Kate’s Review: “The Last Astronaut”

40881567._sy475_Book: “The Last Astronaut” by David Wellington

Publishing Info: Orbit, July 2019

Where Did I Get This Book: I received a paperback copy from the publisher.

Book Description: Mission Commander Sally Jansen is Earth’s last astronaut–and last hope–in this gripping near-future thriller where a mission to make first contact becomes a terrifying struggle for survival in the depths of space.

Sally Jansen was NASA’s leading astronaut, until a mission to Mars ended in disaster. Haunted by her failure, she lives in quiet anonymity, convinced her days in space are over.

She’s wrong.

A large alien object has entered the solar system on a straight course toward Earth. It has made no attempt to communicate and is ignoring all incoming transmissions.

Out of time and out of options, NASA turns to Jansen. For all the dangers of the mission, it’s the shot at redemption she always longed for.

But as the object slowly begins to reveal its secrets, one thing becomes horribly clear: the future of humanity lies in Jansen’s hands.

Review: Thanks to Orbit for sending me a paperback copy of this book!

Perhaps you are all looking at the title and the primary genre of “The Last Astronaut” and are thinking to yourself ‘well hey now, isn’t Sci Fi Serena’s literary wheelhouse?’ And you’d be right. As a matter of fact, I tend to avoid Science Fiction unless it meets very specific characteristics. But when I was reading about “The Last Astronaut” by David Wellington, my interest was piqued. For one thing, a few of the early reviews used words like ‘terrifying’ to describe it. When you do that and throw around phrases like ‘large alien object’, something about ‘transmissions’, and ‘the future of humanity’, my mind is going to go to one place.

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Did he have the special? (source)

It turns out that “Alien” this is not, but ultimately that wasn’t a bad thing.

“The Last Astronaut” does mix some elements of horror in with sci-fi and character study, and it comes together to be an entertaining tale of slow burn suspense. We have the familiar scenario of a crew of different people with different motivations coming together for the purpose of investigating an alien object heading towards Earth, but the person at the forefront is astronaut Sally Jansen. Jansen was supposed to be the head of a mission going to Mars years before, but disaster struck and left other astronauts dead and Jansen in disgrace. Now she is hoping for redemption, and another chance at discovery. Jansen is a complex and strong protagonist, and has many layers that we slowly get to peel back as the story goes on and the stakes get higher and higher. She is competent and determined, but she is also headstrong and hard to trust, at least for the other crew members. Her actions had severe consequences for NASA and space exploration, but her talent is undeniable, even if her trauma and fall from grace is still haunting her. Her dynamic with the other crew members as they have to board the object is rife with tension, and their inherent mistrust of her makes for emotional conflict on top of the slow revealing other environmental conflict. While there were certainly other compelling characters, specifically ship scientist Parminder Rao who is elated at the prospect of alien life, this is Jansen’s story, and she is well centered and well developed.

The plot, while not as heavy on the horror as I had hoped, is still filled with suspense and tension, which made it an engrossing read for me in spite of the genre clash. The Alien Object is reminiscent of the recent space object ‘Oumuamua (and it is referenced in the book as well), but is larger and seems to have a clear path, heading straight for Earth. When the NASA crew finally encounters it in hopes of learning more, not only have they been beaten by the private company KSpace, but that the crew from the KSpace mission isn’t answering attempts at communication. And once they board the object, it becomes very clear, very quickly, that they are in way over their heads, and that this object isn’t what it seems. I really don’t want to spoil anything in this review, as the slow reveal is effectively creepy and well done. What I will say is that the alien being in “The Last Astronaut” is effective because it feels like something we haven’t really seen before. If you take elements from space horror classics like “Annihilation” and “Event Horizon”, you might be part way there, but Wellington has created a mythos that feels original, at least to this reader.

You may be wondering why this isn’t rated higher, as it seems that I liked a lot about it. And the reason is solely based on personal preference. At the end of the day, “The Last Astronaut” is still pretty heavy on the sci-fi, and it’s done in a way that didn’t really connect with me as much as I had hoped it would. I think that had the horror elements been ramped up more it would have left more of an impression, but as it was, this ultimately isn’t my genre. That said, I really do believe that sci-fi fans would probably find a lot to like about this book, as even I can appreciate the trajectory and story elements that it had. It may not achieve genre crossover as much as I thought it would, but don’t let my words discourage you from giving it a try if it has grabbed your attention!

Rating 7: While the story was more sci-fi than horror and therefore not my usual wheelhouse, I liked the originality that came with “The Last Astronaut” and its main character, and think sci-fi aficionados will find a lot to enjoy!

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Last Astronaut” is included on the Goodreads lists “Upcoming 2019 SFF With Female Leads or Co-Leads”, and “Can’t Wait Sci-Fi/Fantasy of 2019”.

Find “The Last Astronaut” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “Wanderers”

32603079Book: “Wanderers” by Chuck Wendig

Publishing Info: Del Rey, July 2019

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley

Book Description: A decadent rock star. A deeply religious radio host. A disgraced scientist. And a teenage girl who may be the world’s last hope. In the tradition of The Stand and Station Eleven comes a gripping saga that weaves an epic tapestry of humanity into an astonishing tale of survival.

Shana wakes up one morning to discover her little sister in the grip of a strange malady. She appears to be sleepwalking. She cannot talk and cannot be woken up. And she is heading with inexorable determination to a destination that only she knows. But Shana and are sister are not alone. Soon they are joined by a flock of sleepwalkers from across America, on the same mysterious journey. And like Shana, there are other “shepherds” who follow the flock to protect their friends and family on the long dark road ahead.

For on their journey, they will discover an America convulsed with terror and violence, where this apocalyptic epidemic proves less dangerous than the fear of it. As the rest of society collapses all around them–and an ultraviolent militia threatens to exterminate them–the fate of the sleepwalkers depends on unraveling the mystery behind the epidemic. The terrifying secret will either tear the nation apart–or bring the survivors together to remake a shattered world.

Review: Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this novel!

I have been totally enthralled by post-apocalyptic fiction ever since my Dad handed me his copy of “The Stand” when I was thirteen years old and told me to read it. While I have a whole lot of anxieties about the potential ways that the world could end, the genre itself has always thrilled me, be it pandemic fiction, nuclear holocaust, zombies, or what have you. “The Stand” has always been the crown jewel of the genre for me, and so when I heard about “Wanderers” by Chuck Wendig, and saw that comparisons to that masterpiece, I requested an eARC from NetGalley and was lucky enough to be sent one. The comparisons were apparent straight away: not only is the book a story about a devastating pandemic, it’s also a deep character study of a huge cast, AND it’s a LONG book (though at 800 pages it’s still only roughly half as long as the uncut version of “the Stand”, which is a mighty beast unto itself). Having this comparison in my head did a weird thing, where it both made me enjoy “Wanderers” more, and also made me more critical than I think I would have been had it not been there. Buckle up, everyone. A long book means a lot of dissemination.

The pacing and content of the plot immediately sucked me in. It’s told when the ‘sleepwalker’ phenomenon starts, and then slowly builds and builds until we have met the big, actual threat, which is a fungal-based disease that has already infected enough people to take out the world population. We have a number of different perspectives we follow, all of which show different group factions as society starts to panic and slowly break down. My favorite perspective, both in terms of characters and approach, was that of Benji, a former CDC scientist whose brilliance was overshadowed by a scandal. I was deeply invested and interested in the science aspect of this novel, and being able to see Benji and his colleagues, which include access to an AI called Black Swan that has been predicting numerous outcomes to the various situations, kept me enthralled and interested as the pandemic began to unfold. Benji is complex and nuanced, and his determination mixed with his anxieties, be it regarding his past, the AI aspect, or the very real catastrophe unfolding, made him very appealing as a character.

I also liked seeing other consequences and cause and effects that you might see in this society as it starts to deteriorate, and especially liked Wendig’s take on how white supremacist and other racist nationalist movements prey on fear and uncertainty. While it did feel heavy handed at times, this plot was mostly seen through Matthew, a preacher in a small town who gets caught up with a charismatic, and incredibly dangerous, militia man named Ozark Stover. While the pandemic is the main driving conflict in this book, it’s Stover, his militia, and the ideas that they hold dear (which are being elevated by a far right and opportunistic Presidential Candidate) that were the scariest by far. Matthew tries to look past the way Stover, and the other right wing groups, use the Bible to promote fear and hate, and you see Matthew fall for his own elevated hype as he becomes a ‘moderate’ voice for their radical views, which in turn promotes violence against the ‘sleepwalkers’ and those around them. Apt and timely, these parts really kept me interested and on the edge of my seat. It was probably also a little heavy handed, but given how these groups and voices just seem to be getting louder and more violent I can’t really fault the non-subtle portrayals of them as dangerous and fanatical.

