Book: “The Betrayal” (The Fear Street Saga #1) by R.L. Stine
Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, 1993
Where Did I Get This Book: The library!
Book Description: The Secret is Out!
Why do so many horrifying things happen on Fear Street? Nora knows.
She knows how the terror began. She knows about the young girl who burned at the stake–and the bloody feud between two families that caused the unspeakable horror that has lasted 300 years!
She knows, and she wants to tell.
Are you sure you want to hear it?
Had I Read This Before: No
The Plot: I thought that the best and most appropriate way to end my “Fear Street” re-read would be to read the trilogy that gives an origin story to Fear Street itself. So we’re going back in time!
We start in the Village of Shadyside in 1900. A girl named Nora Goode is watching Fear Mansion as it burns to the ground, hoping that her beau Daniel Fear will come out. But it looks like everyone is trapped inside. As the other neighbors speculate that the fire will burn forever and that the family is cursed, Nora holds the necklace that Daniel gave her in her hands. In a fit of desperation she runs to the window to look inside, and inside she sees a lot of distorted faces in agony, including that of a young girl tied to a stake. The window explodes outwards thanks to the heat, but Nora still stares inside.
Now we’re going even further back to the Wickham Colony of Massachusetts in 1692! We’re now following a teenage Puritan named Susannah Goode, who lives with her mother Martha, her father William, and baby brother George. Martha dotes on the baby and already sees Susannah as a nuisance it seems, and I’m getting shades of the dysfunctional family in “The Witch” here because CLEARLY teenage girls are sinful or some shit. That said, Susannah has been thinking a lot about a certain special boy in town.
Susannah says she needs to got get firewood and her mother says that walking outside alone is dangerous these days because the local Magistrate, Benjamin Fier, has been targeting young women as witches for doing ANYTHING suspicious, like living their lives. The most recent ‘witch’ is Abigail Hopping, whom Benjamin claims was singing songs of The Evil One (honestly same). Susannah can’t believe that her friend is a witch, but promises to be careful. She goes to gather firewood and passes Benjamin Fier as he’s going to no doubt interrogate Abigail because she was probably not wearing her cap right or something. But Susannah knows that Benjamin is not only a ‘fair and righteous man’ (GAG), but he is also the richest man in town along with his brother Matthew. And obviously they are so successful and prosperous because they are SO RIGHTEOUS. Benjamin Fier also has a history of conducting other witch trials and executions across Massachusetts, and insists that the witches have to burn as opposed to hanging, probably because it sounds more brutal. Also, Susannah has a thing for Benjamin’s son Edward, who is almost assuredly NOTHING like this tyrannical father or anything like that, right?
Susannah decides to take a quick detour into the woods, even though she’s been told that the witches in town like to go there to worship The Evil One. I mean, it’s not like random girls are being persecuted as witches for any old thing, right? No problem! Suddenly someone grabs her, but instead of The Evil One it’s Edward! He scolds her for even thinking that he could be The Evil One because the village is full of witches no according to his father. Susannah says she’s so upset about her friend Faith, who had just recently been burned as a witch, and Edward assures her that his father no doubt has AMPLE proof of her evil ways! She says that they have to stop meeting in secret, because it could get her in trouble, and he brushes that off in the way that only a certain kind of privilege can bring. She jokes that what if The Evil One is watching them and he straight up scolds her for joking about that, and he sure seems like a fun date to bring to parties. They hear the townsfolk getting ready to burn Abigail, and when she expresses sadness about it he says that if she’s a witch she deserves to burn. She asks when he’ll tell his father about them, and he says when the time is right he will, and hey buddy, that’s all well and good for you because YOU won’t be accused of being a witch just for looking at a person of the opposite sex in a way that isn’t deemed ‘righteous’! She is excited that she’s going to be married to Edward Fier, and I think it sounds like a raw deal for her.
