Book Review: The One You Feed
Friday, April 1, 2016 at 2:12PM
Windy City Reviews

The One You Feed. James Drummond. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, November 29, 2013, Trade Paperback and Kindle, 379 pages.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Melvin.

Author James Drummond brings his strong character creation and folk tale interpretation to the first book of the Shadow Tales series, called The One You Feed. Seemingly inspired by a Native American myth about the good wolf and bad wolf, this inspiring horror story is well paced and intriguing. By his own admission, Drummond is “attempting to put a new spin on familiar folklore” in this series. Drummond graduated from DePaul University with a bachelor's degree in English writing and his careful crafting invites the reader to follow along with the story through the series. Even before you read the first lines of the book, the unique cover, designed by Wojtek Batko, catches your eye with a little shock that sparks curiosity. The pages that follow are equally engaging.

The One You Feed is full of warm characters and horrifying violence. The main characters, highly adaptable Oregon natives, are a close knit and cantankerous brood that argue lovingly as they struggle to care for one another amid a crisis. The town has been plagued by graphic, horrifying violence soaked in the blood of bullies, families, and ignorant beer-swilling locals. Teenage hormones rage as jealousy over the new girl rises and falls. Then good friends begin to distance themselves, and gamer geeks finally get live action that isn’t role-play.

The endearing protagonist, Toby, earnestly struggles beneath the weight of grieving for his mother, fear for his friends, and an overwhelming desire for redemption. His new neighbor, Rachel, is beside him struggling to find her place in this new society until a menace besets the town. Warned by her reclusive uncle that she must return to the Umatilla Reservation or suffer with the townspeople, Rachel chooses instead to help her new friends in shutting down this curse. It begins with the death of a bully whose girlfriend, the only witness to the crime, becomes catatonic. Even when she wakes to reveal the truth, it’s too much for the townspeople to accept. Toby’s father, Sheriff Hoffman, has to balance an investigation like he’s never seen with a town that is already in bad spirits due to a high unemployment rate. Half of the tension is seeing this small town navigate the balancing act of maintaining a civilization when there isn’t enough left for all. Add unexplained giant paw prints and several heinous murders, and the townspeople begin to boil. The terror mounts as young Toby and his friends try to find their way through myth to reality and save everyone, before there is no one left to save.

Like any supernatural fiction, The One You Feed asks the reader to take a few leaps of faith. There is the suspension of disbelief about mythic beasts and transformation. There are also a few times when you have to just go with it, such as when two teens are found beside the body of a mutilated corpse and told by the sheriff to run along to class. It’s my understanding that most officers would apprehend someone in that situation, but my father is not a sheriff and I didn’t grow up in a small town in Oregon. When you can relate to the characters and are caught in the flow of the story, you can accept that things are done differently regionally and find that the thrills and twists of the tale are worth a few missteps of jurisprudence.

There are many characters in the book, yet each one is unique and relatable. Even the sinister Uncle Bimi is an intriguing figure whom you want to follow further down his path of shadows. There is a great balance between character relationships and the overall story. For example, Toby is not only going through the arduous existence of a small-town teenager but also struggling with a very real grief-driven depression. Instead of allowing this heavy and often contemplative emotion to bury the character, it drives Toby to action. It is compelling, and empathetic readers everywhere will want to follow Toby through any ghastly adventure to see him come out on the other side. Other characters, such as Toby’s father and the super-geek, Willard, could have been placid stand-in characters to fill out the town. Instead, they are robust people with their own conflicts and self-motivated action. This is a character-driven book and that leads well into the next book of the series (Something Wiccan, Shadow Tales 2).

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