Recap #80: Fear Street Saga #9: Heart of the Hunter by R. L. Stine
Title: Fear Street Sagas #9: Heart of the Hunter by R. L. Stine
Summary: A medicine woman tells Jamie Fier the love potion she gave him will cost him. Now Jamie finds himself transforming into a wolf—and if his true love sees him in this form, he will remain a wolf forever.
Tagline: The full moon summons the beast.
Wing and the Werewolf, a Story in Three Acts
Act 1: Wing discovers a werewolf book by Stine. Immediately buys a copy because WEREWOLVES! STINE! FEUD! JOY! HATE! LOVE! LOATHING! THAT COVER! THAT TAGLINE! SO EXCITED!
Act 2: Wing reads the back of the book. Wing rereads. Wing reads yet a third time. Ooooohhhhh nooooooo.
Act 3: WHAT THE EVER LOVING FUCK, STINE.
[Wing: Now updated with comments from recapper Jude.]
(Jude: HEY! HEY EVERYONE! LOOK OVER HERE EVERYONE I’M COMMENTING FOR THE FIRST TIME! The Fear Street Sagas were admittedly my favorites of all the Fear Street spin-offs. I enjoy historical fiction and cheesy, gothic romance and horror so these were right up my alley. I’m still hoping to somehow find more information on the two Sagas which never got released, “The Raven Woman” and Carousel of Doom.” I hope to do Wing as much justice for her post as she’s done for mine. BTW, this one was ghostwritten by Eric Weiner, who also wrote “Door of Death.”)
[Wing: Aww, thanks. And wait, there are supposed to be two more sagas? Those titles have me intrigued.]
Stine kicks this book off with a great start! The chapter title reads “Behind the Iron Bars” in dramatic bold letters, and the first word of the actual text is “Caged!” If this ends up being the high point of the book, I am going to set things on fire.
Anyway, an unnamed “he” who I am going to assume is Jamie tries to escape the cage, but he can’t slip through bars, can’t bend them, can’t make the cage move. He is desperate to run and he feels betrayed by the full moon that once guided him through the darkness. If this wasn’t a clear setup for the rest of the book being a god damn flashback to what brought him this far, I might love this scene, because it is delightful and creepy and werewolfy. AND YET.
SURE ENOUGH, chapter one opens in the Kentucky wilderness in 1792, with seventeen-year-old Jamie Fier sitting in a wagon on his way from Virginia through the Cumberland Gap to Kentucky. Jamie is excited that soon they will have left Virginia far behind, but per the setting tag, you are already out of Virginia. Someone needs to get their shit together.
Again, this part is pretty great. Jamie is young and chafing at being held to such a slow pace as the wagon train is taking. He wants to go faster, he wants to get out of the woods and the mountains. The description is fun:
The narrow road sliced through the mountains like a blackened tongue. He felt as though he were riding into the mouth of a beast. The tall pine trees looked like long, sharp teeth. He knew the hungry wilderness could swallow them all.
Not only is this amazing, but it sort of sounds like a paragraph I might write. I’ve never read this book before, but now I am slightly terrified that somehow, over the years, Stine influenced my writing without me realising it. Crap.
Anyway, while Jamie was excited to leave on this trip, and so was his father, John, eager to strike it rich in the new, “unsettled frontier,” his mother, Dora Mae, did not want to go because it was too wild and too dangerous.
(Jude: Poor Dora Mae. You’re instantly screwed the minute you marry a man from the Fear/Fier Family.)
Oh, good, we’re going with colonialism, the destructive westward expansion, and savage natives. I’m sure Stine is going to handle everything just fine. JUST FINE. *weeps*
Even this far into the trip, Dora Mae is begging to return to Virginia, but John won’t be swayed. They were starving in Virginia; he blames the Fier curse, and says even though he’s a good farmer, the curse killed their tobacco crops so they had nothing to sell and no money to buy food. He’s certain that they’ve left the curse behind, which is a far cry from what Jamie grew up hearing, which was that the curse doomed all Fiers and no one could escape it. So which is it, John?
(Jude: Seriously John, if you can’t make up your mind about whether or not your family is still horribly cursed you have no right dragging them across the country.)
Jamie wonders that, too, and then decides that he’s not going to believe in the curse. The crops failed because there was bad soil, too much sun, not enough rain, and if John had spent as much time working the fields as he did worrying about the curse, their crops would have been fine. I’m not real sure that’s actually how farming works, Jamie, but sure. Let’s go with that.
He then spends some time daydreaming about Laura Goode, whose family is in the wagon in front of them that day. Most days, because Jamie always tries to end up behind them so he can catch a glimpse of her. Stalking, Wagon Train Style. Good times. He sees a flash of blonde hair, but it is only Amanda, Laura’s younger sister. (Jamie: 17, Laura: 16, Amanda: 15.) Amanda is, apparently, in love with him and will not take a hint. Jamie just hopes that Laura doesn’t think he likes Amanda, though what he’s really worried about is that his father and her father, Lucien, hate each other.
John hates him because Lucien is a selfish, lazy liar who has slept through his turn on watch (dangerous! and obnoxious), and has refused to take the last wagon position when it is his turn (the last wagon is the most vulnerable). Once he even stole the Fiers’ portion of fresh meat.
(Jude: It was so weird realizing the Goode Family was involved in this. By the time I acquired my copy of this book I’d gotten used to the lack of appearances by them, even though the Fear/Goode Feud was the basis of original Saga trilogy and two tie-ins in the Sagas series. This is the only time a Sagas book makes any further mention of the Feud beyond Simon Fear’s branch of the family. The Goode Sisters were the only characters besides Dora Mae I held any interest towards. You left out how Jamie describes, Laura’s eyes are ”Green as leaves” while Amanda’s are “Brown as mud.” Nice, Jamie.)
[Wing: I probably should have held off on reading this until I’d read those books, but werewolves. And Jamie’s biases are pretty clear, aren’t they.]
While Jamie thinks about all this (and, you know, conveniently dumps a ton of exposition on the reader, though if I’m being fair, it is not too terribly handled), there is a long, high-pitched howl from the trees. Jamie isn’t sure if it is a wolf or the Indians imitating animal cries.
(Amanda hears all this, too, and “her eyes had grown as round as full moons.” On the one hand, SUBTLE. On the other hand, it is the exact kind of unsubtle that I love in werewolf writing.)
Jamie’s not sure if Indians live in that part of Kentucky, and is terrified because he’s heard stories of them capturing settlers, taking them prisoner, using them as slaves. Oh god this is going to be so, so shitty. Even though he’s not sure if Indians live where they are traveling, he does know that the Shawnee don’t want settlers in Kentucky. Dude, none of the tribes should want any of you anywhere, considering all the shit white settlers did to the various tribes.
(Jude: And considering all the shit white people still do period.)
(This book is set toward the end of the Northwest Indian War, which did involve at least some of the Shawnee tribes, and I was wondering where that fit into this story, when I realised there’s no way Stine is going to work that into his book about a reluctant white werewolf dude.)
Jamie further freaks out because he hears something bump into the wagon. He checks the side nearest him, but nothing is there. Again he panics over how slow they’re traveling, because anyone (“anything”) could climb into the back of the wagon and they’d never know until it was too late.
