Friday, August 7, 2009

Fear Street Sagas: Circle of Fire, or “The Craft, circa 18-something”


Emma Fier Reade hides her secret magic evil spellbook in 1745 in her attic, then dies of unknown causes. That’s pretty much all that happens here.

Sometime Later, Presumably Like 100 Years Maybe

So, thanks ghost writer for not actually putting in any dates. I like knowing exactly when these sagas supposedly happened, not being forced to make educated guesses. Because, let’s be honest, not a whole lot of education went into that guess. If they did put the date in there somewhere, hidden by all that insightful text, and you think to yourself “L. K. was just way too lazy to actually find the date”, well, guilty as charged.

Mia Saxton is late – once again – at Miss Pemberthy’s School for Young Ladies. This school is located in an old estate, maybe where a wealthy (yet evil) family once inhabited. Her classmates go all mean-girls on Mia, sniggering about how she was born on a farm. Chief mean girl is Alicia Bainbridge, who seems to me to be a know-it-all bitch, but she is rich and back in the 19th century people used to equate popularity with wealth. Thank goodness that never happens anymore. Mia has no friends and feels awkward and overgrown and hates Miss Pemberthy’s. Even her roommate Clara, arguably even less popular than her because she’s dumb and fat, won’t speak to her. Although Clara never speaks to anyone because she’s too shy, so she hardly counts.

Until one day Mia has had enough of Alicia and stands up to her for Clara. Clara shyly asks whether she wants to be friends. Aww, how sweet. They eat lunches together, and adopt a stray cat they find. Mia is happy everything seems to be turning around for her.

One night, Mia spots a group of girls heading out to the barn at night, a group of cool girls who hold themselves aloof of Alicia and her bitchy clique. Mia’s curiosity is piqued, so she head out into the winter storm to spy on them. She discovers that they are practising magic spells. The chanting makes Mia all hot and tingly. Hmm. Magic sounds like fun. When the girls stop chanting, Mia falls over and is discovered.

There are four girls there – Phoebe, Irene, Anabel, and their leader Joanne. The girls are about to mean-girl beat Mia up, until all the candles point in her direction, and a piece of metal levitates and points at her. The girls are terrified/delighted, because they had never made actual real magic happen before. They decide the magic chose Mia, and that was good enough for them. Mia joins their little coven, and swears on evil magic she won’t tell anyone about it. They show her the spellbook they found in the attic of Miss Pemberthy’s. Mia is repulsed by it, but it also makes her hot and tingly again, so she goes with it.

As they sneak back into the estate, they find Miss Pemberthy herself waiting with snotty Alicia, who had totally tattled on them. Tell me why anyone would enjoy being around this bitch. The girls are put on kitchen duty for the next two days, which is pretty much the worst thing that could ever happen. The girls are pretty mad at Alicia, until she informs them that she can do whatever she wants because her father is the richest man in the state, and then they’re cool with her. Oh, no wait, they’re not. They vow revenge. Mia goes up to her room, where poor pathetic Clara is eagerly waiting for her. She tells Clara she can’t know where she went, or why she has a new group of friends. This puts a significant wedge in their friendship.

The next night the girls meet at the barn again, to try a spell they have chosen at random, since none of them know the language the chants are written in. They chant, Mia gets all flushed and excited again, and they make a field mouse dance for them in the middle of their weird circle. They think this is awesome, until the mouse plops down dead. Mia’s ready to call things quits, until the mouse jumps back up and scurries away, so everyone assumes no harm was done. They try another spell, near the back of the book. Mia finds she knows the chant without looking at the lines, and this one gives her the heeby-jeebies. She stops them in the nick of time, as she realized they were summoning something very dark, and very dangerous. The girls all think she’s ridiculous, as they hadn’t noticed anything happening, but when they leave the barn all the trees nearby had been gouged by some very large claws, and they are pretty thankful they didn’t get to know what caused those. Mia has concerns about continuing their little game.

The next day Mia loses her temper at Alicia, who is picking on Clara once again. While working in the kitchen, the girls decide to try a spell on Alicia, the one to make her dance. They chant until they hear screaming coming from the classroom. Alicia is hellbent on jumping and twirling, as everyone else laughs and the teachers yell at her to stop. Alicia is clearly terrified, and Mia feels pity for her and stops the spell. She realizes that some of the symbols from the spellbook at marked on her skin, like tattoos, and that she needs to stop. However, none of the other girls are marked, but they are getting off on this new power they’ve found. They’re in no rush to stop the coven, or their spells.