That said, in terms of characterization, Benji and those in his sections were really the only people I found myself caring about in this book. I wanted to like Shana, the teenage girl whose sister was the first ‘sleepwalker’, but I found her inability to see nuance in many situations to be frustrating, and it made me not care for her too much. I also wanted to like Pete Corey, a nearly has-been rock star who gets caught up in protecting the ‘sleepwalkers’ and their companions (aka shepherds) initially just to get attention for himself before making a true connection. But unfortunately he fit the trope of ‘he’s closeted and therefore pushes everyone away and embraces a hedonistic lifestyle’, and it’s well worn, almost overdone, territory now. And while I enjoyed and was invested in the content with Matthew and Ozark, I had a very hard time with Matthew as a person, and found no one in that arc very sympathetic either. And this is where the comparisons to “The Stand” hindered this book (and given that the narrative itself makes reference to “The Stand”, I feel that the door has been opened to compare the two). Say what you will about the ending of that book, but it is hard to deny that King really knows how to write a multitude of different characters, and to give all of them complex, multifaceted things to do within their character arcs. While some characters are definitely more black and white than others in that book, for the most part you get into the head and motivations of almost every member of that ensemble, for the good and the bad. In “Wanderers”, I felt that Wendig sometimes got lost with his balancing, and because of this the characterization suffered, and therefore so did my ability to care about them.

On top of all this, the ending (and I won’t go into why or how) had a big final ‘gotcha’ twist that felt unnecessary. Sure, it was set up in a way that I could track out and map, so it didn’t feel completely out of nowhere. But when it was revealed I did kind of wonder what it added to the overall story, outside of confirming other well-worn tropes that I had thought we’d left behind.

Finally, there’s one more thing that I really need to address within this novel. This ties in with the HUGE content warning that I want to give it, AND along with that I’m going to be talking about plot points in no uncertain terms. Therefore, we are getting a

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Chuck Wendig used to write “Star Wars” content for Marvel so I had to use this. (source)

There are many characters within this book, and all of them touch upon certain themes such as bigotry, racism, white supremacy, and using religion as a weapon and how these things can all go hand in hand. Matthew, our preacher who lets his own ego get him caught up with a white supremacist movement, becomes friends with the aforementioned Ozark Stover. After Matthew stops towing the line for Stover and white supremacist Presidential Candidate Creel, Ozark beats him, tortures him, and locks him in his bunker on his property. He also violently rapes him. I had no idea that this was coming, and when it did I had to put the book down for awhile and go do something else. While I am never going to be a ‘fan’ of sexual violence in books I read, as how could one be, if I can see a reason behind it or if it’s done in a responsible way I can be more forgiving of that plot choice, even if I’m going to be upset about it. In “Wanderers”, I felt that there was absolutely no reason for it to be there outside of sensationalism. We already know that Ozark Stover is an evil motherfucker. He’s manipulative, he’s violent, he incites hatred and violent actions amongst his followers, and he’s a murderous, misogynistic white supremacist who uses religion as a way to froth up his following. WE KNOW HE IS HORRIBLE. It felt like this scene was just a ‘and how can we REALLY hit the point home that he’s a bad guy?’ when we have rounded the bases of badness MULTIPLE times. On top of that, I didn’t like the framing of it. Matthew is a piece of shit in his own way, and while I know that we were supposed to feel bad for him and see him as more ‘flawed’ than anything else, I personally couldn’t abide him. BUT ALL OF THAT SAID, making him a victim of a graphic and violent sexual assault made me feel sick, because to me it felt like a ‘and now you know why you never should have gotten tangled up with this guy in the first place’ moment, which to me is unnecessary. Like I’ve said, I am NEVER going to be fully on board with a scene like this, but I think that there are ways that it can be done with sensitivity and with responsibility. This felt like it was for shock value, and I didn’t like that.

Overall, “Wanderers” is definitely a worthy contribution to the ‘post-apocalyptic pandemic’ genre, and I think that it’s going to stand the test of time. There were aspects that I greatly enjoyed, and aspects that fell flat, but I definitely can see myself as recommending it to people who like this kind of thing. I am very curious to see what Wendig does next.

Rating 7: While the world building, pacing, and downfall of humanity ticked all my boxes, I had problems with some characterization, a final GOTCHA twist, and a scene of exploitative sexual violence.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Wanderers” isn’t on many Goodreads lists yet, but I think that it would fit in on “Books for a Pandemic”, and “This Is The End..”

Find “Wanderers” at your library using WorldCat!

A Revisit to Fear Street: “The Burning”

176253Book: “The Burning” (Fear Street Saga #3) by R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, 1993

Where Did I Get This Book: An eBook from the library!

Book Description: The end…and the beginning

Simon Fear thought changing his name would stop the evil. He was wrong—dead wrong.

After generations of unspeakable horror, it is up to Daniel and Nora, brought together by their fateful love, to unite the feuding families. But is their forbidden love strong enough to withstand such awesome evil?

Poor Nora—desperate to tell the truth and bury the family curse…before it buries her.

Had I Read This Before: No.

The Plot: In the Village of Shadyside in 1900, Nora Goode is writing away at the history of the Goode and Fier (Now Fear) Feud. It’s implied that she is on a time crunch, but is determined to finish it in spite of the fading candlelight. So we jump to 1845 New Orleans, and our old friend Simon Fear is standing outside of a sprawling mansion, looking in at a party and planning on crashing it. He’s certain that he’s charming and handsome enough that if the daughter of the house, Angelica Pierce, knew him she’s absolutely have invited him. He goes to the front door and tells the servant that he is there for the party. When asked for his invitation, Simon does a slight of hand where he drops his hat, and when the servant goes to grab it he snags it up and gloms on to another guest. Somehow this works and he’s inside with the high society of New Orleans. He tries to impress the ladies but no one wants to talk to him or even acknowledge him. But then he notices the beautiful Angelica Pierce, and SHE is the one that he wants to bag. But before he can approach her, two servants (okay, look, given the time period and place I have a hard time believing that they are ‘servants’…) tell him he has to leave. Meanwhile, Angelica is gossiping and having a grand old time with her cousin Liza. They bad mouth other girls and note the fashions of the night, but then Angelica notices a mysterious man staring at her (clearly it’s Simon). Liza thinks he looks sad, and Angelica says that his staring is ‘scaring’ her. When the servants approach him and escort him out, Angelica changes her tune and says that he was actually interesting looking. Bad boys, am I right? Liza scolds Angelica, as she already has two men courting her as it is, James and Hamilton. She dances on and off with them the rest of the night, but isn’t sure which one she wants to marry. After the party ends she goes for a walk around the property to try and figure out which man she loves more, when suddenly Simon Fear takes her by surprise. She demands to know who he is, and when she says that he was uninvited to her party and NOW he’s sneaking around her property. And he tells her that he wants to marry her. When she asks him if he’s drunk or merely insane, he insists that he is GOING to marry her. When she says she’s going to call for help, he runs away yelling over his shoulder that he’s going to marry her, mark his words!

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Red flags, girl!!! (source)

Simon walks through the streets of New Orleans (and it also happens to be Mardi Gras), thinking that he totally crushed tonight’s courting ritual. He eventually finds himself at the docks, and is confronted by a robber, who puts a knife to his throat and demands his money. Simon is willing to give his cash, but then the robber notices the silver pendant. Simon has ‘resisted’ it’s powers up until now, in SPITE of the fact he promised himself that he didn’t have any use for ‘goodness’ anymore. The robber says he wants that too, and Simon pretends that he’s going to give it to him, but instead hits him in the face with it. The robber comes at him with a knife, but then his face starts to heat up and blister. The man shrieks for help, and then his face pretty much melts off of his skull. Simon realizes that black magic can get him what he wants; if he kills Angelica’s suitors, she will be his!

