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Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin | Blog Tour

TRIGGER WARNING: Sexual assault, violence, domestic abuse.

I've been talking about Foul is Fair in some capacity or another, online and off, for months now. And nearly every time, the words I've used to describe it have been sharp: it "routinely gives me chills with just how razor-sharp it is" or it's "prose balanced on a knife's edge." I've talked about a writing style that cuts, that eviscerates, that pierces that's well-honed. It is brutal, and ruthless, and devastating, and so, so sharp.

Foul is Fair gives a fresh, clever, feminist take on Macbeth that still works perfectly on its own, without having read Macbeth. I don't think it's a coincidence that the fact that it's a retelling isn't even mentioned in the synopsis; it's not necessary to know, to be familiar with, but if you are, ooh, boy, does it add layers to the story! I was consistently surprised how well Capin reworked the plot of Macbeth and made it fit a modern revenge story without feeling forced. Everything has different significance, Macbeth's "ambitions" and Lady Macbeth's bloodlust, it all means something else, but it all slots so neatly together it's like it was meant to be. That Elle and her "coven" would ruthlessly pick off the privileged boys who drugged and gang-raped her is prime revenge fantasy territory, but the way the relentless drive of Macbeth lends itself to the goal is serendipitous.

And though it is a bloody, brutal book, at its heart it's the story of a girl who's hurting, and Capin doesn't forget that. Though yes, it may be unrealistic for the coven and Elle to orchestrate murders so effortlessly and in such a short period of time, it lends an immediacy to the story, and to Elle's pain — the bruises from her assault haven't even faded. Her pain and her anger (and her coven's, for her) is a live, raw nerve-ending. While some readers may find it hard to willingly suspend their disbelief (and their morality; gotta suspend that a bit, too) that, not only does Elle manage to accomplish all she does, but that no one recognizes her after so recent an assault, I think most readers will ignore the logistics in favor of cheering Elle on in her quest for vengeance.

I think some readers will be put off by the "on-stage" violence (and the satisfaction Elle takes in seeing her dark will done, and the general confrontationalness of the pain and horror that permeates the book. Still other readers may be put off by a sense that the book is over-written or purple-prosy. It is highly stylized, but for me, that was one of it's draws, and not a detraction, but YMMV. But for those it works for, those who like dark, dark books and relentless, risk-it-all revenge tales, or even just really clever retellings of classics, I don't think you can get much better than Foul is Fair. On par with the ruthlessness and relentlessness and unflinchingness of Sadie, which is also put out by Wednesday Books, so I think they've got us covered in the 'uber-dark, fed-up teen girls who are ready to burn the world to the ground' market.

And I'm here for it.

As I said, I've been talking about this one for awhile, and I think I'll be talking about it for awhile more to come. This is the type of book to stick with you (I literally had dreams about it), and the type to make for one hell of a group read/discussion book.

Foul Is Fair by Hannah Capin
Contemporary Thriller, Literary Retelling, 336 pages
Published February 18th 2020 by Wednesday Books
Elle and her friends Mads, Jenny, and Summer rule their glittering LA circle. Untouchable, they have the kind of power other girls only dream of. Every party is theirs and the world is at their feet. Until the night of Elle’s sweet sixteen, when they crash a St. Andrew’s Prep party. The night the golden boys choose Elle as their next target.

They picked the wrong girl.

Sworn to vengeance, Elle transfers to St. Andrew’s. She plots to destroy each boy, one by one. She’ll take their power, their lives, and their control of the prep school’s hierarchy. And she and her coven have the perfect way in: a boy named Mack, whose ambition could turn deadly.

Foul is Fair is a bloody, thrilling revenge fantasy for the girls who have had enough. Golden boys beware: something wicked this way comes.

Hannah Capin lives in Tidewater Virginia. She holds degrees from the Indiana University School of Music and Columbia University. When she isn't working on her next book, you'll find her sailing, singing, or scheming with her friends. She is the author of THE DEAD QUEENS CLUB and FOUL IS FAIR


  1. I found out about this one about a month ago and slapped it on the to read list quickly. I appreciate your visual words of what reading it was like for you. Good to know what to expect. It sounds fascinating and intense.

  2. I have mixed feelings on this, in concept. I feel like private murder isn't a just revenge for rape (a rape victim has to expend energy and time in addressing, healing, etc. for potentially the rest of their life; a murder victim is just dead, they don't have to go through the pain of self-work, and I'd frankly rather see them suffer). But I am loving the recent rolling out of Shakespeare retellings set for a modern YA (ish?) audience. More of that, please and thank you.

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