Fear Street Sagas #2 – House of Whispers

1

The Cover

house-of-whispers

I kind of adore the cover (pulled from the Simon and Schuster website). I mean, the girl falling out the window is hella goofy, but the girl in the foreground is spooky, serious, and while it’s clearly meant to be Amy, there’s a danger to her. I also adore the title, though it has very little to do with the actual book. All in all, still a good cover.

Tagline

You will never be allowed to leave.

Again, standard, but still pretty good. Creates a sense of danger without doing very much at all.

Summary

Amy Pierce is the protagonist of this story, and we’re back in 1863. Amy’s traveling to New Orleans for the first time to live with her cousin Angelica, now Fear, for reasons. We’re told Simon is off to help in the war effort, that being the Civil War, and since all of our characters are from the South, there are many mentions of them being suspicious of the Union. People suspect Simon of selling supplies to whichever side that pays, and Amy finds it hard to believe he’d support the North. This is only mildly uncomfortable for the few times its mentioned.

Of course the Fear children are still alive. I will admit, though this probably makes the continuity all kinds of wacky, I was super disappointed in the original Fear Saga when we jump from Angelica and Simon getting together to Angelica being insane and her family falling apart. In this we get to see a lot more of Angelica, and we also get to see a lot more of the children, the girls especially, though I feel like their dynamic is slightly altered. I was re-reading my own recap of The Burning to remind myself what happened, and I did feel slightly denied of any actual interaction with Angelica. It makes this story kind of refreshing, especially since Simon is ushered out.

Anyway, Amy arrives to town, the villages warn her not to go up to the castle, Angelica greets her warmly but also in kind of a creepy way, and Amy makes nice nice with the servants. Amy’s family is stated to be poor, and she’s a little uncomfortable having Nellie make up her things and dress her. I guess she and Nellie are the same age, but Nellie’s given no actual description in this book, so I had a hard time with that. It’s only important because they bond and then Nellie dies (spoilers).

The girls are off to bed, but Julia comes by to warn Amy. As you remember, Julia is the un-favorite daughter, who makes pottery and isn’t very pretty, and she tells Amy that she should shut her door at night and lock it, because a thing made of black smoke and many faces walks the hallways at night consuming people. Before she drops that, she and Amy bond a little, and Amy gives her a silver bracelet, claiming it’s good luck. Still, Amy’s freaked out, and when she lays down she does hear crying outside her door, to which she opens it. There’s no one there, and she goes back to sleep.

The next day Amy finds Angelica in her library, and Angelica’s playing with tarot cards. She tells Amy to ask about her father, and she shows her how to use the deck. Amy feels a physical reaction to this, and she realizes she knows exactly how to read the cards despite never seeing them before. Angelica tells her that in the Pierce family, one or two women of each generation are born with an innate power. She tells her it’s a gift, and offers to teach her of the power, which is honestly really interesting, especially since we know Angelica was practicing magic before she ever met Simon. But Amy’s too scared, and she runs off, finding the children instead. They play a game of hide and seek, and Amy runs across the neighbors, who live behind a white garden fence. She sees a woman screaming in the yard, a snake coming at her. Amy cuts its fucking head off, spraying snake blood all over her, and helps the old woman up.

The woman is Claire Hathaway, and her son David comes out to help. Amy and David have a moment until Angelica comes running in. She pulls Amy away, and Amy sees David’s anger at that. Nellie comes in to help Amy change out of her clothes and starts to warn her about David Hathaway. I was waiting for the shoe to drop that David and Angelica had an affair, or that he and Nellie did, making Angelica jealous, but Angelica’s animosity towards him is never really explained, and what Nellie tries to warn her about is left a mystery. He does have a temper, but for a Fear Street love interest it’s like a normal human temper, especially since he’s hinted at suffering from PTSD. Anyway, Angelica warns Amy that David killed in war and will likely kill again.