Angelica is at the opera with Liza and James. They are in one of the exclusive opera boxes, and as Liza makes snide remarks about other womens’ fashion choices, James says that perhaps someday he and Angelica can have an opera box of their own, and Angelica wonders if that means he plans to propose. She thinks about how Simon Fear came back to her house after his creepy stalking tendencies. She had agreed to see him, and the visit had gone a bit better as they’d talked about the weather and Mardi Gras. Liza had told her that since he was a Yankee Angelica’s father would never approve, and Angelica probably saw that as a challenge. So even though she’s at the opera with James, she has Simon on the mind. And by PURE coincidence, Liza points out that Simon is right below them, staring up at their box as thought this is perfectly acceptable social etiquette. James asks her who she’s looking at, and Angelica says that it’s just some boy. Then James suddenly stands up, climbs up on the balcony ledge of the box, and jumps to his death! As Angelica and Liza scream, Simon tucks his amulet away and rushes up to the box to comfort Angelica, who is wondering why he jumped. Liza says that there’s no way that James jumped, but Angelica is comforted by Simon, who says that if she needs anything he will be there for her.

After James’s funeral, Angelica’s father makes lemonade from lemons and says that Hamilton will make a great husband. Angelica, however, confides to Liza that she has been spending a lot of time with Simon, and Liza is scandalized not because Simon has been inserting himself in her life, but because he isn’t wealthy. But wait, he IS wealthy! The Fears are a wealthy Massachusetts family, that’s been established. Regardless, Liza doesn’t trust him, and tries to make the case for Hamilton. Hamilton arrives to take Angelica out, and Simon stands outside watching everything, telling himself that Hamilton will be out of the way soon enough.

A month later Angelica, Liza, and Hamilton have gone to the pier to watch the paddlewheel boats and to see their Aunt Lavinia depart for Memphis. After they say their goodbyes, Angelica insists they go further out on the roped off part of the pier to get a better look of the boat leaving. Liza is skeptical, but they go out anyway. Liza then notices someone else in the crowd. Simon Fear! Angelica sees him futzing with a silver amulet around his neck. As the boat starts to pull away, Angelica realizes that Hamilton has disappeared… He’s fallen into the water! And then he gets sucked into one of the paddles!!! He is repeatedly crunched and crushed in the paddles (lol oh my God that’s so twisted), and Liza is in hysterics and constantly asking ‘did he fall?!’ SURE SEEMS LIKE IT, GIRL. Simon is suddenly there to comfort Angelica.

Two months later Angelica’s mourning period for Hamilton has ended, and her father wants her to take some time abroad. He also comments on the fact that Simon has been around quite a bit, but doesn’t say anything else, just excuses himself with a sour expression on his face. Angelica goes and prepares two silver goblets for a visitor, and lo and behold, who should arrive, but Simon. Before he can say anything, she tells him that she wants to marry him. He says that he’s so happy that she does, and she pours celebratory beverages into the goblets. But before he can toast, he tells her that he HAS to confess something. He loves her so much, that he killed James and Hamilton to get them out of the way! I feel like that’s a bold move. But then…. Angelica starts laughing. She laughs and laughs and calls him a fool, letting him know that HE didn’t do SHIT! SHE’S the one who killed James and Hamilton with the black magic she’s been practicing since she was a little girl!!!! She did that so she could marry Simon, and that they can combine their powers!!

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Wait…. WHAT?!?! (source)

She says that the only obstacle now is her father. He says they should go tell him now, and when they go upstairs Angelica is shocked to find her father sprawled on the floor, dead. Simon says that the doctor will think that it was his heart, but he was the one who did it. Angelica is thrilled, as now they are going to get all of his money! They go back to the sitting room, and toast their glasses…. which are, of course, filled with blood.

We jump to 1865 to the town of Shadyside. Simon and Angelica have moved there, built their huge mansion, and had five kids of their own: Julia, Hannah, Robert, Brandon, and Joseph. Julia is the oldest and Simon is sad that she’s a bit of a wet blanket. She’s only happy when she’s at her pottery wheel. Hannah, however, is an effervescent delight! Simon is trying to plan the seating chart for their upcoming party, and wants to put Hannah next to a potential donor for the library Simon wants to build (how bad can he be?!). Julia is hurt that Simon is writing her off, and even though Hannah tries to change his mind he won’t hear it. As Julia throws her fit, the housekeeper Mrs. MacKenzie walks in to introduce the new maid, Lucy. Mrs. MacKenzie tells Lucy to be careful around Julia’s pottery, and Simon leaves the room, hoping to escape Julia’s shrill whining. Gee, a whiny, insecure, spoiled and boring debutante who thinks she’s the perpetual victim? Where have I heard this before?

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I’m just saying…. (source)

Simon stumbles upon Angelica, who looks dead but has just been in a trance to consult the spirits. She says that she also consulted her tarot cards, and they say the dinner party shouldn’t happen, so she cannot act as hostess and he’ll have to ask one of their daughters, but suggests Hannah over Julia. Simon leaves the room to go find his daughters, and then hears a crash. He runs into the parlor and finds Julia howling over one of her ceramic bowls, which has been shattered, as Lucy dropped it. Hannah tells Lucy it’s not her fault, and Mrs. MacKenzie says that she warned the girl. Simon tells Hannah she’s going to act as hostess that night, and when Hannah points out that Julia is the oldest and should probably do it he tells her not to argue and storms from the room. Julia laments that Simon doesn’t trust her, and Hannah feels awful. In the kitchen Ms. MacKenzie scolds Lucy, and then reminds her to sign the servant’s list. Lucy tells her that her last name is “Goode”. To this I say HOW?! Franklin said he was the last one!! Ms. MacKenzie tells her to keep that name to herself.

At dinner that night Hannah is being the perfect hostess, and she also encourages Julia in her confidence. As they are all seated for dinner, Lucy starts to serve the soup course. But, oops, she spills soup all over Julia’s shoulder and dress! She shrieks and knocks her chair away, and Simon tells her to excuse herself and go clean up. I, however, am more shocked that Lucy wasn’t fired on the spot!! As someone who worked as a guide in a historic home that had a family like this one living in it during this time period, I am all too aware of how this would have been a fireable offense. Hannah asks Julia if she wants help, but Julia refuses and runs off. She sees Lucy, and wonders if Lucy was smiling about the mess…

Late that evening Hannah and Julia meet in a secret room that ‘only they know about’, which makes NO sense as Simon built and designed the damned place! Surely he’d know about this room! Anyway, Julia asks Hannah if she saw Lucy’s smile, and Hannah says no, and says that Lucy couldn’t have meant it. Julia is convinced between the broken pot and the soup Lucy is out to get her. She asks if Simon said anything to Hannah, but Hannah says no, he seemed upset about the disturbance but overall happy. Julia continues to sulk. They part ways, and when Hannah is going back to her room she sees Lucy leaving it. She’s suspicious at first, but then sees that Lucy just laid out her bed clothes. But when she crawls into bed, she finds a snake in the linens!!

Her brothers are blamed for the snake, and the next day Hannah is getting ready for dinner. Lucy had helped her with her hair earlier. As Hannah puts her shoes on, she suddenly screams in pain. She pulls her feet out of the shoes, and finds that glass has cut up her heel. She screams for help and Mrs. MacKenzie rushes in and helps her bandage her foot. Julia eventually enters as well, and Hannah tells her that maybe Julia was right about Lucy and that they have to tell Simon. Julia says that they have no proof, and PLEASE. Do you really think that the Victorian Elite needed PROOF to fire their servants?! Hannah says that she will hold off, but thinks that Julia is being too timid. She says she’ll join for dinner soon, and Julia leaves. As Hannah goes back to getting ready, Lucy comes into the room saying that she heard about the shoe and asks if there’s anything she can do to help. Hannah says that she’s done quite enough, but then feels guilty because Lucy looks hurt. So she backs off, and goes back to giving her orders, which I guess denotes that she is actually okay with her because CLASSISM!

Three days later the Fear siblings are going for a picnic with their little dog Fluff. They walk past and open grave and we are told that the gardener passed away, and he’s going to be buried there. FORESHADOWING? They all go into the woods, and the boys go off to follow a deer while Hannah and Julia start to lay out the spread. Hannah feeds Fluff some pie… And then he starts to cough, vomit, and then dies! Julia says that the pies must be poisoned!! And Lucy has to be the one who made the pies! Hannah tells Julia to gather their brothers, and she’ll go ahead to tell Simon. When she gets to the house she runs into Lucy, and accuses her of poisoning the pies and killing Fluff. Lucy denies it, and Mrs. MacKenzie hears their fight and asks what is going on. Hannah says that Lucy poisoned the pies that she made, and Mrs. MacKenzie says that she was there and Lucy didn’t even prepare the pies so much as poison them. Because it was JULIA who made the pies!!! Hannah is horrified, and then rushes out of the house to confront Julia. She finds Julia by the open grave, and tells her she knows about the pies. Julia doesn’t deny it, and says that she hates Hannah and wants her to die because she’s pretty, charming, and Simon’s favorite. Ugh, such an Edith thing to do. She then attacks Hannah. Hannah tries to run, but Julia tackles her onto the pine coffin for the poor dead servant and starts to strangle her. Hannah nearly passes out, but then Julia, thinking she killed her, lets her go, and climbs off of the coffin. Hannah catches her breath, and then rolls off the coffin as well. Julia, shocked she’s still alive, comes to finish the job, but Hannah grabs the nearby shovel and smacks her with it, killing her. In a panic she stuff’s Julia’s body in the coffin as well, and then rushes to the woods. She watches the coffin bearers lay the coffin into the ground, and then goes back to the house.