Over dinner that night the Goodes wonder aloud how it is that even though they grow in the same soil the Fiers always have bigger and more plentiful vegetables than they do. Martha also casually wonders just where it is that this new family came from, because they know it wasn’t England. William then confronts Susannah about the fact he’s seen her meeting with Edward in secret. He tells her that’s super dangerous, but Susannah insists that they’re in love and doing nothing wrong, and that he’s going to marry her. But William has to break the news to her that Benjamin Fier told him just that morning that Edward was engaged to be married to a girl from Portsmouth! Heartbroken, Susannah goes to bed and cries her eyes out. Cut your losses, Susannah. YOU CAN STILL GO TO THE WOODS AND JOIN THE WITCHES! LIVE YOU BEST LIFE!
Meanwhile, across town, Edward is talking with his asshole of a father Benjamin, saying that he refuses to marry Anne Ward. Benjamin tells him that Anne Ward is a good match for the families (I assume it has to do with wealth and land ownership), but Edward tells him that he’s not in love with Anne. No fucking duh, you moron, this kind of thing isn’t about love, and Benjamin tells him as much when he reminds his weenie son that when he and Matthew first came to America they had to eat rats to survive, and doesn’t want that for his kid. By marrying Anne he will get access to a tea importing fortune and become even MORE wealthy, in spite of the fact that Benjamin is already town Magistrate and Matthew is the most successful farmer. Edward confesses that he loves Susannah, and Benjamin says that she’s poor as fuck so THAT’S not going to do. Edward says he intends to marry for love, not money, and Benjamin tells him he’s not marrying Susannah and that’s that.
Some time later Martha and Susannah are preparing dinner, Susannah still sulking about Edward’s engagement, when Benjamin and a couple of Puritan thugs bust into their home. He tells the thugs to watch the women as he looks for proof, and he reaches into a pot and pulls out a vial with a chicken’s foot, a charm, and perhaps blood. He says that this proves that they are witches! Susannah says that they’ve never seen that before, and Benjamin says they’re lying and they’re going to be taken to the jail. Martha and Susannah are horrified, but manage to pass baby George off to a neighbor named Mary Halsey as they’re hauled away. And honestly, this seems pretty accurate given that it’s said that sometimes accusations of witchcraft were done for political gains during this time period. Hell, during ANY time period!
Mom and daughter are standing together in a prisoner’s box in the town hall, and will be tried and convicted and burned before the week is done. Susannah says that the people in town KNOW they aren’t bad, but Martha is far more pragmatic and knows that they’ll see what they’re told to see. When a bat flies into the room, Matthew Fier accuses the women of conjuring it. William stands up and demands that his family be released as Matthew KNOWS that they aren’t witches, and Benjamin says that they don’t put innocent women on trial. They try to goad the ladies to confess, but they both refuse, and Susannah STILL thinks that Edward will come and save her. John Halsey, who has been watching baby George with Mary, says that they need to let William speak but he’s ignored and William is removed from the courtroom, but not before getting roughed up a bit. Benjamin shows off a bag of items he has deemed associated with witch craft, and Susannah and Martha still say it isn’t theirs. When they refuse to confess, he finds them guilty and sentences them to death by burning the next night.
As Susannah and Martha lie in their cell, Edward suddenly appears at the cell window. Susannah asks if he’s come to save them, but LOL NO WAY, he’s come to yell at her about being a witch!
He asks how she could betray him, and OH BOY IS THAT A JOKE. He says that she tried to lead him astray with The Evil One, and when she says she’s innocent he says that there’s no WAY because he told his father his feelings about her and would his FATHER HURT HIM SO BY FALSELY ACCUSING HER? NO WAY! He tells her off and ditches her, leaving her heartbroken.