He hears more thumps and bumps, this time from inside the wagon, which of course only feeds his terror. He turns to ask if John heard anything, when Amanda shrieks for him to look out, to look behind him (really, two different directives), and he turns to find a flintlock rifle aimed straight at his heart.
Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 1 (+1) (Cliffhanger endings of chapters for no reason other than to build false tension and piss me and Wing the hell off.)
Really, Stine? REALLY? CHAPTER ONE?
Werewolves or not, this is going to be a long book.
You will be surprised to learn that Dora Mae is the one holding the rifle on him, her hands shaky. At least until a second later, when John easily snatches it from her hands. Maybe be a little more careful with the touchy rifle there, John.
(Jude: The real horror about this book is the lack of gun control.)
Dora Mae claims she heard a wild animal, and she’s sobbing and terrified. She begs Jamie to help her convince John to take them back home. Jamie, though, forces his voice to sound firm and tells her he wants to settle in Kentucky. Devastated, Dora Mae says they’ll find nothing but sorrow in Kentucky, because John can’t escape the curse. It’s in his blood. It’s in Jamie’s blood.
If the Fier curse was werewolfism, I’d be way more into it.
John puts the rifle at their feet and says it is a good idea to keep it handy because the wolves sounded close. I’m sure that’s why you want to keep it to hand and not in the back, and certainly not because you no longer trust your wife.
Jamie asks his dad if it was maybe Indians instead of wolves, but John dismisses this because Indians won’t attack that many people.
Their conversation changes because the wagon train is pulling off the trail. John warns him to stay close to the Goodes’ wagon, and goes off on a rant about how much he hates Lucien. Same old, same old, except we do learn that the Goodes are running low on water, and John thinks Lucien is eyeing theirs. He also thinks it was a good idea that Dora Mae got the rifle ready. You certainly didn’t think that thirty seconds ago, JOHN!
(Jude: Newsflash. Local White Father can’t make up his mind. Ruins everything.)
The wagons form a circle in a small clearing. Jamie gets the wagon into position and then convinces Dora Mae to come out and prepare dinner. She doesn’t like the new land, it has too many shadows; Jamie promises that once they reach the valley, the shadows will disappear. FIRST, JAMIE, that is not actually how mountains and valleys work. Second, that sounds like dramatic foreshadowing, and, y’all, I love it. Damn it, Stine.
Dora Mae doesn’t get to cook, though, because John is rationing their food very strictly, and says they are only having crackers. Jamie helps him take care of the horses, envious of how much the horses get to eat, but he knows they have to be fed. (He’s not wrong. If the horses die, they die, pretty much.)
Amanda rushes up to him, demanding to know why he didn’t wave at her when she waved to him. He tells her he thought she was just shooing flies. She does not take the hint. This will continue to happen throughout the book. She chatters on about his mother, he says Dora Mae heard wolves, Amanda admits she thought they were Indians, and then goes off into a story she heard from their “Indian servant” because, yes, we’re going there.
She talks and talks about it, but Jamie tunes her out. I’m sure he will never in all his life need the information he could have picked up from her right then, and certainly not in the near future.
Jamie tries to get her to leave him alone so he can do his chores, but she wants to help because she has nothing to do that night. She tells him that her father is worried the journey is cursed, they’re running low on food, he’s afraid they’ll never reach the settlement, and all of this could be really stressful and terrifying, but Jamie is so dismissive of her it’s hard to care what happens to any of them at this point.
Amanda is just saying that they’re so low on food that Laura might have to boil dirty socks to make a stew (gross, and also, leave the disgusting recipes to the Graveyard School, Stine) when Laura calls her away to cook supper because Laura’s not feeling well enough to do so. She gets just awful headaches and really must lie down.
(Jude: Not even Dr. Morthouse would approve Sock Stew! …anymore.)
[Wing: I just gagged a little at the thought.]
Jamie wants to help Laura back to her wagon, but is too shy to offer; instead, he asks Amanda if she’s really sick. Amanda says that she’s delicate and tires easily, and tells him a story about Laura fainting at dinner and landing with her face in a bowl of soup. Is she a fucking Sim now?
There’s a great shouting from the wagons, and they race back to camp; Jamie is certain the scout returned. NOPE. It’s just a fight in front of the giant fire that burns in the center of the circle of wagons. Lucien is agitating everything by claiming that the scout has been gone too long and is certainly dead. There is no food, there is scarce game, and they have to take drastic action if they want to reach the settlement alive.
That action? Turning on the Fiers who have tainted them all with the curse.
Lucien shouts that they should take the Fiers’ food and leave them and their curse behind, leave them to die. Dramatic, Lucien.
Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 2 (+1)
The crowd (mostly unnamed, because really, they don’t matter individually; they are literally only here to create an angry mob) shouts about how John won’t share their food, how they’ve heard him talk about the Fier family curse, and on and on. Jamie argues with them, but before he can make it very far, John takes out the rifle and threatens Lucien with it. That’s certainly going to calm the raging beast of an angry mob.
(Jude: You know John maybe if you’d have shut the fuck up about that stupid curse instead of ranting about to everyone within earshot the others MIGHT, they MIGHT, not think you’re cursed. But, whevs, you do as you like.)
[Wing: That is a very good point.]
Jamie, too, knows this is a bad idea, but when he tries to reason with his father, John’s eyes “glittered savagely.” Stine, I’m enjoying this metaphor quite a bit (that the potential of a hungry beast lurks within us all), even though I’m still braced for how badly this book is going to veer off the rails based on that summary.
Jamie continues to try to talk everyone down and convince them that the wagonmaster is right and the scout will return soon, so the Fiers can afford to share some of their food to make sure the others survive. John is having none of that, and Lucien makes things worse by demanding half their food in order for them to be allowed to continue traveling with the wagon train. Jamie desperately wants his father to agree, because he is terrified of being left behind in the wilderness, but John holds firm.
The mob rushes John, Jamie tries to protect him but gets slammed into a wagon wheel (and concussed, though this one time, I’ll let it go, because I doubt they knew a lot about treating concussions back then), Amanda comes to check on him but he shoves her away, and, whoops, as Lucien and Jamie struggle over the rifle, they accidentally shoot Dora Mae. Except Stine doesn’t just show us that, he gives another fucking chapter ending cliffhanger. And this would actually be an appropriate place to use one, but he’s already blown his chance because he’s used them for every fucking chapter, pretty much.
Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 3 (+1)
This breaks John, who is absolutely devastated at his wife’s death. Literally the second after she dies in their arms, the scout gallops up to the camp because he’s found water less than half a day’s ride away. This is heartbreaking and actually great, because it is such a strong commentary on the dangers of mob justice and how groups can (and usually will) fall apart in desperate situations even when help (and hope) is such a short but unknown distance away.
The Fiers continue with the wagon train for awhile longer. John keeps talking to Dora Mae as if she’s still in the back of the wagon; he asks her questions and even waits as if he’s listening to her answers. This is both creepy and heartbreaking. Jamie, of course, thinks he’s gone insane, which seems like a very modern phrase for him to be using.