Simon is looking for Julia, and thinks that perhaps she’s wandered off in the woods. So he goes outside that evening and goes looking for her, and hears a distant noise of someone shrieking. He realizes with horror that it’s Julia, and that it’s coming from teh ground in the fresh grave! He grabs a shovel and unburies her, but it’s too late. She has died by being buried alive. Woof. He runs away howling with grief, and then runs into the house. He stumbles upon the servant log, and sees the name “Lucy Goode”. He’s convinced that Lucy did this, and grabs his amulet and a sword from his collection of antiques. Angelica, hearing the ruckus, runs down the steps, telling him to stop, but he doesn’t, and he sees Lucy and plunges the sword in her chest….. Except, it wasn’t Lucy. It was Hannah. Hannah falls dead in his arms, Angelica screams her head off, and Simon says he wanted to kill Lucy, not Hannah! Mrs. MacKenzie tells him that Lucy resigned that afternoon. Simon and Angelica cry and scream over the deaths of their daughters.

Time jump to Shadyside Village in 1900. Daniel Fear, grandson of Simon and Angelica and son of their youngest Joseph, has come to visit the grandparents he has never met. After Julia and Hannah died, Joseph never forgave his parents and left as soon as he could. Daniel calls a cabbie to take him to Fear Mansion, and the cabbie tells him about his family’s unfortunate history as Joseph never talked about it. Daniel has only come because he was invited to Simon’s seventy fifth birthday. The Cabbie drops him off at the end of the drive, and Daniel asks if he can be taken up to the door, but the cabbie is like ‘fuck no’, and drives the carriage away. Daniel walks through the overgrown lawn, and up to the ramshackle house. He knocks on the door, and an old woman answers, telling him to go away. But he says he’s Daniel Fear and was invited. The woman introduces herself was Mrs. MacKenzie, and says she’s the only servant who stayed. She leads him to the parlor, and Daniel sees his grandmother Angelica, who has pretty much gone completely mad. She tells him to put more logs on the fire, and then screams at him to leave. He runs into Simon, who is now wheelchair bound and laughing about his wife’s grief stricken madness. Daniel says that his father sends his love, and then Angelica asks ‘what is love?’, and Simon says that Joseph has no love for them so cut the bullshit. He says that Joseph should have stayed because Fears have to stick together, casually mentions that the other boys are dead, and gives Daniel the silver amulet while Angelica keeps screaming about more logs on the fire. Daniel puts the amulet on, and sees a vision of fire and a girl burning and screaming in pain. Daniel realizes that the necklace has weird powers. Mrs. MacKenzie leads him to his room, and how Daniel didn’t high tail out of there after this is beyond me.

Daniel goes into town the next day to check it out, and finding himself thirsty goes to the general store. And there he sees a beautiful girl behind the counter and falls in love instantly. She offers him some cider, and he accepts, and asks her what there is to do in Shadyside. She says that the only interesting thing is Fear Mansion, and he decides to pretend he doesn’t know anything about it. She tells him that it’s said to be cursed and people avoid it (so why she said it was an interesting thing to check out is a little beyond me). He says that perhaps she’d like to show him around town, and introduces himself as Daniel. She says that her name is Nora Goode, and HERE. WE. GO.

Daniel and Nora spend their afternoons walking in the woods together. She says that his grandparents must wonder where he’s going each day, but he says that his grandparents don’t give a rip about him. Nora is lonely too, as her mother died in childbirth (This can’t be Lucy though, because she wouldn’t have been married as a servant as that wasn’t done, so is she Lucy’s niece?), and she dreams of running away someday for better things. Daniel wants to tell her he’s a Fear, but is afraid she’ll think less of him because his family is cursed. But they kiss and they’re both quite smitten. Daniel is determined to debunk this curse business before he reveals his identity. They part ways at the edge of town, and Nora is on cloud nine. But when she gets home to the store she sees her father waiting for her and looking grumpy. He asks her where she’s been, and even though she tries to be coy he says that he knows she’s been sneaking around with Daniel and that he’s a FEAR! Nora is shocked, and wonders why he never told her his true identity. But she tries to convince her father that Daniel is wonderful. Her father tells her about Julia and Hannah and how their bodies were found of the woods, skinned (wait what?! Did this happen after the fact?!), and that Angelica is a known witch, and that she is forbidden from seeing Daniel. She says that he can’t stop her from seeing him, so he locks her in her room, like any reasonable parent would do, right?

Daniel is exploring his grandfather’s personal library, and sees a lot of books on black magic and sorcery. He thinks that his family must have a scientific interest in these books even though he knows the weird rumors of a curse and the fact his family is blatantly batshit.

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Fine dude, whatever you say. (source)

He wanders to the kitchen in search of a snack, but instead of the delicious ginger cookies Mrs. MacKenzie made he finds a hidden room (omg it must be the room Julia and Hannah used to hang out in!). Inside he finds the family bible, that has the names of all the Fiers/Fears and also talks about the terrible deaths that so many of them experienced. Suddenly a cold hand grabs him, and it’s Mrs. MacKenzie. She tells him that if he wants family history, she can tell him everything. So she gives him the whole run down of everything that has happened thus far, though honestly it’s pretty skewed to favor the Fiers/Fears even thought THEY STARTED THIS WHOLE THING. She tells him that the other family is named Goode, and he is horrified because he loves Nora so much and she isn’t evil like her family is! Mrs. MacKenzie mentions that perhaps the two of them will be the ones to break the curse by marrying each other. And this seems like a great idea to Daniel!

The next day he goes to meet her for their walks, but sees that the store has been boarded up. He thinks that perhaps she left, but then he hears her crying out for help from her window. He climbs up the side of the store and onto the balcony, and breaks the window open. She tells him that her father is going to move them away, and he confesses that he’s a Fear. She says she knows but doesn’t care. He suggests that they run off and get married, and she accepts, and he gives her the amulet as a stand in for a ring. She quickly sees a flash of a vision of fire, but it passes quick and he says they’ll go to the justice of the peace and get married right now and tell his grandparents at his grandfather’s seventy fifth birthday party that night.

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(source)

Daniel takes his new bride to Fear Mansion, and Nora is uncomfortable, perhaps because she’s deep in enemy territory. Daniel introduces Nora to Mrs. MacKenzie, who seems to approve, and he takes Nora towards the ballroom where he expects a large party…. Except it’s just his grandparents, him, and Nora. He wishes Simon a happy birthday, and Simon is happy that SOMEONE came to his party. Look man, you have no friends and family, what did you expect? Angelica, however, says that they should mingle with the huge amount of guests that are attending, and hoo boy, that’s awkward and very sad.  Even sadder, though, is the giant cake that is wheeled in with seventy five burning candles. Daniel decides that now is as good a time as any to tell his grandfather the good news! So he introduces Nora and says that he’s married a Goode!

It goes as well as to be expected.

Simon starts to scream ‘noooooo!’, stumbles from his chair, and knocks the cake over. Which sets the damn ballroom on fire. Nora has somehow lost Daniel at this point (HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?), and the fire spreads and we get cameos of basically every person who has died in these books (but I have a note: The referred to Abigail Fier as Abigail Goode and I don’t know if that was Stine or the eBook transcribers. Either way, FAIL!!!!). Nora flees the house, but is the only one to make it out. So yeah, the curse is broken. But only because the Fear line ended in that ballroom. Bummer.

So we wrap up with Nora writing her story. But she has been committed to an insane asylum. So when she looks at her lovely and completely pages, some nurses enter the room. Nora says she has to show the doctor her story, but one of the nurses promptly burns the pages, saying it’s for her own good. The nurses escort Nora to talk to the doctor, and tell her that they have news that should cheer her. The Fear Mansion may have burned, but there is now a new road that is passing by it, where they are going to build homes. They ask Nora if she wants to know what they’re going to call it, and when she bites, she’s informed that it will be called “Fear Street”. THE END.

