her right-hand gal Brittany control not only the sorority, but also its enigmatic inner circle called the Fata Morgana.  The members of the Fata Morgana are using magic to advance their secret plans, and we can be pretty sure they aren't for a bake sale.

The Sorority: Merilynn cover

Malory is a character we have met before in fantastic literature, and The Sorority cleverly weaves a familiar body of legends into modern campus life.  I won't tell you Thorne's source for these legends, but between the name "Malory Thomas" and references to the "Fata Morgana," you may be able to figure it out for yourself.

The Sorority is not meant as elegant prose, yet there are some memorable images, especially the underwater ghost town, intentionally flooded long before to form a man-made reservoir.  The Sorority is not meant to scare your pants off, although there are a couple of very creepy scenes, particularly the last chapter of Eve.  The Sorority is mostly meant just to be fun, and at that Thorne succeeds admirably.

Most of the fun comes through Thorne's use of a sorority as a backdrop for a horror novel (acknowledging her debt to those campy cheerleader and slumber party horror movies of the 70s and 80s).  Thorne lampoons cheerleaders, described at one point as "bullies in short skirts and sports bras," but through Eve she also shows a certain sympathy for them.  She has a good time with the young women in her story, who can use their frightening powers to kill, but are just as likely to cast a spell to accelerate each other's periods or to induce flatulence.  (Once the dreaded flatulence spell is cast, Samantha is not the only one who smells something funny going on at Gamma Eta Pi.)  You can call this sophomoric humor if you like, but it's still pretty damn funny.

The Sorority: Samantha cover

The Sorority also includes a number of tongue-in-cheek erotic elements.  (Please understand, "tongue-in-cheek" is a figurative description of Thorne's style.  Speaking literally, tongues go elsewhere in these books.)  Thorne infuses the sexual passages with a sense of humor that is absent from too much so-called erotic horror.  Most erotic horror stories are just a naughty gross-out.  Few will resonate with you like The Sorority: Samantha's immortal line, "Oh, my God, Malory, you've got a chipmunk on your pussy!"

Another strength of the novel is the range of interesting female characters, varying from weak to very strong, good to very evil, smart to very ditzy.  The few male characters are peripheral at best.  (The football players fare particularly badly, as Thorne forces them to play on the wrong day and keeps making them switch positions.)

Most fun of all is the villain Malory Thomas.  A lot of villains in genre fiction seek to acquire power, but you wonder what they would do with it once they got it.  In Malory's case it is clear.  She wants to live forever and have a really great time doing it.  She views all the men on campus as her personal harem.  When she isn't enjoying them individually, she amuses herself by casting her "group orgasm spell."  Imposing her will on others turns her on, and in the end this proves her greatest weakness.

The Sorority is not tightly plotted.  For example, in Eve, a character named Professor McCobb recognizes Malory for what she is, and we are led to expect that his help will be crucial to stopping Malory.  Yet he plays no role at all in the climax of the story.  For that matter, two of the four heroines hardly play any role in the climax of the story.  The entire final book has a bit of a hurried feel to it, as if Thorne wrote it under the pressure of a looming deadline.  Any such flaws, however, did little to diminish my enjoyment of the novel.

          The Sorority makes for highly entertaining reading from start to finish.
What do you think? Comments are welcome!
Please send them to:
vanaaron@excite.com
Copyright 2003 Aaron Hughes

Fantastic Reviews author interview:
Tamara Thorne interview

More Tamara Thorne book reviews by Aaron Hughes:
Thunder Road

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Links to websites about Tamara Thorne:
The Official Tamara Thorne Website

For information on more science fiction and fantasy books:
Denver Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club


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