(Jude: What did they do with her body? Did they bury it in an unmarked grave somewhere in the valley before they left? God she couldn’t have the dignity of getting buried with a grave marker.)
[Wing: The way Lucien is pushing for them to keep moving, I guess she’s lucky she was buried at all.]
Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 1 (+1) (Essentially, “crazy” is a blanket term for a bad person with no qualms about killing anyone and everyone. Often because they are “crazy”. Because that’s how mental health works.)
Jamie is well and truly freaked out by his father, especially when John makes him say goodnight to Dora Mae each evening. He wants to shout that she’s dead, but doesn’t, because a son should honor and respect his father. This is quite sad, actually, even if I don’t think we’ve gotten to know the characters enough to really feel for them at this point.
He’s also worried because John is starting to talk to the rest of the wagon train as if Dora Mae is still alive, including inviting Lucien to come to dinner when she’s feeling better. Jamie understandably thinks it is a bad idea to give that kind of ammunition to their enemy, and has noticed that people are starting to keep their distance from the Fiers, and hinting that the Fiers shouldn’t be allowed in the circle of wagons.
Despite all his concerns about them being safer with the group, Jamie proceeds to wander off on his own into the woods in the middle of the night. What the ever loving fuck, Jamie. Stine, even barely knowing this character, I 0% believe that the Jamie you’ve been writing would willingly leave the (slight) safety of the wagon train to walk around by himself in the dark forest.
(Jude: The one way I could potentially justify this is because Jamie’s a bit overwhelmed by everything going on and might be piloting on automatic at the moment.)
Jamie freaks himself out, starts to hear things in the darkness around him (which is a perfectly normal and understandably response), and then a woman in white walks up to him calling his name. He assumes it is his mother. I hope she’s come to rip out his heart or something, even though we haven’t actually gotten to the werewolf part of this story.
Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 4 (+1)
Really, Stine? REALLY? We’re back to every fucking chapter ending like this?
It is, of course not the ghost of Dora Mae (nor a murderous woman in white); it is Amanda, wandering around in her long white nightgown, another thing I don’t believe she would actually do. She’s followed him because she remembers what it was like right after her mother died, how she could barely sleep; Jamie snaps that Dora Mae didn’t die, Lucien killed her. Amanda points out that John was the one who actually pulled the trigger. They’re both wrong and both right and both obnoxious, so I don’t know who I’m supposed to root for at this point.
She then diffuses their argument because she’s come to warn him. She overheard the men talking, and some of them believe in the Fier family curse and are worried that the curse will spread to them. Jamie scoffs at this, but deep inside, is actually worried. When Amanda says that some of the others want to leave him behind, his fear turns to rage that they want to leave them at the mercy of the wild animals and “savage Indians.” Period-appropriate, but super fucking shitty.
Might as well get this trope in now, because I’m sure it will continue to pop up.
Racism: business as usual: 100 (+100) (If you’re lucky enough to see a person of colour in any of these books, they’ll be stereotyped to the hilt.)
Going to start it off with 100 points just based on the premise and what we’ve seen so far.
Amanda goes on to tell him that the Indians aren’t savages, because she had a very kind Indian woman as a servant for awhile. Servant is stretching it, I bet, and also, I can’t imagine why someone having to rely on your family and be in such close proximity would pretend to be nice to the people who could destroy her at any moment. Amanda believes that the Shawnee would treat John with respect because of his age, and they surely wouldn’t hurt Jamie.
She’s also ashamed to admit that Lucien is one of the people trying to talk the others into leaving the Fiers behind. All the talk frightens her, because she doesn’t want to leave him behind, and she has a solution: if he marries her, Lucien will have to accept him. That’s not really how it works even now, Amanda.
Jamie shuts that shit down hard, and tells her she’s the last girl in the world he’d ever want to marry. Jesus, Jamie, she is trying to help. Maybe you and your dad need to chill on alienating potential allies before you really do get kicked out of this wagon train.
Amanda tells him that she knows he doesn’t love her, and that maybe he shouldn’t bother about love when this is a question of life and death. Which is a completely valid point, even though she’s going about it in a pretty shitty way in her own right.
The final nail to this is when Jamie asks about his father, but Amanda says she can’t save him, because if he really is cursed… Fucking hell, Amanda, how did you not see how badly that was going to go?
(Jude: Amanda, hon, that is not how seduction works. I know you’re a teenager, but you don’t insult the father of the guy you’re trying to marry when you know he’s super protective of him. That part where she’s all “It clears what choice you should make” sounded so condescending to me it feels more like she wants Jamie like an obedient pet or a… slave. Which, you know, considering her family had “Servants,” makes me wonder.)
Jamie tells her he hates her, her father, her entire family, Lucien is the reason his mother is dead, and he will never marry Amanda. Which actually, at this point, seems like a fair reaction, because after the first time, she’s come across as very nasty and manipulative.
Jamie then swears he’ll get even with Lucien if it’s the last thing he does. Dramatic.
(Also a chapter ending, but I’m not going to give it a point because it isn’t exactly an unnecessary cliff-hanger, what with me knowing he needs to become a werewolf before he starts fighting for vengeance.
Two days later (…I think, it’s not always clear if time is passing from the last scene we actually read or some other point), Jamie is looking down at the valley below, which is a lush, green paradise, but still feels so far away.
They are behind the Goode wagon again, though I don’t know why, because Jamie used to get their wagon into line behind the Goode wagon on purpose and now he hates them, so … what are you doing, Jamie.
(Jude: Keeping an eye on them. Because they’re liars. They’re ALL fucking liars.)
[Wing: … well that’s a good point.]
Then again, he also thinks coming down off the mountain should be easier than going up. Untrue even in cars today, much less in a fucking covered wagon. He struggles to slow the wagon so it won’t roll faster than the horses can run, and then they break an axle, lose a wheel, and heave to leap from the wagon to safety.
Stine, how much Oregon Trail did you play before and/or during writing this?
(Random Wing fact: I once had an axle in my car split in half while I was driving very fast on an interstate. I managed to get off the road without injuring myself or anyone else, but 100% do not want to repeat that ever again.)
John starts muttering about how Dora Mae is right and they’ll never escape the curse, which infuriates and terrifies Jamie in turn, especially when John is so frantic to check on Dora Mae in the overturned wagon.
The rest of the wagons have stopped, too; the wagonmaster says their axle split right down the middle (which is what happened to Wing’s axle, too!), and it will be a slow repair. Lucien immediately declares that they must leave the Fiers behind. I’d say that escalated quickly, but really, all that’s happened in the first 20% of the book is the Goodes and the Fiers fighting each other for one reason or another.
The wagonmaster doesn’t like to leave people behind because the Shawnee hunt along that side of the mountain. Lucien says that’s why they can’t wait for the Fiers, and the wagonmaster actually agrees, but instead of leaving them, says someone has to take the Fiers into their wagon.
(Jude: Ohana means “Family,” and Family means “Nobody gets left behind.”)
[Wing: Unless you’re a Fier.]
Unsurprisingly, no one is down for that, and as soon as the talk turns to the curse, John starts bellowing at them to just leave because they don’t need them, none of them talk to Dora Mae. If I actually care more about any of these characters, this could be so fucking heartbreaking. Even though I don’t, it’s still pretty sad.