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We have come to the end of our Revisit to Fear Street. (source)

Body Count: 10! And that’s not including a couple Fears who died off page. And I’m not sure if the housekeeper died in the fire, so I’m potentially being conservative in my counting.

Romance Rating: 8. Daniel and Nora are the perfect star crossed lovers, and honestly I kind of loved how evil Simon and Angelica were together.

Bonkers Rating: You know what? I’m feeling generous. It gets a 10! From Simon Fear’s flamboyant attitude and deadly courting rituals to his witch wife to people being buried alive and burned to a crisp, this book went into the bonkers stratosphere!

Fear Street Relevance: 10 again! It’s great to finally see just how Fear Manor burnt to the ground, and how Fear Street came to be in the unassuming town of Shadyside.

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger: 

“Simon stared down at her. She was sprawled on the floor on her back, her black hair in disarray around her head, her green eyes staring blankly at the ceiling, her mouth open. Angelica. Nor breathing. Lifeless.

‘Angelica!’ Simon cried. ‘Oh, Angelica!'”

… But she isn’t dead. SHE WAS BEING SUPER EXTRA AND CONFERRING WITH THE SPIRITS IN THE MOST DRAMATIC WAY POSSIBLE!! I LOVE THIS BITCH!!!

That’s So Dated! Moments: As a historical fiction novel, just like the two before it, that sadly doesn’t apply here.

Best Quote:

“‘Delicious,’ Simon declared. ‘So bitter and sweet at the same time.’ He smiled at her knowingly. ‘It isn’t wine – is it?’

‘No’ Angelica replied, returning his grin. ‘It isn’t wine. It is blood.’

Simon snickered and stared into the goblet. ‘You are full of surprises tonight, Angelica.'”

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ARE YOU SERIOUS?!?! I LOVE THIS!! WHAT A POWER COUPLE!! (source)

Conclusion: “The Burning” had some seriously stellar moments, but it felt like it wrapped up too quickly and had a number of continuity issues (HOW DID THE GOODE LINE GO ON IF FRANKLIN THOUGHT HE WAS THE LAST GOODE?!). I liked having the history of Fear Street laid out, however, and therefore as a whole it was part of a pretty good trilogy.

And that is the end of my “A Revisit to Fear Street” series on our blog!! It was a serious trip and a true joy to go back and re-read (or in a number of cases read for the first time) these books from my childhood. Thank you to everyone who read this endeavor, and I hope that you guys enjoyed reading the recaps as much as I enjoyed creating them. And a very special thank you to R.L. Stine for being such a formative part of my childhood, and for creating a twisted and entertaining series of books for young horror fans!!!

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(source)

Kate’s Review: “Wilder Girls”

42505366Book: “Wilder Girls” by Rory Power

Publishing Info: Delacorte Press, July 2019

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley.

Book Description: It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.

It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.

But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.

Review: Thanks to NetGalley for sending me an eARC of this novel!

Oh boy, look what we have here. Another boarding school book! And on top of a boarding school book, we got some plague horror, some vague cosmic horror, and some queer representation thrown in for good measure. Suffice to say, when I read about “Wilder Girls”, I was interested enough to request an eARC from NetGalley.

What makes “Wilder Girls” by Rory Powers a bit different from other plague horror that I’ve seen lately is that we don’t know WHAT the Tox is. The students at Raxter School for Girls just know that they have been stricken with this disease, which causes body disfigurement, severe aggression, and in many cases (such as that of most of the faculty members and huge portion of the student body) death. They are cut off from the outside world immediately, and those who do have the tenuous connection to the outside world that sends supplies their way aren’t saying much. In many plague horror stories we will ultimately get at least some information as to what happened, be it a government made virus run amok a la “The Stand” or a supermutated flu a la “Station Eleven”. But in “Wilder Girls” it is largely unknown, and that fear of the unknown (both in origin of The Tox and what it has done to the woods outside the school) is what takes this towards Cosmic Horror territory, and makes it feel a bit more unique than similar tales that I’ve read. And, hooray but also YIKES, along with cosmic horror comes body horror, and “Wilder Girls” has that AND THEN SOME. From descriptions of mutated wildlife to body mutilation to other moments of supreme yuck, Powers knows how to up the gross factor in ways that would make David Cronenberg proud.

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Kinda like this in some ways. Also, this movie is devastating. (source)

Plus, when you combine plague and the unknown you have a volatile situation in terms of how the social structures have changed, and Raxter School for Girls has DEFINITELY degraded as they try to wait for their rescue, even as supplies dwindle more and more and desperation starts to cloud the judgments and actions of those who are supposed to be friends. Powers doesn’t shy away from some really brutal moments that are set off by these moments of desperation, be it those in power abusing those below, or those who are friendly towards each other suddenly attacking each other verbally AND physically. There are connections to the outside world, sure, but it becomes clearer and clearer that the outside world, in whatever state it may be in, is forgetting about these girls, and it may be intentional.

I also really enjoyed the slow growing and complicated relationship between Hetty, our main protagonist, and Reese, a sometimes friend but mostly roommate to Hetty and their friend Byatt. Byatt is the main connector between the three girls, as both Hetty and Reese have their affections for her. But when Byatt disappears, the two girls left, who have had rocky at best interactions as of late, have to learn to trust each other, and also deal with how they may actually feel for each other. The romance isn’t really at the forefront of this story, and it doesn’t end up defining either character, but it is always a bit below the surface, and I found it realistic that these two girls in a horrifying situation would have a lot of complex feelings towards each other. Especially when they had been vying for the attention of the bright and friendly Byatt.

But for me, and for reasons I can’t really figure out, the broader plot of “Wilder Girls” really didn’t interest me as much as I had hoped it would. While the parts about The Tox and the dwindling hope of rescue were absolutely right up my alley, for the life of me I couldn’t bring myself to care about Byatt’s disappearance. Sure, I usually like the conspiratorial themes that this book was filled with (why did Byatt disappear? Who knows more than they’re telling?), but I think that I was more interested in The Tox itself. Since we jumped in AFTER the Tox has already ravaged this school and it’s inhabitants, and since the school has adjusted, albeit poorly as it turns out, I wish we had a little more information about the build up and fall out of that initial infection. To me that seemed like a better story than that of a missing friend. That said, I can understand why the emphasis on that might be more interesting to other people. As it was, I wasn’t into it. On top of that, we got a clunker of an ending that felt like it was trying too hard to tread between ‘we definitely could end this story here if we needed to’, and ‘promises of more secrets and perhaps a sequel is the only thing to be done’. It felt too obvious as to what it was trying to do.

“Wilder Girls” was a bit of a disappointment to me, but that doesn’t mean it will be disappointing to all fans of plague and cosmic horror. If you want more focus on The Tox, it may not give you what you need, but if you are fine dealing with the fallout alone, it could be a good fit.

Rating 6: While it had a good premise and some interesting female characters, I didn’t find myself as invested in “Wilder Girls” as I had hoped I would be.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Wilder Girls” is included on the Goodreads lists “Sapphic Boarding School Books”, and “YA Cosmic Horror”.

Find “Wilder Girls” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “Growing Things and Other Stories”

42118050Book: “Growing Things and Other Stories” by Paul Tremblay

Publishing Info: William Morrow, July 2019

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley.

Book Description: A chilling anthology featuring nineteen pieces of short fiction from the multiple award-winning author of the national bestseller The Cabin at the End of the World and A Head Full of Ghosts.

In “The Teacher,” a Bram Stoker Award nominee for best short story, a student is forced to watch a disturbing video that will haunt and torment her and her classmates’ lives.

Four men rob a pawn shop at gunpoint only to vanish, one-by-one, as they speed away from the crime scene in “The Getaway.”

In “Swim Wants to Know If It’s as Bad as Swim Thinks,” a meth addict kidnaps her daughter from her estranged mother as their town is terrorized by a giant monster . . . or not.

Joining these haunting works are stories linked to Tremblay’s previous novels. The tour de force metafictional novella “Notes from the Dog Walkers” deconstructs horror and publishing, possibly bringing in a character from A Head Full of Ghosts, all while serving as a prequel to Disappearance at Devil’s Rock. “The Thirteenth Temple” follows another character from A Head Full of Ghosts—Merry, who has published a tell-all memoir written years after the events of the novel. And the title story, “Growing Things,” a shivery tale loosely shared between the sisters in A Head Full of Ghosts, is told here in full.