Amy seems undeterred by any of this, and when Claire Hathaway invites her over to thank her for saving her life, she accepts. David is there as well, and at first he seems standoffish and and avoids her gaze, but she realizes he’s scarred on his face and turns his head to hide it from her. She tells him she doesn’t mind, and the eyepatch gives him a “rakish” look. He seems pleased that she doesn’t hold her tongue. He walks her back to the house, and they have a moment until they see Nellie plummeting from the third story of the Fear home.

Like The Burning, the descriptions in this book get practically gruesome. Amy runs up to Nellie and sees her eyes were shoved “deep into her skull” and white bone is exposed in her hair. Angelica runs to the rescue again, and she orders David to take Amy inside. Amy looks back and sees Angelica dabbing Nellie’s eyes with her handkerchief, which she pockets. David tries to explain to the children what happened, and Amy runs up the stairs to the study. She finds the tarot cards and feels compelled to use them. What happens next is a cliche, but the effect its used to is actually fairly well done. Amy removes the first card, and it’s Death, of course, why put a tarot deck in here if you aren’t going to use the Death card. But she pulls the second, and it’s also Death. Hands shaking, she flips the third. And its’ Death.

Things seem to calm down in the week following Nellie’s death. The family is going to a ball, and Angelica dresses up Amy, putting rosebuds in her hair. It’s hard to tell how much Angelica is grooming her, but she also puts down Amy easily, reminding Hannah that she’s prettier than her. They go to the Harvest Ball where they see David dancing with Bernice Sutherland, and Angelica’s friend Chantal Duvane comes up to speak with her. They gossip about David, and again, they sort of hint that he might be something of a playboy, or possible he’s just the most eligible bachelor in New Orleans at the moment, and every woman wants a piece. They’re all surprised when David comes up and asks Amy to dance. Angelica’s salty about it, clearly.

The song is over, and David offers to get her something to drink. Amy watches as he goes to the drink table, and then Bernice leads him away. She becomes upset, until someone screams fire, and they see Bernice running through the crowd aflame. We watch Bernice melt as Amy tries to save her, and then David saves Amy as the building crashes around her. As they run away, Amy thinks she sees flames leaping out of Angelica’s eyes, but when she looks again, her face is normal. Amy realizes she turned the Death card up three times, meaning there is one more death waiting.

David comes to comfort Amy and kisses her right after they watched a woman burn alive. Romantic. He says he’s leaving for a few days, but to meet him at the fish pond. She agrees.We then cut to her waiting at said fish pond, and David does not arrive. Instead of seeing him, she has a vision in the pond. She sees Chantal drowning. She also sees David pulling her down into the depths. Amy tries to put the vision out of her mind, but the next day, she finds Chantal in the lake, her eyes eaten out by fish. And again, she sees Angelica taking blood from the body.

Amy becomes convinced David is the killer, since all three of the women had a connection to him, and the vision showed him drowning Chantal. Amy goes again to the tarot cards to find another vision, but she feels a force stopping her, freezing her in place. She remembers what Angelica said, that the power is hers, and she breaks free. She turns over the card which I think is the High Priestess. She is then given another vision of Chantal drowning, this time existing in the vision as Chantal. Then Chantal changes to Mrs. Hathaway, and Amy realizes she’ll be the next do die.

Amy runs to the Hathaway house in the middle of the night and sees Mrs. Hathaway standing on top of the long staircase, David behind her. She screams at her to stop, sees David reach out to her, and then pull her back. David tells her she was sleepwalking, and she would’ve died down falling down the stairs if not for Amy’s arrival. They ask Amy why she’s there. Amy tells the truth. She tells them about the cards, about Angelica, about her powers, and David asks if Angelica could be the killer. Amy tells them to pretend nothing has changed, that she’ll wait for her parents to send for her, to keep Angelica’s wrath off them. David walks her back and tells her he’s in love with her. He gives her his mother’s ring. They embrace one more time, and when Amy returns to the house, Angelica is waiting for her.