Amanda tries one more time to get Jamie to come with her because John has lost his mind and Jamie needs to leave him in order to survive.
Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 2 (+1)
Jamie in turn says that Lucien is actually the Fier curse; Laura gets all snobby around this and tells Amanda to leave him because Lucien would never allow Jamie to ride with them anyway. Jamie’s rage has turned on Laura, too, because of her selfishness; at least Amanda worries that he’ll be left alone, even though he doesn’t give a fuck about that.
The wagonmaster is sympathetic and afraid for them, and promises to slow them down as much as he can, and tells them to stay on the road. UMM. If you are that worried about them, don’t you have a wagon, wagonmaster? You could at least offer to take them, but NOPE.
That night, Jamie works on creating a replacement for the axle, in hopes that if they only lose a day, they’ll be able to catch up with the others, especially if he lightens the load, leave Dora Mae’s belongings behind. Pretty sure your father will never go for that, but go ahead and feel optimistic. I’m sure it won’t last.
A wolf howls in the darkness, and Jamie looks to see if his father heard it, too, but doesn’t seem to have. Instead, he suddenly starts talking as if Dora Mae is in the woods calling for him. Jamie tries to stop him, but he breaks free and runs off into the shadows.
Jamie tries to follow, but stumbles over a rock, and then can’t even see his father’s outline, just hear the distant sound of him crashing through the brush. He keeps shouting for John to stop, but when John continues to ignore him, he goes back to the fire, loads himself up with everything he needs to reload the rifle, and then goes back to work on the new axle.
Then he hears a scream in the distance; it must be his father, but what could make his father scream that way?
Again, this would actually work as a good reason to have a cliffhanger chapter ending, but Stine has overused them so far. I’m not going to give it a point here (for now, though I reserve the right to retroactively add more in the future), because it does work and I am feeling slightly more generous after that one chapter break from them.
Jamie heads into the woods with the rifle and a lantern. A thick mist has risen, and he can barely see one step ahead of himself. There are pine needles and twigs smashed into the earth, and slowly he manages to follow that trail. This is gorgeous and creepy and very werewolf. (I do realise I am probably being generous over the writing here, because it is one of my favorite types of werewolf scenes, but I’m going with it. WEREWOLVES.)
Soon enough, Jamie finds his father’s twisted body on the ground, his eyes wide, his mouth open as if he were still screaming, his throat torn away “to reveal glistening blood and snow-white bone.”
Jamie manages not to vomit all over John’s corpse, which is impressive, and tries to figure out what killed his father: a wolf, a bear, Indians. Because Indians are dangerous animals, right?
Racism: business as usual: 200 (+100)
He’s breathing hard, and can smell his father’s blood. If he can smell it, animals can too, and there’s no way he can stay there. He races back toward their little camp, stumbling through the woods, panicked; when he reaches it, the horses are gone.
He desperately loads the rifle — wait a fucking minute here. Did you just go haring off into the woods, carrying the rifle, after you’d been in the woods once already, terrified of an attack at any moment, without first loading it?!
*rereads from last mention of the rifle*
YUP THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT HE FUCKING DID.
Cheer on the killer: 1 (+1) (Because the protagonist is such an insufferable wretch that you can’t help but side with anyone who wants them dead.)
Stine, you just wanted a dramatic gun loading scene, didn’t you? Fucker.
And it is a dramatic gun loading scene.
He set the lantern on the ground. With shaking hands, he pulled the ramrod from the rifle and jammed it down the barrel. Then he poured gunpowder from the horn into the barrel. He knew too much powder would make the rifle explode in his face when he pulled the trigger, but he didn’t have time to measure it out.
“Please don’t be too much,” he whispered to himself. “Please don’t be too much gunpowder.”
He opened his pouch, removed a small metal ball, wrapped it in a tiny piece of cotton, and popped it into his mouth. When he had covered it with spit, he rammed it all the way into the barrel.
He glanced around. He could hear nothing but his own breathing, his own heart thundering. He could see nothing but the dancing shadows created by the fire.
He put a small amount of powder in the flash pan of the rifle and pulled back the hammer, locking it into place. Now he only had to pull the trigger.
This could have been a tense, frightening scene, except I can’t get over the terrible decisions Jamie is making. It would have worked had he stumbled onto his father’s body the first time he was in the woods, without the rifle, and then had to race back to the camp to frantically load it, but he’s already been back to camp once. He already gathered everything he would need to load it, and then apparently sat there fucking whittling instead of loading it. AND THEN CARRIED A MORE OR LESS USELESS GUN INTO THE WOODS WITH HIM.
(Jude: Terrible decision making IS the Fear Family Curse.)
He convinces himself that the horses must have broken free from a bad knot, and a wolf killed John. He can kill a wolf with one shot and then easily reload (I have my doubts, considering how little aptitude you’ve shown with that rifle so far, but sure). He’ll walk to catch up with the others, and if no one will share their wagon, he’ll walk all the way to the settlement.
Oh, Jamie, I wish I was feeling more sympathetic toward you.
He travels through the woods for awhile, avoiding the vulnerability of the road, and ends up running into an Indian. For at least the third time in one night, he trips over a rock, falls on his ass, and this time, accidentally fires into the night sky, wasting his one shot. See, Jamie? My doubts about your skill with the rifle were well founded.
The Indian howls like a wolf, furthering Jamie’s terror, and Jamie is surrounded before he can even figure out which way to run. They bind his hands, strangle him a little, and Jamie is sure he’s going to die.
Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 5 (+1)
Racism: business as usual: 300 (+100)
But then they let him live, and make him trot along with them while they ride back to their home. They ride all night, force him to eat meat that tastes like rotten fish and laugh at his reaction. They ride for multiple days and nights, Jamie doesn’t think he can walk another step, he’s terrified they will either kill or enslave him.
When he finally passes out, he wakes later slung over the back of a horse. He wakes just in time for them to reach the Indians’ home. The children come and torment him, and the adults stand around talking. He’s sure they are talking about him.
He’s taken to an old woman whose hair is streaked black and white, her face wrinkled like a raisin.
She tells him, in English, that he has the eyes of a wolf. SUBTLE.
Her father was a fur trader who spoke English, and her mother was Shawnee. She is called Withering Woman because she has always looked old and always been wise. Her tribe is the lost Shawnee, separate from the main tribes, and they go their own way. Well that’s one way to handwave why your Indians don’t act like actual Shawnee tribes acted.
Running Elk, their chief, finally cuts Jamie free, and Withering Woman invites him to sit by her fire. She tells him that the warriors have never seen eyes like his, and it has been foretold that he’s the one who will save them from starving and lead them to the buffalo. Because what these people need is a honky. (James Nicoll on What These People Need is a Honky and a write-up of a Wiscon panel on What These People Need is a Honky.)
She proclaims this after cutting open his hand and drinking his blood, because of course she does.
Racism: business as usual: 400 (+100)
(Jude: Because white people are always the solution to everything. I just threw up a little.)