From global catastrophe to the demons inside our heads, Tremblay illuminates our primal fears and darkest dreams in startlingly original fiction that leaves us unmoored. As he lowers the sky and yanks the ground from beneath our feet, we are compelled to contemplate the darkness inside our own hearts and minds.

Review: I want to extend a thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this book!

I’ll be honest and up front here. I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned it before, but short story collections aren’t really my thing. True, I will pick them up every once in awhile if the book really tantalizes me (hence the collections I’ve read on here), but overall I tend to avoid them. That said, when I found out that Paul Tremblay’s newest book, “Growing Things and Other Stories”, was going to be a short stories collection, I was basically like

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The man can do no wrong in my eyes. (source)

I did go in with my usual worries and hesitations regarding short story collections, but I also had faith that I would probably like it overall. And that faith paid off for the most part! I enjoyed a number of the stories in “Growing Things”. And as I usually do with short stories collections on this blog, I’ll focus on some of the favorite stories from the book and why I liked them, with a general write up at the end.

“A Haunted House Is A Wheel Upon Which Some Are Broken”

First thing to note is that the format of this book didn’t QUITE work in eARC form, as it’s designed to be like a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ novel. When you have an ARC that doesn’t have ALL the kinks worked out (as far as I know), AND it’s on an eReader, that removes some of the intent to this story. But, all of that said, I found “A Haunted House Is A Wheel Upon Which Some Are Broken” to be one of the most emotional stories in this collection, as well as creepy as heck at times. It involves a woman revisiting her childhood home, and having to recount the memories of living there. Some of those memories are about the various ghosts that haunted the house and made her childhood creepy. Others involve her mother who was dying of cancer. Along with some visceral and unsettling imagery, Tremblay really tapped into the grief of losing a parent, and how that kind of loss can haunt a person just as much as the ghosts in the story haunted the house. I definitely teared up a number of times as I read this story. Tremblay is so good with pathos.

“The Ice Tower”

For those of you who like “The Thing” and other ice/cosmic horror, this is a tale you will probably enjoy. When a group of adrenaline junkie climbers are recruited to explore a giant, mysterious pillar of ice, it isn’t just the cold and snow that they have to worry about. Slowly it becomes clear that there is something otherworldly, and wholly threatening, about the ice wall. One of the main features of cosmic horror is that you never QUITE know what is going on, and you can’t expect explanations to go along with the terrible events that will surely unfold, and with “The Ice Tower” the ambiguity was rampant. As someone who knows cold and knows the horrors that can come with it (albeit natural ones in my experience), this story really resonated with me and set me on edge. I also couldn’t help but think about the fact that one of the most notorious ice climbs, Mount Everest, had such a deadly year this past year, which made this terrifying in it’s own way, supernatural scares aside.

“It’s Against The Law To Feed The Ducks”

The third story that stuck with me was this one, which had both a sense of existential dread and a childlike whimsy within it’s pages. Through the eyes of a little boy, a family goes on a remote family vacation in the woods. But during this vacation, something on a global scale happens, and we see it unfold through the perspective of a child who doesn’t understand what’s going on, and whose parents are trying to shield him from it. If you want to talk about unsettling ambiguity, this one knocked it out of the park. It also reminded me a bit of “The Cabin at the End of the World” in it’s themes. The reader never quite figures out just what it is that has happened, and the childish lens that we see everything through is written very well, and made it all the more upsetting. This was probably my favorite in the entire collection.

In terms of the stories as a whole, there was a lot to like. We get revisits to characters in Tremblay’s book “A Head Full of Ghosts”, we get to see some more monster stories, and even Hellboy makes an appearance (as Tremblay wrote for a collection that was in tribute to “Hellboy” and Mike Mignola)! While I thought that the three I mentioned were far and away the best of the book, there were other strong stories as well. While not many of them really ‘scared’ me, I did find them all to be pretty entertaining.

“Growing Things and Other Stories” is a nice sampler of the kinds of stories Paul Tremblay has to offer, and I think that horror fans really need to check it out! And like always, make sure to have some tissues handy, because you will probably cry.

Rating 8: Once again Paul Tremblay shows his talent and contributions to the horror genre. “Growing Things and Other Stories” is a healthy mix of different kinds of scary stories, as well as moments that are filled with emotion.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Growing Things and Other Stories” is included on the Goodreads lists

Find “Growing Things and Other Stories” at your library using WorldCat!

A Revisit to Fear Street: “The Secret”

176259Book: “The Secret” (The Fear Street Saga #2) by R.L. Stine

Publishing Info: Simon Pulse, 1993

Where Did I Get This Book: An eBook from the library!

Book Description: Buried Evil

What is the secret of Fear Street?

Why has its horror lasted so long?

Ezra Fier wants to find out. He searches for the answer among the rotting bones in the ghostly town of Wickham. But he find only betrayal and death.

Elizabeth and Kate are in love with the same boy. How can they know that they too are caught by the evil that will haunt this family forever?

Had I Read This Before: No

The Plot: Moving on to part 2 of “The Fear Street Saga”! We join Nora Goode again, who is writing the long, dramatic, and violent history of the Goode family and the Fear Family. We still don’t know why she knows it, or why she as a Goode has the Fear amulet, or her back story with the now presumably deceased Daniel Fear.

BUT, before we go into that, we go back in time to Wickham Village in the Massachusetts Colony in 1737! And we catch back up with Ezra Fier, the son of that dunderheaded narc Edward, who let his girlfriend Susannah Goode burn at the stake by orders of his father. Ezra has been nursing his grudge towards the Goodes since Willaim, Susannah’s father, took his revenge which led to the deaths of Ezra’s grandfather, great aunt and uncle, mother, and aunt. His dunderheaded father died too, but probably from idiocy. Ezra has been tracking George Fier, William’s son, for most of his adult life, and has dragged his family around the colonies on his hunt. His son Jonathan thinks that this is a ridiculous situation to be in, but wife Jane goes with it and daughters Abigail and Rachel are too young to be put off. Ezra is convinced that he’s tracked George down to this town, but as their wagon approaches they see a stopped carriage, with two dead horses next to it. When they look in the carriage, there are bloated and decaying dead people. And when they get to town, it’s more of the same. FILLED with dead people! Ezra isn’t swayed, and makes Jonathan go with him to explore, and tells him the whole background of his family. Ezra says they should go to the inn, as innkeepers will know the tea, but they TOO are dead. He tells Jonathan to go to the magistrate’s office to ask HIM what’s up, so it hasn’t really gotten through his dumb skull that EVERYONE IN TOWN IS DEAD, DUDE! Poor Jonathan goes, and once again finds a corpse. Ezra finally takes this for what it is, and they return to the wagon to tell Jane and the girls what they found. Ezra drives the wagon to a farmhouse, and while he doesn’t tell his family why they are there, he says that he wants to see their dead and rotting corpses, so we can assume this is where he decided the Goodes lived. But they aren’t there! Ezra throws a fit, and when Jane says that she doesn’t want their children living in a town full of bodies he pulls the ‘wives should be obedient’ card and says they are staying there for the foreseeable future, and that he’s going to find The Goodes.

The Fier family settles in okay, though Ezra is still a Ahab-esque tyrant. A few weeks after moving in, Ezra says to Jonathan that they are going to visit some farms a few miles away. But instead of exchanging pleasantries, Ezra immediately asks if they know about the Goodes. The first family just tells him to leave, and the second family threatens to cut his throat. Ezra says that this is proof of how evil the Goodes are because EVERYONE hates them, and to me I would say it’s a good sign to just let it the hell go. Ezra thinks these neighbors have to be hiding something.

The next day Abigail tells Jonathan she wants to go to the village. Jonathan says that they aren’t supposed to wander too far (doesn’t bring up the fact that it’s filled with rotting bodies), but Abigail says that he’s chicken. Given that being teased by his little sister will not stand, he agrees and they go. Yep, still filled with a bunch of bodies, but Abigail takes it upon herself to find bodies of animals and give them a proper burial. Super Goth there, Abigail. She keeps insisting that they go back so she can do this, and one day while they’re in town she wants to go so far as to bury the body of a girl. Jonathan says that they’d need a coffin for a person, and instead of being swayed Abigail says that they should look for a box. This girl is giving me Mayhem’s lead singer Dead vibes what with her strange fascination with death and decay. Jonathan inexplicably agrees and goes into the tavern to find a box, and when he returns Abigail is gone. He goes to find her, and then sees her playing with another little girl. When he approaches them the girl runs off, and Abigail says that her name is Hester. He asks where this girl lives, thinking that maybe there are people still alive in town, but Abigail says she doesn’t know. They go back to their house, and Jonathan doesn’t seem at all worried.

