Review: Learning Fear by B.A. Chepaitis

This is the third in a set of reviews of the Jaguar Addams series by BA Chepaitis. You can read the first one, for The Fear Principlehere and the second for The Fear of God here. Every Thursday in April I’ll be reviewing another book in the series, culminating in two stops for Chepaitis’ blog tour for the latest in the series,The Green Memory of Fear, on April 25 and 26.

Learning Fear
BA Chepaitis

Wildside Press (2000)
190 pages
Action / Sci-Fi

Purchase it from Amazon

On Planetoid Three, Jaguar Addams establishes an empathic link with the darkest criminal minds – forcing offenders to face the fears that drive them to their most desperate acts. But her maverick ways also drive her bosses to distraction, and now they’re sending her back to school.

Jaguar must go to a university where a controversial History of Empathic Arts is being taught. Posing as a professor, her job is to determine the agenda of an anti-empathic extremist group on campus. But someone at the university knows who Jaguar is, and is invading her mind – testing the limits of her empathic skills as she learns a very new fear.

I must apologize to Ms. Chepaitis. I read the majority of Learning Fear while under the ever increasing pain of a raging ear infection. I fear it might have influenced my ability to enjoy this volume of the Jaguar Addams series in the same way as the previous volumes. I also am not entirely sure I can put together coherent thoughts right now, so this review will be a bit shorter than usual.

The best quality about this series so far comes from the different framework Chepaitis uses in Jaguar’s adventures. The first volume of the series was an introduction to the world and its rules. The second transported the majority of the story into a virtual reality realm. This third novel takes Jaguar off of her planet prison and drops her in the middle of a small college campus in upstate New York where she’s slightly off her game and uncomfortable in her surroundings. This total change in scenery brings with it a whole new cast of characters while also separating Jaguar from her would-be love Alex, so they can both secretly pine for each other and forcefully deny to themselves that there’s any romantic feelings. It’s kind of fun to watch.

The inner mystery of Learning Fear – and I strongly believe this is the pain talking, not the book itself – confused me. For the most part I couldn’t place which people were on which side, who was good and who wanted to kill everyone. Because there are so many new players, it became a little complicated to tell some people apart, much less classify them on a side of the battle being played out.

Despite being in an uncomfortable atmosphere, Jaguar’s scenes with her class were my favorite parts of the book. I liked seeing her attempt to communicate with people who were frightened by and prejudice of people with empathic powers. Plus she has a pretty cool teaching style. Outside of the classroom Jaguar is far more vulnerable in this book than the previous volumes, so it adds another nuanced difference in her character while also allowing for the exploration of another empathic power Jaguar hadn’t really used before in the books.

Then there’s Alex, who makes me smile in all his competence and dedication. He remained pretty much the same character as he has always been – very protective and doing the right thing no matter the trouble it gets him – but was fleshed out more by the mental journey he took himself through in Jaguar’s absence. Based on the ending, it seems like the next book offers more of a chance that Jaguar and Alex will be working more as a team and not butting heads so much.

So short version: I was really confused in many parts, particularly at the end, but yet I still enjoyed it and really liked the ways Chepaitis is managing to make each book in the series a very distinctive story.

And now I’m going to take more pain pills and lie down.