Study Guide

The Alchemyst Fear

By Michael Scott


He stared hard at the rat, expecting it to turn and scuttle away. It just raised its head and looked at him, its mouth opening to reveal pointed teeth. Josh shuddered. Snakes and rats: he hated them equally […] though not as much as he hated spiders. And scorpions. (7.9)

It seems as though every character in this novel has a point of weakness—a particular fear that really makes him or her tremble. For Josh, we learn he hates snakes, rats, spiders, and scorpions, and later we learn that Scatty hates cats and birds. While these might seem like trivial fears compared to bigger things like the fear of, say, death, when faced with an army of evil rat spies, we would imagine that that particular phobia would be pretty consuming.

He'd never driven in traffic before, and he was terrified. Sophie had suggested that he pretend it was a computer game. That helped, but only a little. In a game, when he crashed, he simply started again. Here, a crash was for keeps. (10.19)

Josh's fear of driving points to his larger fear of feeling out of control. Even though his sister reassures him by telling him to think of it as a game, he can't help but be afraid of the irreversible consequences. A crash is for keeps—remember that line, Shmoopers, when you get your license.

From the corner of his eye, Dr. John Dee watched as the pointy-toed, stiletto-heeled black boots came into view. And he knew then the answer to this question. The day was about to get worse: much worse. Fixing a smile on his lips, he rose stiffly to his feet and turned to face one of the few of the Dark Elders who genuinely terrified him. (11.24)

The Morrigan. She is one scary lady. Even her clacking stilettos inspire fear in Dee, who normally seems totally and completely fearless. But why is she so scary? We'll just have to wait and see.

Dee fears me. He will bluster and posture, threaten me, possibly even try a few minor spells and incantations, but he will not move against me. Not alone... and even then he would not be assured of success. (14.12)

While we admire Hekate's fierceness here (Tyra would be proud), given what we know goes down in the battle of the Shadowrealm, we can't help but look back on this quote and say, oh Hekate, if only you knew.

This time it was Josh who found he couldn't speak. The idea that something terrible could happen to his sister had only occurred to him a little while before. But the very thought of it terrified him. (24.14)

What do you think, Shmoopers; is this an example of deep fear, or deep love? Josh is afraid of a lot of things (snakes, rats, scorpions), but here he's most afraid of something bad happening to Sophie. It seems his deepest fear is that those he loves will be harmed. He's a nice guy, our Josh.

Now go inside and do whatever she tells you. I know you are afraid, but try not to be. Let me tell you, there is no shame in fear. (24.40)

Wise words from a wise dude. But if there's no shame in fear, why is Flamel telling Sophie not to be afraid? Doesn't that seem a bit… contradictory?

It was always a bad idea to be first into battle. The soldiers in the rear were the ones who tended to survive. He was guessing that Hekate's guards had massed just beyond the invisible wall, and he had no inclination to be first through the opening. It didn't make him a coward, he reasoned; it just made him careful, and being careful had kept him alive for many hundreds of years. (25.1)

Well, Flamel says there's no shame in fear and that retreating is sometimes the best option. Is that what Dee's doing here? Just being practical? Since he's a villain, we're inclined to think a little worse of him. He may think he's not being a coward, but Shmoop thinks that doesn't sound all that convincing.

Sophie's eyes opened wide and she smiled, and Josh suddenly found that, for the first time in his life, he was frightened of his own sister. He knew that this wasn't his Sophie; this terrifying creature could not be his twin. (28.20)

First Josh is frightened that something bad might happen to his sister if she is Awakened. But now that she is Awakened, he's frightened of her. Where Josh's fear is aimed sure says a lot about the changing dynamics between these two twins.

Bastet's fur was bristling and her bare arms dimpled with goose bumps. Then she slowly backed away, turned and raced toward the burning Yggdrasill. For the first time in millennia, she was frightened. (28.30)

See, Shmoopers? Even goddesses get scared. What's so great about this scene is that it tells us that fear isn't really about power; the powerful and the powerless feel fear just the same.

"We can't afford to be here when the Shadowrealm disappears," she continued, looking down at him, her face expressionless. But he knew by the way she hugged the cloak of crow feathers about her shoulders that she was nervous.

"What would happen?" Dee wondered aloud. He'd never seen the Crow Goddess like this before, and he took pleasure in her discomfiture. (31.5-6)

Now the Morrigan's afraid? Sheesh. If the woman who inspires fear in Dee is even afraid, we know there are some serious troubles ahead. Of course what's so fun about this scene is that Dee, who we know on some level fears the Morrigan, really enjoys watching her squirm. We cheer that she's finally getting some comeuppance, but we also sneer at the fact that Dee takes such pleasure in another person's pain. A potential moment of sympathy for his character becomes one that makes us dislike him even more. Can you say epic fail?