I’m pretty sure she’s going to end up being the werewolf, so this could be creepy and a great way to set her apart, but Stine’s already used all this language about how the Indians are violent animals, so. Fuck.
(Yes, I know this was often the belief at the time the book is set [even though Stine has let a lot of other historical inaccuracies slide], but there was pushback against this much earlier than the 90s, so it didn’t have to be written like this.)
Withering Woman takes Jamie to go prove his worth, and he sees a beautiful Indian girl, Whispering Wind, and immediately forgets that he once thought Laura was beautiful. Except you were already questioning and forgetting that, Jamie.
(Jude: Whispering Wind. All I can think of is hearing the wind going “Psst. Psst psssst. Psssst. If she doesn’t actually speak in whispers I will be so disappointed.)
To prove himself, Jamie must run the “warrior’s gauntlet” which involves all the warriors with fresh war paint on their faces, feathers on their heads, and clubs, switches, and tomahawks in their hands. I’m just going to toss trope points here and not recap it in detail.
Racism: business as usual: 500 (+100)
Witherwing Woman tells him to pretend he is the wolf and run fast.
Whispering Wind laughs at his hard shoes, and he decides if he survives, he will make her stop laughing and look at him with respect. Jamie, your treatment of women is really fucking gross, and I’m sure won’t get any better from here.
Jamie does survive, and knocks Running Elk over at the end. Whispering Wind immediately goes to check on Running Elk, and Jamie’s elation at surviving disappears. As soon as that’s gone, he feels exhausted and notices all the places he’s cut and bleeding. His blood falls to the ground and the warriors circle him, moving closer.
AGAIN, STINE? A-FUCKING-GIN?
Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 6 (+1)
Jamie is fine. Obviously. He passed out from the blood loss, and now all his wounds are covered in a black, sticky mess that Withering Woman calls medicine. She’s also tossed magic powder into the fire that will take the burning from his skin.
He’s relieved that he’s not going to die, and she tells him that he impressed the warriors. Jamie doesn’t really care about that because he didn’t impress Whispering Wind. Maybe you could FOCUS, Jamie.
The warriors are about to vote on his fate, which was not at all what Withering Woman told him would happen before he ran the gauntlet, but sure. (Also, Withering Woman and Whispering Wind, really, Stine? Couldn’t give them names that aren’t matching?)
Jamie’s now wishing he’d paid more attention to Amanda when she told him about their Indian servant, so he’d know what to expect. Because that information would be mighty convenient right about now.
They vote whether he will live or die, and it is even, 25 for life, 25 for death, with Running Elk casting the deciding vote. Jamie’s pretty sure this means he’s about to die, because Running Elk hates him ever since Jamie spat that piece of meat onto his foot, but Running Elk votes for him to live, instead.
The warriors take Jamie back into Withering Woman’s lodge, where she pulls out a strand of his hair to prepare him for the ceremony. Oh god, Stine, are you really going to try to write a Shawnee tribe ceremony about a white man coming in to join them? I’m just going to give this a blanket trope point for the rest of the book, because there is no salvaging how this story is going from its very premise.
Racism: business as usual: you done fucked up, Stine
(Jude: Yeah books like this are the reason I’m not doing anything with Roy Harper’s Navajo upbringing in my comic stories beyond designs until I’ve done enough research so it doesn’t end up like this shit.)
[Wing: It is possible for a white writer to write a character in color in a respectful way. This is not that.]
Jamie thinks this is going to make him one of them, and holds himself expressionless and quiet while Withering Woman pulls out all his hair, one strand at a time. Fuck, that would hurt like hell.
While this happens, he starts to see things in the fire. First is Whispering Wind smiling at him; after she disappears, he sees Lucien, and imagines his face consumed by the fire, slowly burning, utterly destroyed. SO, THAT GRUDGE IS STILL GOING STRONG.
Oh, wait, Withering Woman left him with some hair along his crown, enough to braid beads into it. They all then go to the great council house, where they join the women and children. The warriors do not enter the building, but all the women bring Jamie gifts: clothing, a knife sheath, flint, tobacco, and finally, Whispering Wind brings him moccasins.
After this is done, the warriors finally enter, and Running Elk shares a pipe with Jamie, and Withering Woman proclaims him now Shawnee.
As the days pass, Jamie’s respect for the Shawnee grows. He dresses like them, learns their language, learns to move silently without leaving a trail, etc. They search for buffalo every day, but they have found nothing so far.
Eventually, Running Elk confronts him, because he’s supposed to be the one to find the buffalo, and when he says they are near, Running Elk warns him that if he is lying, he will die. Jamie’s now afraid that if he doesn’t find them soon, they’ll have another vote and this time they’ll kill him.
He watches some of the others his age kicking around a ball, and is super lonely and feels like he’s still not a part of them. YOU’RE NOT. It’s only been a few days, apparently. Couple of weeks, max. While he’s feeling sorry for himself, Whispering Wind brings him into the game and teaches him how to play.
That night, he continues to dream of revenge on Lucien, but now he’s torn, because he doesn’t want to leave the Shawnee, he’s falling in love with Whispering Wind. He must choose between love and revenge.
There is no way in hell you’re already in love with her, and also, after your previous love fiasco, I don’t think you know what it means at all.
After another failed hunt, he talks to Whispering Wind who is weaving a blanket in front of her hut. He tells her that he has no blanket in his hut and touches the one she’s making, but she shoves his hand away and tells him that it is for the warrior she will marry, and once it is finished, she will give it to the warrior she’s chosen.
He asks her to give it to him, and promises he will be a good husband, but she laughs and tells him that he can’t marry because he has no feathers to mark his bravery, and a woman must choose the bravest of warriors to sleep in her hut.
(Jude: YOU DONE GOT SHUT DOWN, SON.)
He thinks she’s right, and is sad that he has no feathers, only the scars crisscrossing his chest and back, scars won from the warrior’s gauntlet.
Withering Woman calls him to her hut, and they talk about why he hasn’t found the buffalo. He says that he tries, but he knows nothing about the animals, and he can’t think about anything but Whispering Wind.
Withering Woman tells him that she has magic that can help him, a powerful spell that will make her love him. He begs her to use it to make Whispering Wind love him, and then he will find the buffalo. She warns him that once it is done, it can’t be changed, and the price is high, but he wants Whispering Wind to be his wife. The way that is worded is spot on; he doesn’t actually love her or want her to love him, he wants her as his trophy.
(Jude: Jesus Tapdancing Christ are they talking about magically roofying Whispering Wind? So racism AND rape.)
[Wing: …fuck, that is a really good fucking point.]
Whispering Wind tells him that when the moon is full, he must give her his soul.
I’m not even going to give this a cliff-hanger chapter ending point, because it works here, and clearly that means it is werewolf time. We’re almost halfway through this damn book, and there has been only a few short pages in the prologue about a werewolf. GIVE ME MY GODDAMN WEREWOLVES, STINE.
… fucking hell. The next chapter leaps back to the “present” with the wolf trapped behind the iron bars, trying to escape and wondering why he agreed to give her his soul. THIS IS NOT WHAT I MEANT, STINE.