Across town William is probably trying not to have a nervous breakdown, and Matthew Fier knocks on his door. Matthew says that he can help change his brother’s mind, but it’s going to cost William money to do so. 100 pounds, to be exact. William says that he only has 80 pounds to his name, and Matthew says that that won’t be enough, but is more than willing to accept a fancy belt buckle and whatever else William has instead. William gives Matthew the money and the finery and Matthew says he’ll take care of everything. William notices a fancy amulet around Matthew’s neck, and it has the phrase ‘Dominatio per malum’ engraved on it. William asks him what it means, and Matthew doesn’t give an answer. When William asks him about the bird claw design and says it’s sometimes called a demon’s claw, Matthew freezes, and then says that HE knows nothing about that and neither should William. He then rides off.
The next night William is elated that his wife and daughter are going to be freed, but, in a big fucking surprise, he gets to the town commons and Martha and Susannah are STILL being led off to be burned! William confronts the officers and tells them that he paid the Fiers to let them go, where are they so they can confirm it? And haven’t you heard? THE FIER FAMILY DISAPPEARED INTO THE NIGHT! No one knows where they are, and they didn’t give any word about stopping the execution. So Susannah and Martha are burnt at the stake anyway. William, absolutely devastated, returns to his home. He thinks about how not only did they die for things they didn’t do, but how he was totally bamboozled by their accusers. Mary brings George back and tells William that the baby needs his father, and William says that she has to hold onto him a little longer because he has something to do first. And THIS is where things get interesting. William enters a secret room in the house, one that Susannah and Martha never knew about, and PULLS OUT HIS OWN MAGICAL ITEMS!! William Goode IS a practicing Warlock (though I’m still pretty sure that those Fier assholes planted the witchcraft evidence because it sounds like William hid all his shit in this room, so fuck them)!!! And now he’s seeking his revenge!!!
Quick stop back to 1900, as we find out that Nora Goode is writing out her family history, trying to trace her lineage and the curse that is upon the Fear Family that as of now they have so richly deserved. She doesn’t remember how she got from the lawn of the burning mansion to safety, but knows that there was a reason for it.
Jumping back to 1710, we meet up with the Fier family once more. They’ve moved to Western Pennsylvania, and have made quite the lives for themselves. Edward didn’t end up marrying Anne Ward, but he did marry some woman named Rebecca and now they have a bratty son named Ezra. Matthew and his wife Constance now have a teenage daughter named Mary. They all seem very pleased with themselves, in spite of the fact Benjamin has been muttering that he feels like the family is cursed, mostly because the new shingles on the roof came off in a storm. Edward says he’ll take a look after supper, and assures Mary that the only curse the family has is his ‘crotchety old father’. I would argue psychopathic zealous father, but hey, potato, potahto. Meanwhile, someone is standing outside, hiding behind a tree. It’s William Goode, and after twenty years of searching he’s finally found the assholes who ruined his life. He watches Edward as he climbs up onto the roof, with Mary holding the ladder for him. She asks him to be careful and he brushes her off, so it’s no big shock when he manages to plummet off the roof. Mary screams, and everyone rushes out of the house (and Constance accidentally cut her wrist when she heard Mary scream, so she’s bleeding like a stuck pig). Edward is alive but his arm is broken. Benjamin keeps muttering about a curse.
After breakfast the next day Mary is returning from the henhouse (and thinking about the chaos from the night before), when she’s approached by a handsome young man on the road. He says that he’s looking for the owner of the estate, and she says that it’s her father Matthew Fier. She says she’ll take him to see him and he carries the egg basket like a true gentleman. She tells him that the farm has been growing steadily since before she was born, and Matthew lumbers out like some oafish bear on quaaludes. The man says his name is Jeremy Thorne and he’s looking for work, and while Matthew first tells him they don’t need help Edward comes out and is like ‘hello, my arm is broken?’. Once Jeremy tells them all that his father is ill and he’s the only one who can bring in income, Matthew decides to hire him. Mary is excited because he’s a hottie.