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It’s just that the town was filled with rotting corpses and now there’s a girl who is as weird as Abigail and goes there to play? That isn’t sketchy!? (source)

The next day Jonathan is in town digging a grave for a baby (this is also thrown out there with the nonchalance of him digging a grave for a hamster or a goldfish, by the way), and he realizes that Abigail hasn’t returned from fetching a grave marker. He eventually finds her and Hester playing in a cemetery. And then Hester grabs Abigail and pulls her into an open grave! Jonathan runs there and sees Abigail pop out of the coffin, and that’s enough death metal shenanigans for one day, and he grabs her by the arm and says they’re going home much to her protestations. The next day Jane says that they aren’t allowed to leave the property because they have to watch Rachel. But Ezra pretty much derails that when he asks Abigail to go for a walk with him, and says that Jonathan can handle it on his own and that he likes Abigail’s company. As Jonathan watches them walk away through the window, he sees Hester meet them in the road. Not trusting this weird coffin hopping kid, Jonathan rushes outside. Hester asks Ezra if Abigail can come to her house, and when Jonathan tells his Dad not to let her go, Ezra blows him off and says that Abigail can go. Jonathan begs him to let him go with, but Ezra says that SOMEONE has to watch Rachel (though gee, Ezra, up until this point you were just going for a meandering walk, maybe YOU could watch your own damn kid!). Jonathan obeys. Big surprise, Abigail isn’t home by suppertime. Ezra insists that she’s fine, but we all know better, don’t we? Ezra goes to look for her, and Jonathan comes too. They hear the sounds of girls’ laughter on the wind, and eventually follow it to a grave… And the headstone says Hester Goode!! And uh oh, next to the grave there is a new grave, with a headstone that says ABIGAIL FIER!! Ezra freaks and uses his hands to dig up the dirt, and there is Abigail, super dead.

Jump forward six years, and Ezra is putting Rachel to bed with the bedtime story of the time he and Jonathan found Abigail in a shallow grave. Wholesome bedtime storytelling at it’s finest. They’ve moved away from plague town and somehow they got richer in that time as Ezra has just kind of resold whatever supplies they’ve had extra of. This is their newest home and they’re just settling in. There’s a knocking at the door, and Jonathan goes to answer it. A pretty girl is on the stoop, and she says her name is Delilah Wilson and she lives down the road. She brought a pie to welcome the new neighbors. Jonathan takes her to the parlor (DAMN, they did do well for themselves), and tells his mother about Delilah. He goes to tell Ezra, but Ezra is too busy obsessing in his office and pawing at his amulet (you know the one). Rachel sneaks out of bed to go meet Delilah too, and when Jane sees her she has a momentary grief spell where she thinks Rachel is Abigail. After being gently corrected, she goes to prepare the pie. Jonathan and Rachel talk with Delilah, and Delilah asks why they’ve moved so much. Rachel, not one to play it cool, says it’s because of the family curse and tells her all about it. Rachel is all in on the Goode hate train, but Jonathan blames Ezra for Abigail’s death.

A few days later Jonathan is in town and he sees Delilah. She says she’s come from her father’s church and is on the way home, and he offers to escort her. He apologizes for his family’s behavior, especially Rachel’s, but Delilah says that she loved outlandish stories when she was a little girl too. Jonathan is very smitten, and that night he’s thinking about her as he’s falling asleep. He thinks he hears someone calling for help outside and a strange noise, but when he runs to his window he sees nothing out there. He thinks he’s imagining things, but can’t sleep the rest of the night.

The next day Jan asks Jonathan to go get kindling and asks Rachel to go get water from the well. As he’s gathering wood he hears Rachel screaming, and runs to the well to see what’s going on, Jane and Ezra leaving the house. Rachel points at the bucket, and it’s filled with blood. Ezra says that it’s the curse, and when Jonathan says that that isn’t real Ezra calls him foolish, and that there have to be Goodes nearby. Jonathan, sick of his family’s histrionics, goes to call on Delilah. He meets her father, Reverend Wilson, and then he and Delilah go for a walk. He confides in her about the noise and the bucket of blood, and she says that there has to be a rational explanation. But now Jonathan isn’t so sure, but he likes how sensible Delilah is.

That night, Jonathan is awakened by footsteps in the hallway. When he opens his door he sees Jane, crying out for Abigail. She insists that she heard Abigail calling to her. Jonathan says that she has to have been dreaming, and leads her back to bed. The same thing happens the next night, though Ezra is the one to take care of Jane that time. It happens again and again, and Rachel says that she wants to do something for Jane to cheer her up. They start to plant some roses, and Delilah pays them a visit. They all sit in the shade, and tell Delilah what has been going on with their mother, how she keeps saying she sees Abigail in the backyard. Rachel thinks it’s a ghost, and Jonathan thinks it’s hallucinations. Delilah suggests that it could be dream, meeting in the middle of two extremes. But that night, Jonathan hears Abigail, and Rachel says that she saw her outside her window, warning her, though she doesn’t know of what.

The next day Jonathan goes to visit Delilah. Jane sends sweet rolls with him, and when Jonathan gets to Delilah’s house her father asks how Jane is doing. Jonathan says not well, and when he and Delilah go for a walk he tells her that now he has heard Abigail and Rachel saw her. Delilah starts to cry, and when he asks what’s wrong says that she would never wish harm upon his family. He’s confused, and she tells him that she and her father are leaving town soon, and that it’s for the best. When he begs her to stay, she says that he has to go, even though she obviously doesn’t want him to do so. Jonathan leaves with a broken and confused heart.

Shortly before dawn the next morning Jonathan is awakened by a terrible scream. He looks out the window and sees nothing, but when Ezra and Rachel come downstairs Ezra says that Jane is gone. They search high and low and can’t find her, and after hours of looking Jonathan goes to the well to get some water… but the bucket is VERY heavy. He calls to Ezra to help him pull up the bucket, and when they do Jane’s body is sitting in it, drowned.

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Jesus that’s dark. (source)

Jonathan is all in on the curse business now. And it suddenly occurs to him that Delilah’s sadness and insistence on leaving might have something to do with all of this. He and Rachel rush to her house, and he confronts her. Delilah tells him that she is, in fact, a Goode. She says that she and her father changed their name after they were run out of Wickham after they were blamed for the plague. She said that she hadn’t believed in the curse and that when he hadn’t either she thought that it really couldn’t be true, but now she thinks that it is. She tells him that there’s only one way to end it: a Goode and a Fier have to get married. Jonathan says that he’s in love with her so that’s not a problem, and even Rachel, who has been indoctrinated by Ezra her whole life, is on board! Delilah says she’s worried the curse will try and stop their wedding, but Jonathan says they can just get married today! WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG!?

So Jonathan and Delilah rush to the church and Reverend Wilson is going to marry them, but before they can finish the ceremony Ezra bursts in with his rifle. Rachel, carrying the “Fier Narc Trait” says that she told him because he MADE her, and girl? How hard is it to make up some LIE?! Ezra says that all Goodes must die, and raises his rifle. Jonathan lunges at him, and they fight over it, but it goes off, and it shoots Delilah! Ezra then points the rifle at Reverend Wilson, and repeats that ‘all Goodes must die’, but then Wilson drops a huge bombshells: THEY AREN’T ACTUALLY GOODES. He told Delilah to lie to Jonathan because the curse is infamous and they are poor while the Fiers are rich. He convinced her to lure Jane out of the house at night to make her think it was Abigail, but they never intended for her to fall in the well. Delilah felt awful about everything. Jonathan said he’d marry her anyway, whether she was a Goode or not. Ezra starts to have a nervous breakdown, and runs out of the church in a frenzy, and is promptly trampled by a horse. Before he dies he gives Jonathan the amulet and tells him to avenge his death… But Jonathan swears that he is stopping the feud now. When he eventually buries Ezra’s body, he buries the pendant with him.

BUT NORA TELLS US THAT IT DOESN’T STOP THERE!

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Me as I realized that there was still a fair amount of book left (source)

It took one hundred years, but yes, there’s more.