He remembers that he didn’t even known what his soul was, he couldn’t feel it, he couldn’t touch it, and it was an easy, simple thing to trade it for Whispering Wind’s love. Uh huh. Her “love.” Sure.
(Reminds me of that Simpsons episode where Bart sells his soul.)
(Jude: Love sure is a strange euphemism for vagina.)
And the night of the full moon, Jamie follows Withering Woman into the forest. She gives him the necklace she’s been wearing, a wolf tooth on a leather strip; the tooth has a strange drawing carved on it, a claw, holding five circles. Withering Woman slashes the tooth across his chest, and then gives it to him to wear. She gives him blood to drink, and then says they must wait.
The transformation that hits him is painful; his bones grind and break, his body twists, his skin stretches. Stine does a decent job of describing a gross and painful transformation, and I love it.
Once he’s done, he turns on Withering Woman, but finds that she’s turned into a wolf, too. TWO WEREWOLVES?! It still doesn’t make up for the flaws of this book, but YAY FINALLY A FUCKING WEREWOLF. TIMES TWO.
He runs and runs, terrified and furious about what Withering Woman has done, but also overwhelmed by the strength he has now, the enhanced senses, the skill. HE runs so hard and so far he finds the buffalo, a thousand of them in green meadows, maybe more.
He’s hungry, and races down into the herd to find himself food. A normal wolf couldn’t take down a healthy buffalo by itself, but Jamie is far more powerful than an ordinary wolf, and he manages to take down a giant buffalo in good health. He tears into it, spilling blood everywhere, and loves the taste of it.
After he gorges himself, he sleeps, and then wakes back in human form still next to the buffalo. He’s disgusted by the fact he ate raw flesh and drank its blood, and freaked out by what happened to him.
He frantically cleans himself, then cuts off the buffalo’s head so that no one can tell he actually ripped out its throat with his fangs. He then hauls the entire carcass onto a litter he creates from branches. Is … is he going to try to haul it back by himself? Because unless he ate ¾ of that buffalo, I don’t believe it’s possible.
Sure enough, he drags it all the way back to the camp and tells them not to doubt him anymore. Whispering Wind smiles at him, and he wonders if she’s worth what happened to him. He confronts Withering Woman, who laughs because she made him hers. and when the moon is full, he will change and be her mate, share the night with her. He refuses to ever drink the potion again, but it only takes once. Is this an STD metaphor? Also, way to double down on that whole treatment of the Indians as savage animals.
Withering Woman finally warns him that if his true love ever sees him while he’s a wolf, he’ll stay a wolf forever.
(Jude: Stine we wanted werewolves not the “Creepy Old Lady Sex Extortion Party” episode from Law & Order: SVU.)
UMM. I have questions. What makes someone a true love? Is it the person he loves most in the world? So … himself. Is it someone who loves him? Is it someone he loves who also loves him? THAT WARNING IS PRETTY MUCH USELESS, WITHERING WOMAN.
Jamie leaves her and decides that he doesn’t believe he’ll turn into a wolf ever again. Sure, that’s smart, ignore the warnings of the one person who knows what is happening to you and don’t believe her when she says you’ll keep changing after you spent one night changing. That makes perfect sense.
Jamie and Whispering Wind marry, Whispering Wind claims she’s fallen in love with him, and a month later, Jamie can’t believe that Whispering Wind is his wife. The village has plenty to eat with the buffalo he found, Jamie is respected by everyone in the tribe, and Whispering Wind tells him often how much she loves him. His life is perfect, except for that whole lack of revenge.
And, oh, wait, that whole full moon thing. And gee, it’s been a month. I wonder what time it is.
Sure enough, it is a full moon, and Jamie is feeling trapped and strange. He stumbles out into the woods and transforms; while he’s trying to hide, Whispering Wind comes looking for him, and he remembers Withering Woman’s warning about what will happen if his true love ever sees him as a wolf. Jamie is certain that “true love” means that he will stay a wolf forever if Whispering Wind sees him, because she loves him now.
He tries to get away even while his body is still changing, but eventually, he and Whispering Wind come face to face. She’s terrified, of course, but when she sees the necklace that still dangles from his neck, she recognises him as Jamie (or Eyes of the Wolf as they call him, because subtle is not Stine’s strength — I will forgive him of that in a werewolf book because unsubtle werewolf cheesiness is the best), and runs off to warn the others.
Jamie knows the warriors will kill him if they learn the truth, and in his fear, the wolf instincts take over. He runs her down and tears out her throat.
Now that is a dramatic chapter ending that is not actually an obnoxious cliffhanger. Good work, Stine! You’re getting better even within the book itself. That’s a plus.
Jamie wakes the next morning, and is relieved that he is back to human form even though Whispering Wind saw him, and so of course Withering Woman must have lied to him. That’s when he remembers what he did to Whispering Wind, and her body is still right there next to him, her throat torn out.
UMM. So did he kill her and just lie down without doing anything else? The wolf in him didn’t eat her? Didn’t go hunt elsewhere? Or did he run all night and only then come back to sleep next to his kill? Nothing makes sense.
He carries her back to camp and tells the others that she left their tent and was attacked by a wolf. The other women believe him, but, of course, not Withering Woman. That night, she scolds him for not coming to her, and he says he was too busy killing his wife. Which is true, and also, where the fuck were you, Withering Woman? He wasn’t that damn far from the village. You could have gone to him and taken him out into the woods to have your way with him.
(Jude: FUCKING WOLF RAPE, MY GOD.)
She also explains that he didn’t remain a wolf even though Whispering Wind saw him because she only loved him due to the magic, and it is not true love.
(Jude: So she WAS enchanted. God I fucking hate love potion stories.)
He hates her, and storms away, raging at the moon that is now his enemy.
Aaaand we jump back to the present, where he still considers the moon his enemy and remembers that he left the Shawnee camp because everything in it reminded him of Whispering Wind. He lived in the woods, killed without mercy, and slowly began to understand why Withering Woman did what she did. She wanted companionship, a friend, someone to share the wolf with, and he can understand it and doesn’t even blame her anymore.
(Jude: I fucking can.)
Instead, he swings back around to blaming Lucien Goode. Remember him? Guess we’ve finally circled back to that revenge plot. Lucien tried to steal their food and water, killed Dora Mae as surely as if he’d pulled the trigger himself, is why John died at the jaws of a wolf (…Withering Woman? Or a natural wolf?), and why they were left behind in the first place, leaving Jamie vulnerable to become the wolf.
Jamie now wants vengeance on Lucien Goode and his entire family and all their descendants. Exactly how long are you planning on living, Jamie? And if you kill off his family now, he won’t have any more descendants, so…
He searched for them for three years, and the more he shifted, the more the wolf remained with him when the full moon passed; his hair turned silver, his eyes grew narrow, etc.
And then, one night, he smells them.
Next chapter brings us to the Settlement of Crimson Falls in 1781. That is a great, creepy name for a settlement about to be terrorized by a werewolf.
(Jude: WAIT. THIS WASN’T JUST ME. THE STORY BEGAN IN 1792 WHY THE FUCK IS IT SAYING IT’S NOW 1781? I THOUGHT THIS WAS A MISPRINT IN MY COPY BUT DID WHOEVER WRITE THIS NOT GIVE A SHIT TO THE DEGREE THEY COULDN’T KEEP THE FUCKING YEARS STRAIGHT?!)