That afternoon Mary finds Jeremy by the well and they do some light flirting, and just as he’s about to kiss her Rebecca comes running out asking Mary if she’s seen Matthew or Edward, as something terrible has happened! Mary follows her back to the house and Benjamin in collapsed on the floor, staring up at the ceiling as if in a trance. He snaps out of it as Edward arrives, and while he’s not dead his left leg is suddenly paralyzed for no discernible reason. I’d say it’s karma, but we know it’s far more intentional.
Three days later, Mary has snuck off to meet Jeremy in a field where he’s clearing brush, and it seems that they’re already head over heels for each other as they’re already talking about how they can’t live without each other. Mary says that her uncle would never approve of this, but given that his entire left side is paralyzed at this point he has bigger worries to think about, I’d say. They kiss, and Mary is head over heels. Later that night she and Edward are walking through the woods on the property, and he is saying that not only is his father ill, but now Rebecca is acting sullen and distant, and maybe it’s because you leave her to care for your shitty child as if you didn’t have some hand in his creation. As they’re walking, however, they see that some of the trees are on fire! But when they get closer, it’s not trees that are on fire, it looks like a girl! A girl is ablaze and Edward starts to scream that it’s Susannah Goode! As the vision fades, Edward continues to scream.
Two days later Mary is telling Jeremy about what she saw, and he says it was probably a trick of the light, but she insists that it was something far more sinister. She says she’s going to bring sweet rolls to Rebecca to lift her spirits, and Jeremy asks her if she’s told her father about them yet. She says no, because when she told him about the girl in the fire he reacted very poorly, in that he grabbed the silver amulet around his mouth and got very quiet. She says she needs to get to Rebecca and Edward’s before the incoming storm starts, and then asks Jeremy if HE’S told HIS father about HER? He says no. So they’re both dragging their feet. When Mary gets to her cousin’s house, it starts to rain. She hopes that the sweet rolls will raise the spirits of her cousin, as his father’s paralysis got worse in the night and now Benjamin can only move his head and his right arm. As she searches through the house for her family, she stumbles upon something really upsetting: Rebecca has hung herself from the rafters! Mary screams, pukes, and then runs outside into the rain like a lunatic. She calls frantically for Edward, but then runs into what she thinks is a scarecrow. Except, it’s not. IT’S BENJAMIN, PROPPED UP LIKE A SCARECROW AND DEAD AS A DOORNAIL!
A couple days later the funerals have happened. Edward is practically catatonic and Ezra is now in the care of Constance because, once again, why would a father parent his own child when a woman can do it? Mary saw her father late at night chanting ‘Dominatio per malum’, but doesn’t know what it means, because not only do girls not get educated, they certainly aren’t educated in Latin. Mary sees Jeremy at the edge of the group, and follows him to the toolshed. He tells her that he knows who killed her uncle and Edward’s wife: it’s his father! His father isn’t a sick old man, his name is William Goode, and he is evil, but only because evil has been done to him! He’s been obsessed with the Fier family ever since Martha and Susannah were murdered, so much so that Jeremy’s older brother George returned to Massachusetts to escape his anger. Jeremy tells her about Benjamin murdering Susannah and Martha, Edward doing nothing to stop it, and Matthew stealing the money. He says that his father will keep seeking revenge unless they stop him, and he says that can do this if they get married. That way the families will unite in goodness. Mary accepts, and they embrace, but unfortunately Edward had followed her like a creep and now that he’s seen everything he fully intends on narcing on them because even STILL he believes his father was right in burning Susannah and her mother. PRICK! Though, he thinks about the vision he saw in the woods, and starts to have doubts. So he goes to confront Matthew (making sure to shove his son away when the little boy wants to see him, like the model father he is), who of course denies it all. But when Mary arrives Matthew relents, and then confesses everything to both of them, though he says it was all in Edward’s best interests. Why that had to involve stealing all of William’s money remains to be seen. Mary says she wants to marry Jeremy Goode, and Matthew says NO WAY, he’ll never marry her off to the son of a murderer. Edward and Mary remind him that he is ALSO a murderer, but they were poor WOMEN so who gives a shit, right? They fight and Mary says that she loves Jeremy and intends to marry him, and then Matthew suddenly relents, and says that after the mourning period has passed they will invite Jeremy AND William to dinner, and the feud will end. Mary is ecstatic.
