The Cataluna Chrinicles #1:
The Evil Moon
© 1995 by Parachute Press. Cover Art by Don Brautigam.
The first book of The Cataluna Chronicles trilogy is an odd one. There was a lot I liked, and a few things that I wish had been more developed. I read all of these books as a kid, but remember very little aside from the fact that I named our family dog Misty after one of the characters. I hadn’t realized how much of the Netflix Fear Street movies, 1666 in particular, pulled from The Evil Moon. That was a fun discovery. I also really liked the narrative for Bryan’s character. It felt like a departure from the tried and true formula for a Fear Street protagonist, and that was refreshing. Catherine’s narrative on the other hand felt like a tired rehash of better books. I wish her story had been given more time to develop, and that she had been given more complexity and depth. It’s still not yet clear exactly how Catherine and the Cataluna are linked, but it’s clear that they are. Given Catherine’s humble beginnings as a village outcast, I would have hoped she’d turn out to be something more than an evil laughing voice in a haunted car that thrives on killing teenagers. Cartoonish villainy with a black-and-white notion of good and evil gets very tiresome. Lack of nuance aside, I still really enjoyed reading this one. The Evil Moon proved to be a solid kick-off to a new trilogy. Let’s see if the next two books can live up to it.
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Observations & Spoilers
Before I dive into the recap, I want to talk about the Netflix Fear Street trilogy. Obviously, it pulled stories and characters from a lot of different books. It took the curse placed on Shadyside from The Fear Street Saga. It took the character Sarah Fier from The Fear Street Cheerleaders and made Sam a Cheerleader in a clear homage. It took Deena’s name from The Wrong Number, and had the character Martin’s address as 99 Fier Street. Camp Nightwing in 1978 took its name from Lights Out. What I hadn’t realized was that the basic plot structure for the 1666 storyline was lifted from The Evil Moon. The parallels between Catherine and Sarah’s narratives were numerous. 1666 made it a whole lot gayer and did a much better job with character development, but it was still fun to discover the connection.
The Evil Moon opens with a prologue where two boys steal the Cataluna from a used car lot. The Cataluna is a sleek and sexy sports car of unknown origin. The two boys go for a joy ride. A disembodied woman’s voice speaks to them and then takes control of the car. The car starts speeding up and nothing the boys do seems to stop it. The two boys jump from the moving car to escape, only to be run over by a tractor-trailer. Both are killed.
Bad luck Catherine was born under an evil moon. She has a moon scar on her forehead. Even her parents think she’s bad luck. All she wanted to do was go to school, but that was not allowed for girls. Her only friend is Gwendolyn, an old hermit woman who lives on the edge of the village. Gwendolyn encourages Catherine to pay the townsfolk no mind. Then Catherine makes out with Joseph Parker in the woods. Justin is a seventeenth-century hottie who doesn’t care about Catherine’s supposed bad luck. He is also the son of Edmund Parker, a powerful man in town. The two teenagers begin a secret love affair.
Bryan gets fired for being bad at his job at Happy Burger. He gets so mad about being fired that he throws grease from the fryer into his boss’s face. Thankfully, he was so bad at his job that had forgotten to turn the fryer beforehand so the oil was still cold. He bikes home with a wounded ego. All he can think about is his dream car, the Cataluna. It’s been sitting alone on the lot he bikes by every day, and it’s only a matter of time before someone else snatches it up. He still has his job with the flower shop, but he knows that will never pay enough for him to afford a down payment on the car.
Bryan tells his girlfriend Misty about losing his job. He expects her to be upset, but she never liked him working at the burger place. Misty lives in North Hills, which means her parents have money, so she can’t really understand what Bryan is going through. In particular, she does not understand Bryan’s obsession with the Cataluna. Bryan seems to think he’s not good enough or rich enough for Misty. It’s almost as though he sees getting the car as obtaining a status symbol that will finally prove him worthy. The tragic part of this is that, in Misty’s eyes, he’s already enough and doesn’t have to prove anything.
Catherine finds out that the town has plans to banish her. She sneaks in and listens at the town hearing. Townpeople give accounts of her touching their horse and killing it and walking by their field and their crops dying. Catherine knows she didn’t do any of this, but hopes that her parents will at least defend her. They don’t. They claim that she has brought them misfortune, also, and that she is not in fact their child. She had been left on their doorstep and they took her in. Catherine feels deeply hurt by her parent’s betrayal. She runs to find Joseph, certain that he will understand. Instead, she finds him with another girl. He and the other girl laugh at her. Finally, she runs to the person she should have run to first: Gwendolyn.