Miss Pemberthy tells the girls the story of the estate they were staying in. It was built by one Jacob Reade, who had come there from Salem, Massachusetts. Some people said that his wife practiced dark magic, but that of course was ridiculous. Alicia starts to look suspicious, like she’s catching on to what’s happening, but then she sees a spider and shrieks like a little girl. Mia tells the girls she thinks Alicia might tell on their magic-practicing ways.

The coven is getting better at calling spells, although it’s always Mia that seems to make these things happen. One night they try a new spell, and Mia feels an overwhelming sense of wrongness with what they did, although they aren’t sure what actually happened. She’s compelled to walk outside, where there is a dark moving mass in the midst of the snow. Spiders, hundreds of them, roiling over a person – the body of Alicia. Mia nearly faints, as she realizes they had Alicia killed, without knowing exactly what they were doing. Ugh, death by spiders. I think I have a new worst death ever.

All the girls promise to never tell what actually happened to Alicia. As far as anyone could see, it was a random mugging by spiders. The other girls agree the Alicia really got what she deserved, so they weren’t going to feel bad about it. Mia is horrified, and tells them she will never do another spell. The mean-girls turn into mean-witches, and tell her she’ll be sorry ... and to watch out for spiders.

Alicia’s coffin is set up in the front parlour, surrounded by roses, and Mia goes to apologize to her (body). As she does so, the roses start attacking her, wrapping her up in their vines and pricking her with their thorns. The roses start to drink her blood, as she gets more and more feeble against the floral assault. She just escapes, and is found by Clara. Mia thinks Clara is so sweet, and a true friend, not at all like the girls who tried to kill her with roses.

That night Mia feels the pull of evil magic, and knows the girls are trying another spell out on her. She has to know what it is, so she creeps out to the barn to find out. Another girl has taken her place, so there are five of them again. She feels they are calling something evil. As she tries to escape, a wave of snow crashes over her, then another. She is being drowned in a sea of snow. Every time she digs herself out of her snowy grave, a fresh layer covers her. Mia gets mad, and is able to fight the snow off, and makes a dash for Miss Pemberthy’s. She thinks she’s safe once she’s inside, but she comes face to face with the girls, her former friends, all burning with hatred. She realizes the power and magic had turned them evil.

The girls start chanting, and the kitchen comes alive, with cutlery and appliances attacking Mia. This totally reminds me of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, except obviously in that movie the appliances were the good guys. Mia screams, and fire shoots from her hands, stopping everything. Magic flows through her, and she has command of everything around her. One of the girls is wrapped up by a big rug, others are pinned down by kitchen chairs. The mean girls are all of a sudden not so scary anymore. Mia takes the spell book from Joanne, and destroys it with her fire. She blacks out from the effort, but when she wakes up, Joanne has gone insane, laughing hysterically, unable to recognize anything.

The five girls are taken away from Miss Pemberthy’s by their parents. Mia is relieved the nightmare is over, and wants to start afresh. A week afterwards, though, she hears chanting in the house, coming from the attic. She must know who it is, and creeps upstairs. The wooden floor stretches and becomes a face that whispers her name, then belches graveyard rot onto her. As she tries to escape the floor liquefies beneath her, trapping her legs. Someone approaches her – Clara!

Poor, insignificant Clara. She had become magic at the same time as Mia, called by the spellbook, and had been making all the horrible things happen. The others were just little girls, playing with powers too great for them. Clara would now make Mia pay, for choosing the others over her. She calls the shadows against Mia, to kill her. Well, Mia, being magic too, fights back against the shadows with her fire. The shadows turn on Clara, wrapping her up and wringing her out, before disappearing with her.

Mia leaves Miss Pemberthy’s after that, deciding she’s had entirely enough of a young woman’s education at that place. She vows to never use the power she has again ... unless she has to.


marcelrochester said...

Yet another Fear Street book has the message that fat=evil.

Anonymous said...

Knew it was Clara because it's always the insignificant one.

Anonymous said...

Also, wait, why were Mia and Clara magic.

L. K. Stine said...

Um, there really wasn't any explanation as to that. Somebody found the spell book, and Mia and Clara became magic. That was it ...

Anonymous said...

Also, notice that the title can also be read as Circle Of FIER a.k.a. FEAR could this be relevant somehow?????

Sadako said...

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megan said...

this reminds me of The Craft...

Steve Avino said...

This was one of the worst edited Fear Street books. Sometimes the town is Shadyside sometimes it is Broad River.