So after a week passes Jeremy arrives and Mary is convinced that Matthew is going to give him her hand in marriage. But when Matthew enters the room, instead of shaking his hand, he yanks off his amulet and chucks it at Jeremy’s head… which in turn EXPLODES with graphic detail of brains and blood and everything. And up comes the head of someone else. WILLIAM GOODE! There never was a Jeremy, it had been William the whole time trying to steal Matthew’s only child away from him! But Matthew, who is ALSO a warlock, was too clever, and a wizard fight ensues, as Mary keeps calling out for Jeremy, Constance looks on in horror, and Edward just kinda stands there. Eventually Matthew yells out ‘Dominatio per malum, power through evil!’, and the spell turns William into dust. Matthew starts laughing, and once he starts he literally cannot stop. As Constance begs him to stop, Edward grabs Mary and Ezra and runs out of the house.
Another time jump, this time to 1725 in the Pennsylvania wilderness. Now Ezra is an adult, and reflecting upon what has happened since they ran away. Edward tried to raise him and Mary up on his own, but he eventually died of exhaustion and Mary, who was driven crazy by what happened that night, killed herself. Ezra blames the Goode family for everything that happened, and unfortunately he wasn’t privy to how his grandfather and father and great uncle were complete assholes. Hoping to get any info he can, he goes back to Matthew and Constance’s farm, not sure of what he’ll find. The place is basically abandoned. He does eventually find the skeletons of Matthew and Constance, and a diary left by Matthew talking about how he walled them in for safety and bashed Constance over the head when she tried to escape. The last pages are about how the Goodes and their treachery did this. Very convenient that he made NO mention of two innocent women who were burnt at the stake, hm? Ezra swears that he’ll get his revenge.
We end this book back in the Village of Shadyside in 1900 as Nora continues to write out her family history. She thinks about how the story is long and awful, but she is compelled to tell it. To Be Continued…
Body Count: 5 (nine if you include the off page deaths of Matthew, Constance, Edward, and Mary)! Some weren’t the most historically accurate of deaths, but whatever. If Stine wants to burn his witches, who’s to stop him?
Romance Rating: 2. I feel like Norah and Daniel are going to be something significant, but we haven’t seen them interact yet. But Edward was a piece of shit to Susannah and Jeremy was a big ol’ lie.
Bonkers Rating: 7! I was legitimately caught off guard by the William Goode reveal, Jeremy’s head exploding is pretty hard to deny as being bonkers.
Fear Street Relevance: It’s gonna get 10s across the board! This is the history of the Fear family, guys!
Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:
“‘Edward Fier is engaged to be married,’ her father said. “Edward is to marry a young woman of Portsmouth. His father told me this morning.'”
… Cliffhanger maybe, but Edward sounds like a true dink so Susannah should have cut her losses and went to join a REAL coven to free herself from the idiot men in her life.
That’s So Dated! Moments: Given that these are historical fiction novels that doesn’t really apply here.
“Innocence died today, But my hatred will live for generations. The Fiers shall not escape me. Wherever they flee, I will be there. My family’s screams shall become the Fiers’ tortured screams. The fire that burned today shall not be quenched – until revenge is mine, and the Fiers burn forever in the fire of my curse!”
Gotta say, this fired me up and made me solidly #TeamGoode.
Conclusion: “The Betrayal” was a dark and solid start to the three part origins of the Fear Family and Fear Street! It will be interesting to see how this Hatfields and McCoys-esque feud will escalate, as I have to imagine it’s just going to get worse. Up next is “The Secret”!