Gwendolyn confesses to being Catherine’s real mother. She had feared persecution of being a single mother, and so had left her with a childless couple to be raised. She had kept a close eye on Catherine from afat. Then she morphs into a cat and explains that they are shapeshifters. She encourages Catherine to do the same. Catherine turns herself into a cat. She then follows Ophelia back to the village to get revenge on those who wronged her. She goes to Joseph’s house, the claws both of his eyes out. The violence sure escalated quickly, and I am here for it. I was getting bored with this storyline.
Joseph dies, but Catherine quickly finds herself in the clutches of Joseph’s brother: William. WIlliam is about to become pretty important to the overall narrative of the story. Catherine narrowly escapes by scratching him. Gwendoline is nowhere to be found, so Catherine shapeshifts back to her human form and decides to return to her home one last time. Her plan is to just grab her things and leave. She is greeted by her father with a loaded musket pointed at her. He fires the gun.
Suddenly we are back in 1995 and will have to wait on the edge of our carseats to find out what happened to Catherine. Bryan stops by the sales lot and finds out he needs to put $1k down in order to get the Cataluna. He convinces the car salesman at the lot to let him take the car for a test drive. Catherine’s disembodied voice speaks to him and tells him they are going to have a lot of fun. This distracts him and he crashes the car into a lamppost. Somehow there is no damage to the car, but the sales guy curses him out and takes back the keys.
A few days later, Bryan is on a flower delivery (for the job he still has). One of his clients in a ritzy apartment isn’t home, and the door is open. He lets himself in to leave the flowers but ends up snagging $200 in cash from a wallet sitting on the counter. He narrowly escapes before the woman comes back. This gives him a rush and a new idea: he can steal the remaining money he needs to put a downpayment on the Cataluna! Absolutely no way that this could go wrong!
Misty senses that something is off with Bryan. She doesn’t understand the obsession with the car. His best friend Alan is starting to get concerned as well. Bryan sends the two of them off to the movies without him then finds a house with a bunch of newspapers on the porch and breaks in. He’s just found a ton of cash when he is stopped by the cops. He tripped a silent alarm. He is arrested and sentenced to community service. Misty breaks up with him because her parents say she can’t see him anymore. He also loses his job at the flower shop. In spite of all of this, he remains obsessed with the Cataluna.
Catherine’s father was just doing a “gotcha” warning for Catherine. The musket was empty. He tells her to leave the village immediately or she will be hanged. Catherine is exhausted and injured, so she opts to pass out in the shed instead. She wakes up in the morning and can hear the townspeople talking to her father about where she might be but she hides in the shed and passes out. It’s dawn when she wakes, and now the townspeople are after her. She sneaks off to Gwendoline’s cottage but only finds the remains of a mutilated cat. Someone from town had found and murdered her. Now, this part bummed me out because it felt like a really pivotal death. It deserved to have more page time.
Gwendoline isn’t totally gone, though. Catherin can still feel her presence. It guides Catherine to the woods where she finds a giant metal monster (it’s the Cataluna). This means that the car is 300 years old and predates the first actual car by close to 200 years. This was an interesting choice, Mr. Stine. It made me feel like Catherine’s back story and the car’s history should have maybe been in the sixties. It would have made a lot more sense for the origin story of a sports car. Anyway, Catherine hears the townspeople getting close and decides she needs to protect this gift her mother left her. She leads the angry mob away from the car and gets her ass caught.
Bryan’s community service sentence has him working at a hospital gift shop. Having learned absolutely nothing due to his blinding obsession, Bryan realizes he can steal the money he needs for the down payment from the register. He considers that he will be caught but decides that the Cataluna is worth it. He does not give consideration to the fact that he no longer has a job so it would only get repossessed after he started missing monthly payments. Bryan steals the cash and closes the gift shop early He rushes to the car lot only to find that the Cataluna has been sold. This guy’s luck is terrible.
The salesperson tells him that his friend Alan bought it. Enraged that his friend would do such a thing, Bryan rides his bike up to North Hills to beat some rich boy ass. Alan tries to explain himself to Bryan, but Bryan is having none of it. He punches Alana in the face, steals the keys from his pockets, briefly considers running his friend over before thinking better of it, and then peels out of the driveway. Catherine’s voice returns. She’s ready to have the fun with Bryan that she promised.
Then the car starts driving itself and speeding up. Catherine laughs like a cartoonishly evil villain. She nearly runs a few kids over and begins a little reign of terror through Shadyside. Bryan begs her to stop, having finally come to his senses. Unfortunately, he has made a few too many bad decisions, and consequence can be a fickle bitch. Catherine locks the doors and windows. She clips somebody on the road in such a way that his severed hand gets wedged into the rearview mirror. Then she suffocates Bryan to death. Fucking brutal, Catherine.