Amy is sent to her room, where Julia finds her and gives her something. It’s a burnt letter. Amy’s parents have sent for her, but Angelica has been burning their letters. She’s both angry and relieved, and she considers going to David to tell him, when she sees him and Angelica arguing. Again, I was waiting for the shoe to drop that they were lovers or something, but they just have an intense argument, and he leaves. She sees Angelica do some kind of spell that summons an invisible monster. She takes out the handkerchiefs dotted with blood, and it confirms that she’s evil.

Amy manages to meet with David, warning him not to come into the garden or come to the house at night. They discuss leaving and going to her parents, and she tells him Angelica is too powerful. As she returns to the house, Angelica is waiting for her and claims they are celebrating All Hallow’s Eve. Amy is instantly suspicious, as the house is empty, including the servants and children. She makes an excuse to leave and goes to the tarot deck one more time, and every card she turns over is Death. Angelica catches her and summons her monster, the spirit made of black smoke and many faces. Angelica admits her anger over Amy’s affair with David is because she was saving David for Hannah, who would then inherit the Hathaway fortune. She killed all those women who were interested in David, or who were trying to warn Amy. The monster is set on Amy, and the black pillar absorbs her.

Amid the smoke monster, Amy sees the faces are people she knows, Chantal and Nellie and the other people Angelica killed. The faces lick her, which is super weird and creepy, and try to tear her skin off. But Amy taps into that Pierce power and sends them all away in a column of flames, knocking Angelica back. She runs, straight into David, who’s possessed by Angelica and drags her back inside. Angelica tells him to bring her to me, she says no David I love you, he breaks free. He pulls out his revolver and shoots Angelica, and they run, grabbing his mother, getting in a carriage, and get the fuck out. They see Angelica, alive and unharmed, and Amy wishes she could’ve taken Julia with her, but they say they can never go back, and they can only hope to be safe. They swear to never speak the Fear name again, and presumably go off to live happily ever after.

Favorite Line

“You have freckles,” he said.

She covered her nose with her hand. “I hate them.”

“I like freckles.”

Fear Street Trends Anachronisms

I have a lot more to talk about on this one. I mostly want to talk on the strange “All Hallow’s Eve” point at the end. It’s used to seem witchy, an old-timey way to see Halloween, but the truth is All Hallow’s Eve is a religious holiday. I talked about all this over at my old west supernatural serial, discussing specifically when Halloween and its celebration as it grew in America, and I’ll sum it up like this. It’s doubtful before the 1870s that Hallowmas would’ve been “celebrated” except with solemnity and contemplation unless the family was Irish. Pierce could be an Irish surname, but we’re not given the trappings of an Irish celebration. And honestly if this were the 1880s and set in a Victorian Halloween, I’d actually enjoy that, thanks to the Victorians loving to make everything about romance, but it’s just a few decades too early to get away with it.

I will say the Civil War stuff seems to be on track, if, like me, Stine or his ghostwriter had only read the Wikipedia page for this sort of thing. It is weird reading a book where all of the characters fully believe the subjugation of an entire race of people, but Gone With the Wind is a lot of people’s favorite epic romance, and that does a lot more preaching towards the beauty of pre-Reconstruction south that people are totally willing to let slide.

Rating

I was honestly surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. It wasn’t great, but as a reprieve from the usual straight line we have to take to get the full Fear story, it was nice. I did feel in the original saga that Angelic was denied an actual interesting story, and it was nice to see her evil while free of Simon. It muddles the continuity, sure, but it was an interesting story that was genuinely disturbing in some places. Four exposed skull spirits out of five.

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Fear Street Superchiller -Broken Hearts

0

The Cover

broken-hearts

The cover (pulled from its Goodreads) is really good. I like the high school setting of the pictures taped up in a locker with the blood valentine. The girl leaning away from it looks good too, though I wish she had a hand over her mouth or something. The only real issue I have is the placement of the tagline, which is kind of forced into the only blank space it can find.

