The Bookworm: The Betrayal

The Betrayal, by R.L. Stine. 161 pages. Pocket Books. August 1993.

Edward didn’t reply. They continued their walk through the woods in silence. The last rays of sunlight slid between the slender trees, casting rippling blue shadows at their feet. (p. 106)

As the tease on the cover says, The Betrayal is “where the terror began.”

Why is the Fear family so cursed? Why do so many horrifying things happen on the street that bears the family name? Nora Goode knows, and she begins telling the Fear’s long, disastrous history in the first book of the Fear Street Saga series, The Betrayal.

Prompted by another Fear family tragedy — on Fear Street, of course — Nora begins telling the Fear’s story. It begins in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in late seventeenth century, where the Fear’s greed and hunger for power claim innocent victims, beginning a feud with another family that will last for generations — or at least two more books in the series.

I’m not going to lie — The Betrayal is a pretty good book. The way Nora’s storytelling is set up is a little cheesy, but not unconventional for the Fear Street series; it works and keeps readers interested and curious. The story itself is pretty simple but engaging. Speaking of simple, one thing I think Stine does well is keep it simple in regards to historical accuracy. Stine doesn’t go crazy with references to this or that period practice or item. (Why would he, anyway? It’s young adult fiction!) He doesn’t overdo it, which means he doesn’t get caught referencing things that don’t fit the time period. Except at least once: one of the characters in the eighteenth century does mention viewing something like a “faded photograph,” despite the fact photography did not exist for another century or so. Perhaps there were other examples that I did not catch, like when he described clothing, but I didn’t notice anything else that was obvious.

The Betrayal does its one job — set up the rest of the series — very well. To be honest, I am eager to read the sequel and hope the miniseries doesn’t fall flat like others. Whether everything makes sense in the very end is always a big question mark with these Fear Street miniseries. But, once again, perhaps I am expecting way too much.

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