Flash forward to 1843, still Western Massachusetts. A teenager named Elizabeth Fier is in her backyard digging up the ground for a new planting project, when she finds a rusty metal box. She digs around the dust (IT’S CREMAINS, ELIZABETH!!!) and finds a pretty silver amulet. She doesn’t know what the words ‘dominatio per malum’ mean, but perhaps her brother Simon would know. She joins her family for dinner, which includes brother Simon, sister Kate (oh gosh), father Samuel, and mother Katherine, who tells her to go wash her hands (thank GOODNESS). Elizabeth shows them all the necklace as they eat, but then she has a vision of the dining room being engulfed by flames. But since the vision stops and nothing else happens, Elizabeth plum forgets about it!

Several weeks later, there is a knock on the door around dinner time. Elizabeth answers, and sees a dirty and malnourished looking man on the stoop. He looks at her necklace, an then says that he needs help. He’s hungry, and will gladly work for food. Mr. Fier tells the man that they have plenty of food to go around, and invites him in. Generous, but not something I’d have done! You have no idea who this guy is! Eventually as he’s eating he says his name is Franklin, and after he lost his family and the farm he’s been wandering around picking up odd jobs. He says that after he eats they should give him a task, but they say that they have no work to be done but instead offer him a bath. Elizabeth watches him start to undress, and even though he’s described as skeletal and thin he somehow still has enough muscle mass in his back that they ‘ripple’. Elizabeth rushes off. When he joins them in the parlor after his bath, Elizabeth realizes that he’s SUPER cute. But little do the Fiers know that Franklin is deliberately trying to gain their confidence and trust, and then he will turn on them all and they will pay for the pain that his family had to endure at their hands. Because his name is Franklin GOODE!

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It bears repeating. (source)

The Fiers insist that he stay, and Elizabeth is totally smitten with him.

Elizabeth spends time with Franklin the next day and they go for a walk. She takes him up to a spot where she used to play with Kate and Simon when they were kids, and confides in him about a strange old woman with a cane who scared them back then. People called her Old Aggie and it was rumored that she was a witch. Franklin asks where she got her necklace, and she says she found it. He says that he hopes that it can keep her safe from harm, and she’s certain he’s in love with her just as she is with him.

At dinner that night Franklin continues to charm the Fiers. They ask him what happened to his family, and he tells them that they all died one by one, though no one could figure out why. He said that no one would take him in lest he be a carrier for a mysterious illness, and that he’s worried that the curse will strike him dead too. Elizabeth feels so bad for him, but notices that Kate, too, is looking at him with pity. Which makes her SUPER jealous. In the parlor Elizabeth asks Kate what her deal is, and Kate says that she likes Franklin like everyone else, and so what? Franklin watches the awkward exchange and is happy his plan is working.

The next day Franklin and Elizabeth go for a walk, and they sit down at the same place that she brought him to from her childhood. He tugs the ribbon out of her hair, and she is excited to see what he’s going to do. She isn’t at all suspicious when he loops it around her neck. In FACT, she’s excited to see what he’ll do next because this is clearly normal courting behavior! He’s about the strangle her, but then Old Aggie hobbles out of the woods. Elizabeth panics and jumps up, foiling Franklin’s plan and dragging him out of the woods and back towards home. She apologizes for ruining their perfect(!!!!) afternoon, and he says nothing. They go inside and find Kate cooking some soup. When she sees them (and Elizabeth’s hair rumpled and UNDONE), she runs out of the kitchen. Elizabeth thinks that’s odd, but Franklin says she’s probably fine.

A few weeks later Elizabeth is waiting for Franklin to come find her, and decides to work on her knitting to pass the time. She hears the door thinking it’s Franklin, but instead it’s Kate. And she has interesting news. She and Franklin are getting married!!! The entire family gathers in the parlor to hear the good news, but then Elizabeth starts screaming that SHE loves Franklin and he loves her, and that Kate stole him from her! Kate is confused, and Elizabeth runs out of the house determined to find Franklin. Kate follows after her. Mr. and Mrs. Fier tell Simon to follow and see what is going on. He goes into the woods and hears his sisters voices, but then hears a horrible scream. He runs to the clearing where they used to play, and finds something horrible: Kate is sprawled on one of the big rocks, and she’s dead, with a knitting needle in her heart!

In the parlor Elizabeth is muttering to herself that Kate was a liar and that Franklin loves her, but when her parents look at her in abject horror she is like “WHY DO YOU THINK I DID THIS?!” Well, maybe because you’re more concerned about Franklin being your boyfriend rather than your sister being found murdered with YOUR KNITTING? When she and Franklin are alone he tells her that HE believes her, and knows that Kate must have killed herself because she was obviously unstable. After all, he NEVER said that he wanted to marry her, Kate was deluded, and he and Elizabeth should elope straight away. She says that she’d love to marry him! Franklin thinks about how he killed Kate, and how this is all going according to plan.

Simon has to get away from his grieving parents and his batty younger sister, so he goes for a walk in the woods. He finds himself back at the scene of the crime, and thinks about the evil that killed his sister. He also muses that there is evil inside of him as well, he feels it, and clunky exposition much? Someone grabs his arm, and he turns around and it’s Aggie. She takes his hand and tells him that Franklin Goode killed Kate and is going to kill Elizabeth. She says that ‘fire’ is in the Fier name, and that is how they’ll all come to an end, and ALSO tells him about the curse that the Goodes cast because of the Fier’s evil deeds. She gives him a dagger with a poison tip and tells him that this will stop Franklin, but to be careful as it only works once. He says that he will be, and runs back home.

And when he gets home it’s a mess. Franklin has murdered Mr. and Mrs. Fier with an axe and he’s threatening Elizabeth! He tells Simon that he’s the last of the Goodes and he’s going to destroy the Fiers. They start to scuffle, and even though Simon does stab Franklin with the dagger it doesn’t seem to work. Franklin is about to hack Elizabeth, but then the poison DOES work after all and he falls down dead. Simon and Elizabeth hug, but instead of being like ‘whoa, that guy was totally nuts but that’s behind us’, Simon starts to think about how goodness never did anyone any good and that being evil is the way to go. Elizabeth gives him the silver amulet and says that it must have protected her, and that he should have it so that HE can have the power. HOW ARE YOU COMING TO THESE CONCLUSIONS?! WHY DO YOU THINK HE DESERVES ANY POWER MORE THAN YOU DO?! Simon vows that he won’t let his family die in flames, and that obviously to break that prophecy is to change his name. The Goodes are dead, the curse (that he JUST learned about not twenty minutes before and has no reason to think is real) has lifted, and he’s going to change his name to FEAR.

And Nora tells us that, given that she’s a Goode, the story is far from over. TO BE CONTINUED.

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How will this all end?!?!?! (source)

Body Count: 8! And along with that an entire town of people!

Romance Rating: I GUESS I’m going to give it a 5, since Delilah did love Jonathan, even if she lied to him and was complicit in his mother’s death. Until her father manipulated her they went well together.

Bonkers Rating: 7. Not as crazy as “The Betrayal”, but that murder spree at the end and murderous child ghosts showed just how over the top it could be.

Fear Street Relevance: 10 again! We’re getting all the dish on the Fear family, after all!

Silliest End of Chapter Cliffhanger:

“I will become your sisters’ only hope. Then I will watch them die, one by one. Frank slid his queen across the board. ‘Checkmate,’ he said, grinning.”

Oh, a chess metaphor, HOW ORIGINAL.

That’s So Dated! Moments: Again, as this is historical fiction that doesn’t really apply.

Best Quote:

“”The letters in your name – they can be rearranged to spell ‘fire’. Fier. Fire. Fier. Fire.'”

Yeah, we, uh, we get it.

Conclusion: “The Secret” was a little more haphazard than “The Betrayal”, but overall it bridged the time periods well, as the final book will no doubt cover Simon Fear and all of his bullshit. Cannot WAIT to see how that goes. Up next for our very final “Fear Street” book (for the foreseeable future) is “The Burning! 

A Revisit to Fear Street: “The Betrayal”

182597Book: “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.

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I mean for her sake it better be this. HE MAY BE YOUR ONLY HOPE IN THIS SOCIETY, SUSANNAH!! (source)

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!

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We aren’t surprised, but we’re still filled with hate for this guy. (source)

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!!!

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FUCK ‘EM UP, WILLIAM!!! (source)

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!

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Now THIS is vengeance!!! (source)

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…

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Not bad! (source)

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.

Best Quote:

“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”!