[Wing: HA HOLY SHIT. I was so enamored by Crimson Falls that I didn’t even noticed. WTF.]
The Goodes have a farm that covers acres of rich, fertile land, and have many large flocks of sheep and herds of horses and cattle. The farmhouse is two stories high and very grand. They’ve clearly continued to do well for themselves.
Jamie’s plan is this: he will marry Laura, then kill Lucien so that all of Lucien’s wealth belongs to him. Once that happens, he will kill Laura and Amanda, because they will be of no more use to him.
Not sure if Jamie was ever supposed to be a sympathetic character, but he certainly isn’t now, and I kind of love it.
Jamie spends three months stalking the Goodes, killing their animals under every full moon. He eats some, but mostly leaves them scattered across Lucien’s land. Lucien keeps sending his men out to find the wolf, but of course none of them have any luck.
Apparently, the wolf in him hates the senseless slaughter of the animals, but the man relishes the revenge. He’s fought a bear and a mountain lion around the farm, and feels nearly invincible. This is almost to his detriment, because he gets careless and armed men drive him into one of their traps. He’s about to chew himself free of the rope when Lucien appears and shoots at him.
Aaaaand we’re back to the goddamn cliffhangers.
Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 7 (+1)
Jamie manages to twist so that the bullet only grazes him. While Lucien races to reload his rifle, Jamie manages to get free of the rope trap. He stalks Lucien a little to scare him, but then the men get too close and he runs. Almost ruined your own plan there, Jamie.
A week later, Jamie returns as a man, and finds that Jamie has set a $500 gold reward for any man who brings him the head of the silver wolf.
Jamie is highly amused by this, and wonders if Lucien has notices that only his livestock is attacked by the wolf and no one else’s. Lucien once claimed the Fiers were cursed, but now the Goodes are curse, by the curse of the wolf. Oh, Jamie. So dramatic and so delightful.
Finally he approaches the Goode house. He looks much older than twenty and appears to be an experienced frontiersman. He doubts that anyone will recognise him, and decides to call himself Jack Snow.
UNFORTUNATELY FOR HIM, Amanda recognises him pretty much immediately. Mostly because of his eyes. SHOCKING. His wolf eyes have given him away yet again. She invites him in for dinner, and he goes, though he feels uncomfortable trapped inside the walls. Laura joins them, and she’s even more beautiful than Jamie remembered. I thought you no longer thought her beautiful after meeting Whispering Wind.
Laura calls him the cursed boy, driving home his belief that she only cares about herself. Kind of rich coming from you, Jamie.
When Lucien finally joins them, he’s not pleased that Amanda has invited him to dinner; he, too, is still holding a grudge over the Fiers not sharing their food. Jamie is pleased that he remembers, because that will make his revenge that much sweeter.
(Jude: What do you put in your coffee Jamie, sugar or splenda? Jamie: REVENGE. Jude: One or two spoons? Jamie: Ah, two please.)
[Wing: I just laughed until I cried.]
Jamie tells them a little of what he learned from the Shawnee, and then tells Lucien that he will find the wolf for him. He also wants one of the girls to show him where the wolf has been attacking; Lucien says Amanda has chores, but tells Laura to take him around and show him everything he needs to know.
Jamie then says that he doesn’t want the money, what he wants for payment is to marry Lucien’s daughter.
The next morning, Jamie is surprisingly eager to spend the day with Laura and plans to even steal a kiss or two so he can have some fun, because why not add some sexual assault to this story.
(Jude: LIKE IT WASN’T ALREADY THERE.)
Instead of Laura, though, Amanda is going to take him around and then they will have a picnic. Laura, it seems, is sick with an awful headache.
They have their picnic, and Amanda tells him that she still loves him. Jamie is freaked out by this, of course, because if anyone actually loves him and sees him as the wolf, he’ll be stuck that way forever. She tells him she’s excited to marry him and she knows he will find the wolf soon.
He decides that he has to lead her on and then when he marries Laura instead, he’ll break her heart and she will hate him. They kiss a bit, and then she shows him the edge of the falls. He considers pushing her, because he’s still disturbed by her claim that she loves him, but decides that’s not how to do it, because it is not painful enough.
She tells him the story of Crimson Falls, which is about an Indian warrior who gave his soul to the full moon in exchange for marrying an Indian maiden he thought didn’t love him. Under the full moon, he left their hut and turned into a wolf, but the maiden followed him. When she saw him as a wolf, her heart broke and she threw herself into the falls. The wolf went after her, because he loved her so much. The legend says that for an entire month, the falls flowed red in sorrow, and that is why the settlement is named Crimson Falls.
Jamie brushes this off as a silly story, but he is actually quite shaken by it because it is so close to his own story.
Especially when she adds that the wolf jumped because he learned too late that the maiden actually loved him and he knew that now that she’d seen him, he’d stay forever a wolf.
WELL THEN. I wonder if this could possibly tie back to that Shawnee woman servant Amanda talked about so often in the first quarter of the book. Surely not.
Amanda reminds him of that Shawnee servant, and tells him that she knew so much about the wolves that Amanda sometimes thought she was a wolf herself. He wants to know what happened to her, and Amanda tells him that she was very unhappy because everyone was suspicious of her (and certainly not because she was your servant and your family is fucking terrible), so she returned to the Shawnee — oh, and sure enough, she looked super unusual because even though she was young, she already looked like an old woman. Her name, I’m sure will you be shocked to learn, was Withering Woman.
(Jude: Poor little white girl worries why her “servant” is so unhappy.)
Jamie is now terrified that Amanda knows what he really is, but when he questions her, she seems innocent, and he decides that she only knows the legend, not the truth.
That night, while with the family, Jamie decides maybe he won’t kill Laura, because she’s not a threat to him and can keep him company, so he can treat her with disdain and cruelty for the rest of her life. Because sure, she’s just asking for an abusive relationship, yup. And once Amanda hates him, she’s not a threat to him either, so her punishment will be rejection and pain and loneliness, a lifetime of heartache and sadness. Fucking hell, Jamie, just get on with killing everyone already.
(Jude: Yeah, even if Laura’s not exactly Mary Sunshine nobody deserves that shit.)
When Amanda finishes with the dishes, Lucien asks if she showed Jamie where they nearly caught the wolf. She says instead that she showed him Crimson Falls and learned his secret.
Stine. Come on. That’s enough.
Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 8 (+1)
Amanda smiles at him “secretively” and says that his secret is he thinks legends are silly. Lucien and Laura are disappointed by this secret, but Jamie is relieved.
Laura again goes to bed early with a headache and dizziness, and Jamie is amused that she does it whenever Amanda is around so Amanda will wait on her like a servant. He plans to change all of that once they’re married.
Jamie goes hunting in the mountains, looking for the right wolf. There’s a big silver male wolf in the woods, with a brown mate and three cubs. Jamie knows he is about to destroy their family and is sad, but there is nothing else to do. I mean, you could abandon this ridiculous plan, but clearly, there is nothing else to do but kill the innocent wolf.
