Fear by Ronald Kelly

(No Series)

It was a legend in Fear County... a hideous, flesh-eating creature - part snake, part earthbound demon - that feasted on the blood of innocent children in the cold black heart of the Tennessee backwoods.

But ten-year-old Jeb Sweeny knows the horrible stories are true. His best friend Mandy just up and disappeared. He also knows that no one has ever had the courage to go after the monster and put an end to its raging, bestial hunger. Until now.

But Evil is well guarded. And for young Jeb Sweeny, who is about to cross over into the forbidden land of Fear County and the lair of the unknown, passage through the gates of Hell comes with a terrible price. Everlasting...FEAR!

The plot of ‘Fear’ is almost like an adult fairy tale.

It’s told mainly through the eyes of a 10 year old boy and, because of this, much of what happens is mildly skewed from seeing it through a child's perspective. The small town is riddled by fear of a county that lays nearby…a county where supposedly ‘bad people’ live with ‘animals God didn’t create and had nothing to do with.’ No one ventures over to that county unless they have to, and finally something comes up where Jeb, Roscoe, and his father Sam, are forced to risk it all.

It almost seems like Kelly took every horrible thing he could think of out of his brain and placed it in this book. There’s not just one monster ­ there’s this one, that one, and even that one over there. The atmosphere in different areas of the county ­ the woods, or the water, or the cabin ­ all were amazing. If you look hard enough, there’s even more in the shadows. Each chapter in the second half revealed a different nightmare.

The plot is packed full of action, although most of the beginning is focused on Jeb’s personal problems instead of the ‘snake-critter.’ The first half built up plenty of foreboding, and although it relies heavily on the protagonists internal struggles much of the way, this thankfully didn’t distract from the plot as much as it usually would have. The pacing in the middle is consistent and keeps taking off. The horrors unravel slowly instead of straight in your face for the optimum effect. The ending was both happy and miserable…leaving a sort of realistic, bittersweet feeling in my mouth.

The characters were easy to latch on to. Jeb Sweeney was endearing and adorable. Roscoe was an interesting, colorful sort of character. Sam had a tragic nature about him; I loved him to death. I couldn’t help my admire Jeb’s grandmother, and fell in love with The “Granny” Woman. All characters were greatly written, although the sheriff irritated me a little too much.

I heard from somewhere that Kelly hasn’t been writing anymore; if this is true, it’s a shame, because he has talent. He obviously avoids reusing the same word, like ‘Jeb’ five times in a paragraph. He creatively replaces them and helps keep the flow of the wording smooth. His style is easily comprehended, straight-forward, and consistent.

‘Fear’ is written through multiple POV viewpoints, mainly third person flexible, but the majority is seen through the eyes of a child. Dialogue is told through a small-town, hick-ish type dialect, with words such as ‘ol, how’re, gonna, and dangrum. Surprisingly, this doesn’t get annoying.

I was more than happy to revisit Fear. In a way this week has been a time for me to reminisce, to go back and fall in love with old loves again. ‘Fear’ really touched me when I read it years back; it didn’t lose its magic in the meantime.