Tagline

Valentine’s Day can be a killer.

 I don’t love it or hate it. It functions, which is more than can be said for a number of the Fear Street taglines. I do appreciate the double meaning to it.

Summary

Erica McClain is in the backseat of Melissa Davis’ blue Firebird with her two sisters, twins Josie and Rachel McClain. They’re on their way to go horseback riding, and Erica’s excited to be invited along. She’ll enter high school after the summer, while her older sisters and Melissa are already part of the scene. The girls set up their romantic relationships so you’ll be surprised when they change after the timeskip. Josie’s dating a guy named Jenkman, though she mentions being bored of him already. Josie’s established going through boys like tissue paper. Rachels’ with her boyfriend Luke, who she’s been dating since they were freshman, and Melissa goes out with Dave, one of the boys Josie dated and dropped.

They arrive and get on their horses, but Erica gets too nervous. She tells them she has an upset stomach, and the girls tease her. Rachel rides out without a helmet on, which is not foreshadowing or anything. They ride out, chatting about school and boys and each other, when Rachel loses control of her horse. It runs forward, until a dog runs in their path, spooking the horse, and Rachel is thrown. Josie screams that she landed on her head, and then it’s smash cut to February.

Melissa wakes up from a nightmare where she’s the one falling from a horse. Her mom wakes her and they talk about the accident. Melissa mentions she doesn’t talk to Josie anymore, but she tries to see Rachel, who is left addled by the accident. Melissa admits Josie blames her for the accident, though she doesn’t specify why.

Josie is in the middle of a snowball fight with her boyfriend Steve. They walk into her house, where they’re greeted by Muggy, Josie’s dog. Josie’s surprised that she still likes Steve after going out with him for five months, and as they makeout in the front hall, she sees a valentine for her. When she opens it, she finds a death threat instead. Steve thinks it’s just a joke, but it freaks her out. She assumes her ex Jenkman did it, since he’s never gotten over her. They start kissing again, and in true Shadyside fashion, a pair of hands reach out and start choking Josie. It’s Rachel, playing a joke, but at least she has brain damage to excuse her behavior. Erica’s not far behind, nor is Luke, who’s been loyal to Rachel even after she’s lost some brain function. Erica asks Josie to look after their sister while she studies, and Josie blows her off, causing Erica to get really mad. Steve tries to help out, but Josie tells him to shut it, and Luke gets into it as well. Josie storms out.

Erica and Luke are super pissed that she’s not pulling her weight with Rachel, who can’t be left alone and they can’t afford care during the day. Luke starts growling about how he can’t believe Josie would abandon her own sister, especially because he blames her for the accident, since she fastened Rachel’s saddle, which is pretty meaningless when a horse is bucking. Erica thinks that Luke might’ve sent the valentine.

Erica finds Josie after school and tells her it’s her turn to take care of Rachel, since she has play tryouts after school. Josie brushes her off and Jenkman, who chases after her to say hi. He gets mad when she ignores him and curses at her. Erica shouts at Josie that it’s her fault Rachel is this way and immediately regrets it. Josie doesn’t respond, because she’s hit in the back of the head by a snowball. She sees Melissa and Dave and shouts at them, then storms off, leaving Erica with Rachel.

Melissa tells Dave to stop being a jerk, and he says he hates Josie. Melissa says Luke told her Josie doesn’t take care of Rachel anymore, and Dave calls her out for dumping people, including Melissa and her own sister. They watch Jenkman break some windows and discuss all the people that hate Josie.

Josie comes home, her mom gone, her dad out of town, her sisters upstairs. Luke’s waiting for her and calls her out for refusing to take care of her own sister. She gets mad at him for the lecture, shouts at him for acting like her dad, and tells him he’s not even part of this family. He lunges at her with a letter opener and slams it into the table instead. He kind of acts momentarily like he has no control, screaming no and whispering, “Almost.” For half a page I was wondering if this was going to turn into a weird Jekyll and Hyde thing, but the second a character is presented as an obvious murderer, I stop suspecting them, especially this early in the book. Erica calls them on the intercom and asks Josie to come up, and she tells her maybe later. She then finds another threatening valentine.

