Today we’re spotlighting The Hunting Moon by Susan Dennard!
Read on for more about the author and the book!
About the Author: Susan Dennard
Susan Dennard is the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of the Witchlands series (now in development for TV from the Jim Henson Company), and the Something Strange and Deadly series, in addition to short fiction published online. She also runs the popular newsletter for writers, the Misfits and Daydreamers. When not writing or teaching writing, she can be found rolling the dice as a Dungeon Master or mashing buttons on one of her way too many consoles.
About the Book: The Hunting Moon
The Hunting Moon is the highly anticipated sequel to The Luminaries by New York Times bestselling author Susan Dennard.
Winnie Wednesday has gotten everything she thought she wanted. She passed the deadly hunter trials, her family has been welcomed back into the Luminaries, and overnight, she has become a local celebrity.
The Girl Who Jumped. The Girl Who Got Bitten.
Unfortunately, it all feels wrong. For one, nobody will believe her about the new nightmare called the Whisperer that’s killing hunters each night. Everyone blames the werewolf, even though Winnie is certain the wolf is innocent.
On top of that, following her dad’s convoluted clues about the Dianas, their magic, and what happened in Hemlock Falls four years ago is leaving her with more questions than answers.
Then to complicate it all, there is still only one person who can help her: Jay Friday, the boy with plenty of problems all his own.
As bodies and secrets pile up around town, Winnie finds herself questioning what it means to be a true Wednesday and a true Luminary―and also where her fierce-hearted loyalties might ultimately have to lie.
C H A P T E R 2
Winnie waits until all the eulogies are over and Grayson’s ashes have sunk into the unfeeling deep. Only then does she go to Jay. He has moved away from the lake and tucked himself into the shadows of an old hemlock. If Winnie hadn’t watched him shuffle from the shore, she might never have noticed him hiding there.
He looks like he often does, eyes bloodshot and face haggard. If Winnie didn’t know he’d just been on the hunt, she would assume he’d been out all night drinking. His hair is still damp—as if he only just left the shower, where he scrubbed off all the remains of forest and death.
“Thanks for coming,” he tells her. His eyes are misty gray today, rimmed with red. She suspects he has been crying.
Questions boil inside Winnie: Please, tell me you saw the Whisperer. Please, tell me it wasn’t the werewolf and I’m not crazy. A werewolf didn’t do this. Please, tell me it was the Whisperer.
Winnie swallows those words, greasy and hot. She can’t acknowledge them right now, not when Jay is simply trying to survive a day that weighs too heavy.
“I’m . . . really sorry,” Winnie says instead. “If you need anything, you, uh . . . you know where to find me.”
Jay nods, distracted, and fidgets with his dad’s watch. His gaze skates behind Winnie, to where a line is forming. Hunters and clan members wanting to offer their sympathies . . . but also to offer their congratulations. After all, when one Lead Hunter leaves, another must step in.
Jay’s shoulders sink half an inch. The boy who does nothing but shirk responsibility is now faced with a metric ton of it. He has to manage clan training; he has to coordinate schedules and gear and safety; he has to guide hunters into the forest every Friday night, knowing they could end up like Grayson.
And that he could end up like Grayson too.
“Jay,” says a new voice, creaking and thin. Winnie turns to find Jay’s great-aunt Linda pushing in and reaching for Jay’s hands. So Winnie offers him a tight smile and moves on.
A quick scan reveals Mom in conversation with an Alpha named Isaac Tuesday who graduated when Darian did. Mom’s eyes shine. She’s glad to be here, even if it’s for a funeral, because she believes in the long sleep and the balance and the death that’s a part of life.
And don’t I believe in that too?
Winnie twists around to find that Aunt Rachel has pushed through the crowd to stand beside her. She is dressed almost identically to Mom, and Winnie can’t help but wonder if maybe they bought their outfits at the same time—back when they not only had hunted together, but had also been best friends.
“Hi.” Winnie tries for a smile. It falls flat.
“Did you know Grayson?” Rachel cocks her head toward the lake, as if the ashes somehow still contain bits of him.
“No,” Winnie admits. “I just . . . thought I should support Jay.” And what a great job I’ve done at that. “I guess you knew Grayson?”
“Yeah. Lead Hunters—we consult pretty regularly.” Rachel sighs and stuffs her hands into her coat pockets. “He was good. Really good. It’s, uh, scary how fast things can turn on you.” As she says this, Winnie can practically see the nightmares in Rachel’s eyes. All the times when she—like Winnie—really should not have made it out of the forest alive.
After a few seconds though, Rachel rolls her shoulders, curt efficiency taking hold of her posture. As if her very skeleton is saying, There is no time for the shadows. Compartmentalize and move back toward the sun.
“Listen,” Rachel begins, “it’s totally fine if you don’t want to join the Wednesday hunt right now—”
The way she says this does not make it sound totally fine.
“—but the clans need help with corpse duty. We’ve got so many dead nightmares to deal with these days, given the amped-up hunter numbers. Think you can join the crew on Thursday morning? You don’t have to be in charge again, but we could really use the help.”
Winnie has two thoughts in that moment. First, that she absolutely doesn’t want to spend any more time than she has to with Rachel’s son, Marcus, who will undoubtedly be there for corpse duty on Thursday morning.
Second, that she isn’t sure she wants to return to the forest if it’s going to keep making her feel this way. It won’t, though. You’re just being weird and this is just a one-off.
Except . . . was the waterfall always so loud?
Rachel clears her throat. Winnie realizes she has been staring into space. Possibly glaring into space too. She blinks. “Yeah. I can do that, Aunt Rachel.”
“Great.” Rachel rubs her hands together. “I appreciate that. And of course, whenever you’re ready to join me on the hunt, you just let me know. No pressure.”
But also definitely some pressure.
As Rachel strides away, Winnie is struck yet again by the utter polarity of it all. Rachel just nudged her niece to join in the exact activity that led to Grayson’s brutal death . . . at Grayson’s funeral. And right now, although Winnie is a whole thirty paces away from Jay, she can hear an unfamiliar voice booming out: “Congratulations, young man. Youngest Lead Hunter in Hemlock Falls. You must be so proud.”
No, Winnie thinks as she stomps away from it all to seek solitude in the parking lot. He’s not proud. And jumping wasn’t fun. And Grayson isn’t sleeping. And the Nightmare Masquerade should not be happening in two weeks.
Yet even as those thoughts slice through Winnie’s brain one after the other, bright, burning meteorites, she knows that the better thoughts—the better questions she really should be raising—are: What is wrong with me? Why can’t I compartmentalize like everybody else?
And why am I not acting like a Luminary?