(Jude: So Jamie becomes exactly like Lucien, destroying a family for no reason other than it serves his plan.)
Jamie tries to shoot him, but the rifle won’t fire, so instead he has to wrestle with it and finally kill it with his knife. He tells the dead wolf that his revenge on Lucien will be its revenge as well.
(Jude: TELL THAT TO THE THREE WOLF CUBS LEFT WITHOUT A FATHER, JAMIE.)
[Wing: It is the circle of vengeance.]
When he takes it to the house, Lucien admits that Jamie has impressed him, and calls the girls into his office. Amanda is so pleased and throws herself at him, giddy over finally getting to marry him, but he is cold and says that Laura is the one he wants to marry, even though she doesn’t love him and will never love him the way that Amanda does.
Laura swoons, and Lucien carries her up to her room, groaning because it’s so hard to carry her. He says that she needs a husband who can carry her around every time she faints, and Jamie has his blessing to marry her.
Amanda slaps Jamie and cries that she hates him and he will regret not marrying her. This pleases him, because now there is no risk of her seeing him as the wolf and trapping him forever. Oh, how little you know of love and hate, Jamie Fier.
Jamie and Laura wed the very next day in town, even though Laura is again seeming very weak and sick and dizzy. Back at the house, Laura asks Amanda for warm milk, because it helps her sleep better. Amanda agrees to do so, and that surprises Jamie, who was sure she would refuse.
Jamie is pleased that their wedding night will be blessed with a full moon. UM. Are you planning on slaughtering them all in their beds? Because that’s a much faster thing than your weird slow punishment.
Amanda brings in milk, and Jamie asks her to stay with Laura while he goes to talk to Lucien. Amanda tells him that she’ll do anything for him because she still loves him, even though she knows she should hate him.
Told you so, Jamie.
Jamie knows this means he will have to kill Amanda, but first he has to take care of Lucien. UMM. No. First you should kill Amanda, while you are still in human shape, so she will never see you in wolf shape. You’ve had years to plan this revenge. Why aren’t you being smarter about it?!
(Jude: Nothing like a villain who thinks they’re smarter than they really are.)
Amanda comes downstairs while Jamie and Lucien are in his study, Jamie waiting for the change to hit him. She wants to go for a walk, because it is safe now that the wolf is dead. Lucien tells her to load the rifle and take it with her, just in case. Jamie is desperate for her to leave, because he will shift at any moment, and she might see him.
AGAIN, I fucking told you so, Jamie. COME ON.
Jamie loads the rifle for her because she’s going too slow. She tells him that Laura is sleeping peacefully now, so she thought it safe to leave her sister; Jamie encourages her to go on her walk before it gets too late.
As Jamie starts to shift, he tells Lucien to watch it happen, watch and see what Lucien’s betrayal cost him. Lucien is confused and then scared, and Jamie basks in it as he becomes the wolf. Lucien says it all makes sense now, he was captured by the Shawnee, he was the wolf killing the livestock, everything else was a trick.
So, does everyone in this damn family know about werewolves or what?
Lucien flings the fireplace poker at Jamie, a sharp, iron spear flying straight at his heart. Gee, I wonder if he will ever survive. These fake cliffhangers are obnoxious enough on their own, but we fucking know he survives to be locked in a cage due to other parts of this very book. STINE. Get your shit together.
Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 9 (+1)
Sure enough, Jamie dodges it, sends Lucien crashing through the glass window, and then tears out Lucien’s throat, because this is apparently the only way wolves and werewolves know how to kill in this book.
With all the noise, though, he’s afraid that Amanda will have heard it and come back. He’s going to hide in Laura’s room until morning, because even if she sees him, she doesn’t love him, so it won’t trap him in the wolf body.
In Laura’s room, he smells lavender, which she always wears, and fear. And then finds her dead, her skin pale, her lips blue. Now his plan is thwarted, because she won’t inherit the land because she is also dead.
NEVER SAW THAT COMING, OF COURSE.
He smells something bitter near her mouth, and then something bitter in the spilled milk, and figures out that Amanda has poisoned her own sister.
He hears Amanda find Lucien’s body downstairs, and decides this is the time to escape. He tries to go out the front door first, but it is closed. Then he decides to jump out the kitchen window. You’re nearly indestructible, Jamie. Why didn’t you just go out the bedroom window and be off into the woods by now?
AND THEN. And then he sees the back door open, and instead of thinking TRAP, he assumes Amanda left it open when she left on her walk, and dashes through it — straight into the metal cage. Because he is making terrible choices. Again. Always.
You are the worst werewolf ever, Jamie.
Amanda comes and looks at him, and pain tears through him. He can tell he’s now trapped in the wolf’s body. Amanda tells him over and over that she loves him, truly loves him, even though she tried to hate him.
She also believes he will come to love her because she will take care of him. She knew he was the wolf, because she saw the tooth he wore around his neck, which is like the tooth in the legend, and she’s always believed the legend. She promises she’ll never let anyone hurt him again.
She then explains that she started to slowly poison Laura after the first night Jamie arrived, because she saw how Jamie barely kept his eyes off her, and Amanda got jealous.
Amanda tells him that she knows he’s angry at her, but she did tell him once that he would belong to her someday, and now she does. Forever.
(Jude: Yep. Called it. She wants him more like a pet than a lover.)
That would be the perfect ending, but NOPE, we have to have one more scene with Jamie pacing in the cage, forever trapped as the wolf. Wasted a great final scene, Stine. Wasted it.
I needed this story to have a billion more pages of Amanda manipulating everyone around her, and knowing the truth about werewolves, and being cruel and driven and amazing.
The very premise of the story is difficult, because the whole savage Indian trope and the animal monster Indian trope and the what these people need is a honky trope, all rolled into one. But when Jamie leaves the Shawnee and comes for the Goodes, things pick up, and he’s a pretty damn entertaining werewolf. I wish the bulk of the story had been there; just let him get bitten by the wolf that killed his dad, turn into the werewolf, and spend the next few years learning to be the wolf, which then lets him stalk through Crimson Falls, terrorizing Lucien and then everything can continue as it does.
(Jude: Thinking about Amanda and Jamie stuck as a wolf, all I could think was “Oh Jesus she’s gonna fuck that wolf.” I’m reminded of something from a comic called “Top 10.” It was a series about a city of superheroes and its police department. One character is a hyperintelligent dog who uses an exoskeleton to get around. Hyperdog begins seeing a woman, and while their relationship isn’t sexual, the woman, who works as a prostitute, recalled a coworker who had a non powered dog and once slept with him. She said she did it because “At least with him, I know he really loves me.” Dora Mae and the Goode sisters are really the only characters I could get behind in this and I sort of wish Laura had gotten more focus instead of being “The lazy spoiled brat” who gets objectified by the main character.)
Cheer on the killer: 1
Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 2
Racism: business as usual: you done fucked up, Stine
[…] 9 – Heart of the Hunter […]
[…] of Death” happens to have been ghostwritten by Eric Weiner, who was also the writer for “Heart of the Hunter” which Wing recapped back in 2017. [Wing: Oh the rise and set of the full moon of my joy with that […]