The pitchfork-wielding angry mob drags Catherine back to town so they can hang her. Joseph’s father, Edmund Parker, leads the proceedings. He tries getting Catherine to repent while spectators look on. She spits on him instead. Then they pull back on the rope to hang her when Catherine remembers that she can shapeshift out of this. She changes into a rat and jumps down Edmund’s throat. He somehow choked to death on her rat body, but she has enough air to pull herself back out and run? Fine, I guess. Catherine turns into a horse and flees from the stunned crowd, vowing to get her revenge on the people who killed Gwendolyn.
Alan and Misty stand outside the Cataluna, which is now sitting in Alan’s driveway. It had driven itself back after killing Bryan and going on its little terror spree. Misty tries to comfort Alan, telling him how nice it was to have bought the Cataluna for Bryan as a birthday gift. Bryan only had to wait a few more days and it would have been his. They watch as police and paramedics arrive to take Bryan’s distorted body out of the car. Alan vows to get rid of it.
William Parker, son of Edmund and brother of Joseph, vows to get revenge on Catherine. He spells out the symbolism in the trilogies title: Cataluna, cat moon, for Catherine the shapeshifter born under the evil moon. The implication is that William is also still alive in 1995 and still chasing Catherine across time. implies that he is somehow still chasing her through time. Catalonia is revealed to be Cat Moon, like her, the cat born under an evil moon.
My Final Thoughts.
The Evil Moon ends here. I liked most of the death scenes. They were pretty wild and creative enough for me to forgive the anatomical issues of choking on a rat. I like that we don’t have all the answers to Catherine’s story yet. In that way, it sets things up nicely as the first book in the trilogy. I am disappointed that Catherine’s trajectory seems to be that of a bullied outcast turning into a cartoonishly evil haunted car. It feels like too many disjointed ideas that should have been different books. I wish the Cataluna voice (presumably Catherine) had been given a deeper personality that “murder is super fun lol.” She had the back story to set her up perfectly for this, but it’s almost like she just flipped a switch and decided she was full-time evil.
Bryan, on the other hand, felt like a unique protagonist for Fear Street. Typically our point-of-view characters are relatable by design. It was interesting to see Bryan devolve into obsession and madness over the Cataluna. Ultimately, Bryan really sucked, but I didn’t think I was being made to try and like him. I felt like he was intended to be pitied at best. The real horror was in watching him lose everything in pursuit of the one thing he thought would bring him happiness. I would like to see Stine take more chances like this.
My final thought is that I’m glad Misty turned out not to be a shitty character. She was my late puppy’s namesake, so I take comfort in knowing that eleven-year-old me chose well. My Misty was a very sweet goofball whose time with us was way too brief.
For the scoring of each book, I decided to rate them based on five criteria worth 2 points each.
I then split that in two to give it a rating out of 5 stars. Those criteria are:
Concept: the strength of the overall idea
Execution: the mechanics of storytelling
Character: the protagonists, antagonists, and villains
Intent: does it succeed in being the kind of book it wants to be?
Originality: subversion and reliance on genre tropes
The concept seems a little messy so far. Intriguing, but messy. It’s unclear how this will all tie together, but the ancient car mythos doesn’t seem strong at the outset.
This was a page-turner, but parts felt a little too rushed. I wish we knew exactly how Gwendoline died, and spent more time with her and Catherine in general. I wish the 1698 storyline was given more breathing room. By contrast, Bryan’s story felt like it was paced just right.
Bryan’s demise was interesting to see unfold. Typically our teenage protagonist character is the relatable one; he started out that way and devolved into a pitiful wreck. I wish Catherine’s character had a bit more depth and complexity. The same can be said for the Cataluna, which might also be Catherine but it is not yet clear.
I think the book succeeds in what I want out of the first book in a trilogy. It also leaves a bit of mystery about what might come next.
Judging this based on tropes and other Fear Street books, this one was unique in format and narrative choices. There are some fresh ideas here, even if I’m not certain it all works.
Based on GoodReads aggregate ratings, The Evil Moon is ranked
34th of 79 in the overall Fear Street series
& The Cataluna Chronicles is ranked 6th of 6 among the Fear Street Trilogies.
Don’t miss the next post in the Fear Street blog series:
The Cataluna Chronicles #2: The Dark Secret
Also, be sure to check out the latest from my Goosebumps blog series:
Goosebumps #45: Ghost Camp