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.
You will never be allowed to leave.
Again, standard, but still pretty good. Creates a sense of danger without doing very much at all.
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.
“You have freckles,” he said.
She covered her nose with her hand. “I hate them.”
“I like freckles.”
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.
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.