I dedicate this review to the woman on Amazon who took stars off of her review solely because this book has queer characters. *blows raspberry*
By reading this book, I most definitely messed up my reading schedule for the next month (I was supposed to be reading nonfiction + a couple short stories, whoops!), but a) I wanted to support the author’s big debut week and b) it was engrossing and I found it very hard to put this book down once I started and I don’t think I even set this book down once after I hit the 60% mark.
But I implore all y’all to give this book a try, especially those of you who are begging for YA novels, especially sci-fi/dystopia novels with a decent plot, diverse characters + a romantic YA relationship that isn’t garbage, and unabashedly nerdy elements.
Things I really liked
- Noam Álvaro. Noam Álvaro. Noam Álvaro. He is one of my favorite characters of this year so far, and that’s a huge compliment, considering all the other good writing that has blessed me this past month. I’m glad he exists to be stubbornly brave and trying to do the right thing because I think he’s a good role model for the age group YA typically caters to. (He’s also a 10/10 bisexual mess and I hope by the end of the series he finally gets to feel happy and safe, knowing that his people are thriving.)
- Other reviewers said they hated the middle of the book, which is basically all about magical military school/training montages/worldbuilding. Idk if it’s just me or something, but I enjoyed that part of the book, especially because of all the thought that went into the sciencey part of the worldbuilding, especially re: magic. Also, there was still enough intrigue during the middle section to build up the overarching plot. The other reviewers are right when they say that the bulk of the superfast action really hits around 60% of the way through, but I liked the slower-paced science stuff, too!
- This author really did not hold back on the political satire/social commentary, etc. and I really admired her for it. This book may be set in the future, but it’s a wake up call for anyone who is reading the book in the present-day, too. This book says that we, too, can do something to make a change rather than sit back and watch the injustices in the world play out, and I think this was a really important aspect of this book.
- Also, this author set out to write about characters who aren’t white, straight, or Christian and who call out classism and as far as I can tell, she didn’t give a shit if that impacted her reviews or the willingness of people to read her books. Hell yes. We need to encourage more of this attitude in authors, especially YA and middle-grade authors, who tend to have younger audiences. (We should also uplift authors of color, but I think Lee’s book is an example of a good step for white authors to take, at least. Of course, I may not be realizing many/any missteps this book took because of my own biases and whiteness, so if anyone has anything to say on the matter, please comment!)
- Admittedly, I kinda picked up on the Big Reveals and plot twists well before Noam did (mostly because he’s kinda oblivious lol), but I still thought they were well done, storytelling-wise. And the intensity of the plot/storytelling had me on the edge of my seat and flailing quite a lot while reading this book.
- The romantic relationship in this book was surprisingly pretty healthy for a YA novel, meaning that it wasn’t romanticized abuse and cruelty. I mean, they did hurt each other and were petty at times (mostly by not being fully honest with each other and also doing immature things, which you can put down to their ages, if anything), but they seemed to truly care about each others’ well-being and tried to make amends.
- I also liked the background info in the forms of letters and transcripts etc. that added to the mystery/intrigue and filled in the reader on things that Noam didn’t know. I liked that it added to both worldbuilding and background of certain important characters.
Things I was iffy about
- Okay y’all, so this book is very obviously written by an academic, so there are a lot of concepts and things (e.g. literary references) that might fly over some people’s heads. But I don’t want to discount her audience’s background. I just wanted to note that down for y’all since academia/academic elements in a novel isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and some readers might even find it pretentious. YMMV.
- I do think the switch in pacing midway was a bit jarring, too, especially the stuff in the last 10% of the book or so, where it kinda got confusing at times (though with good reason). We’re reading this book entirely from Noam’s 3rd person POV, so we only know as much as he does (sorta). So the ending in particular is a bit confusing, though not exactly a cliffhanger, either.
I was glad for the tiny bits of info we got about the other Level IV witchings (and witchings in general), but I wanted to know more! I hope this isn’t the last we see of Ames, Bethany, and Taye.
- Okay, I’m deliberately being vague to avoid spoilers, but I have mixed feelings about that consent discussion during the book. I think most readers can agree that the person at the focal point of the consent issue is deeply traumatized and probably not willing to accept what happened to them. However: in case you were creeped out by certain characters for reasons that were only revealed much later in the book and weren’t entirely satisfied with how it was resolved, you’re not alone!
- Some readers may also have been disturbed by the large amount of characters who self-medicated with drugs and alcohol, especially the teenaged characters. I don’t necessarily think readers will think this is a romanticization of unhealthy coping mechanisms, but I was a bit discomforted by it. These characters are not okay and could use a lot of therapy.
- Also, this is something I must mention as a mentally ill person who has a lot of mentally ill friends and family members, as well as disabled friends and family members, but Noam uses A LOT of ableist words to describe/talk about things. Maybe we could put that down as one of his character flaws and so on, since disability isn’t a focus of this book, but it is pretty rampant and people who are easily bothered by that might wanna take it into account. I personally just put it down to “Noam being Noam”, but thought to mention it here.
TL;DR: I highly recommend this book!
P.S. Here’s the author’s list of content warnings on her blog, for the curious: http://victorialeewrites.com/2018/09/18/the-fever-king-content-warnings
(Crosspost from my goodreads)