Josie’s woken up in the middle of the night by Rachel on the intercom, and she goes to check on her. Rachel is fast asleep. It happens a few more times, and then she thinks she hears breathing on the intercom and can’t sleep. Erica’s taking care of Rachel the next day, and Rachel wonders if Josie doesn’t like her anymore, then shouts that she hates Josie. The phone rings, and Erica picks it up. Jenkman on the other end asks if Josie got his valentines, to Erica’s shock.

Melissa and Dave go in for a math exam. Dave’s really worried about it, since he’s doing bad in math, and he’ll be kicked off the wrestling team if he doesn’t pass his classes. Melissa tries to reassure him while Josie brushes past to her seat. During the test, Josie gets up and whispers to the teacher that Dave is cheating off her test. Melissa overhears and realizes how much trouble Dave’ll be in, which comes to pass at the end of clas. He comes out of the room swearing because now he’s got a zero on the test, which is half his grade. He physically grabs Josie and shouts at her, who shouts back that he was leaning all over her to cheat. He slams a locker and storms off.

Josie meets up with Steve, too tired because Rachel calls her all night, unable to go home because Erica and Luke will be waiting for her, scared because of these threats. She admits to Steve that she can’t look at Rachel because she feels so guilty, and Rachel will always be like a child now, who needs the help of her family, and she feels as helpless as her sister. She’s mad because Erica makes it worse, always trying to guilt her. She loves her twin sister, but she can’t stand to see what happened to her. She shows him another valentine, and Steve wonders aloud if Jenkman is the one sending them. For a moment, she think she sees someone watching them from the food stand, and she asks if they can leave.

Josie’s dropped off at home, and as she walks in, she sees a dark red puddle on the ground. At first she tells herself  it’s cranberry juice, but as she sees the shape on the floor, she recognizes Muggy, stabbed to death with a letter opener. Erica comes down when she hears her scream, as does their mom, who calls the police. Rachel sees the dog and starts smiling and laughing. Melissa sees this from across the street after letting in Dave, who’s still complaining about Josie. They see the police pull up, and two officers walk in.

Josie tells Erica she knows who did it. She blames Jenkman. Erica lets her know Jenkman explained that Jenkman’s been sending her romantic valentines because he’s never gotten over her. Erica thinks it might be Luke who’s doing this, but Josie calls him a wimp, despite the fact that he nearly stabbed her the other day. They go put Rachel to bed, and Rachel sings that, “Somebody hates you, Josie.”

There’s some more red herrings, but Valentines Day arrives. Steve takes Josie to the ice skating rink. Rachel’s still singing that somebody hates Josie, and Josie blows her and Erica off, but not before seeing Luke sitting alone in his car in front of Melissa’s house. They leave, Josie clearly in a bad mood. We then cut to Erica waking up at 2am to find that Josie isn’t home yet. She calls Steve, who tells her he left Jose hours ago, after they had a big fight, and she left with a bunch of friends. She’s interrupted by a knock at the door and opens it to find the two policemen. They get her mom, and they let them both know that Josie’s been murdered. Rachel seems pleased about this.

The next day, Melissa gets a call from Dave, asking her to meet him. They go to the Corner, and he confesses that he’s the one who sent Josie those valentines. He was angry at Josie for ruining his life, and Melissa is appropriately horrified by this. She asks the obvious question: Did you kill Josie? Dave insists he didn’t, but his writing is all over those valentines cards that the police are definitely going to find. She asks him where he was last night, and he says he was cruising around after ten, to which Melissa replies he has no alibi. They try to figure out if she kept them, and Melissa says Erica hasn’t talked to the police, that she’s in a state of shock. Dave says they’ll be at the funeral tomorrow, and he’ll have to break in and take the valentines, which would definitely not be a super suspicious move. I don’t know why Melissa doesn’t offer to go and try to find them under the guise of reconnecting with her grieving friends, but then the rest of the book wouldn’t happen.

Dave breaks in, and it goes about as well as expected. He thinks he hears breathing in the intercom system, and when he goes downstairs, he sees blood everywhere, right as the police bust in. Erica’s been stabbed, and he’s caught holding the weapon.

Smash cut to a year later. Melissa and Luke are now dating, and she tells him she got a letter from Dave. It turns out Erica didn’t press charges, since she never saw who stabbed her, but he got shipped off to some boarding school because the whole school suspected him of murder. Luke invites her to the skating party on Valentines Day as Melissa picks up a valentine meant for her, one with the same writing and mean stanza as the valentines that threatened Josie.

Erica’s brushing Rachel’s hair, and Rachel flips out because Luke won’t becoming this year. She screams that she hates Melissa, and Erica tries to calm her down. The phone rings, and it’s Steve. Steve calls to ask Erica if she wants to go to the skating party with him as, you know, like a date, which is a super weird thing Steve you were dating her sister who also died tragically so like. Don’t. Erica tells him she can’t. She has to take care of Rachel. She returns to Rachel, feeling crummy, only to find Rachel’s run out of the house. She finds her, but she’s disturbed to learn Rachel’s been leaving on her own lately.

Melissa gets more cards and is still freaking out. She and Luke compare the handwriting to Dave’s, but in the middle of it, she gets a phone call from Dave’s mom saying he broke out of his boarding school and might be coming here. He’s coming for Melissa.

Melissa goes to sleep and hears someone at her window. A shadowy figure breaks in, and it’s Dave, here to clear his name. He’s pretty cavalier about it. He’s making jokes and treating it not very seriously when one of their friends died. He claims to know who the real killer is, and she shows him the valentines that she’s been receiving. He looks at them, sees that they match his handwriting, and he says he knows who the killer is without telling Melissa, and hops back out the window.

Some other stuff happens. Rachel keeps saying she can go outside by herself. Melissa thinks she sees Rachel outside her window. Dave is killed in Melissa’s driveway, and Rachel’s questioned by the police. Melissa finds red paint in her locker spelling out YOU’RE DEAD. Melissa and Luke go to the ice skating party and skate together. Luke drags her out onto some thin ice, and she has a panic attack, thinking he might be trying to murder her. They fight, and she tells him to skate away. A hooded figure with red hair skates towards her, and at first she thinks it’s Rachel. A knife is plunged into her side, she grabs at the figure, pulling off the red wig, and it’s not Rachel, it’s Erica!

Of course Erica is mad Josie never took responsibility for Rachel, ruining Erica’s life in the process, and she took the opportunity Dave’s valentines provided to kill Josie. She copied Dave’s handwriting and bla bla bla. They both go into the thin ice and are dragged into the water. Luke manages to pull Melissa out. Erica is trapped beneath the ice, and the whole party watches her drown.

Melissa goes to visit Rachel, and she and Luke promise to never celebrate Valentines Day ever again. It’s a happy ending after all.

Favorite Line

Why do people want to kill people on Valentine’s Day?

Fear Street Trends

David Metcalfe and Corey Brooks make appearances as Steve’s friends on the wrestling team. Despite being a book about dating, not too many outfits are described, and no music is listed at the party. A shame. I wanted to know which hip dance crazes these kids were doing, though, to be fair, at the last ice skating party I read in these books, the kids just listened to Christmas music.

Rating

I’ll admit, this book wasn’t exactly what I expected. It was pretty easy to guess who the killer before we even hit the halfway point, but there were lots of things I liked. Rachel was probably the best red herring in the book, and Josie being unable to deal with her guilt and grief comes off as fairly genuine. It’s not my favorite, but I’m still willing to give it three red wigs out of five.