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)
This year taught me that when I give myself a reading challenge of 20 or so books, I should really have those exact 20 or so books carefully pre-selected, lest I end up reading almost 70 books, many of which end up being DNFs or impulse-reads, and then having to spend 48 hours of my ridiculous existence clearing out 200 books from my tbr that I can already tell aren’t gonna be my cup of tea. *throws confetti*
In no particular order, the good shit:
Fantasy Books and Novellas:
- Thornfruit by Felicia Davin (Adult Fantasy): Reading this book in the tail-end of the year made up for the crappy books that started this year off, I tell ya. It basically walked up and punched me in the jaw with how good it was and before I knew it, I was on the last page of the third book and scratching at the bit to yell about it to everyone. I’m fully planning to reread this series next year, so if you’re in the mood for a snappy plot and WLWOC, I invite you to give this a shot.
- Our Bloody Pearl by D.N. Bryn (Young Adult Fantasy): Do you like pirates? Do you like mermaids? Do you like stories that are both horrifying and adorable? Do you know the gender binary is a load of crock? Boy howdy, do I have the book for you!
- Circe by Madeline Miller (Adult Fantasy): This book starts out as a Greek Mythology retelling and then slowly becomes a love note to humanity and I loved it.
- The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (Young Adult Fantasy): I waited far too long to read these books with their beautiful political intrigue. Also wanting to either yell at Gen or ruffle his hair affectionately is a big mood.
- More Than Enough by Elizabeth Wambheim (Young Adult Fairy Tales): This novella was all sorts of soft, warm-hearted and adorable and I fell in love before the end of the first chapter. If you need a cute and shortish Beauty and the Beast retelling, this is the one.
- Deadline by Stephanie Ahn (Adult Urban Fantasy): Idk what I was expecting from this book but Harry is such an entertaining and funny character and I enjoyed her POV so much.
- Valor by Isabelle Melançon (Mostly Young Adult-ish Fantasy): So this is actually an anthology of short stories, comics, and graphic novel-type stories that are mostly centered on female protagonists. Also there’s a lot of wlw rep thanks to the artists and writers who contributed. You have to special order it from a specific website, but it’s worth it imho.
Misc. Genres and Nonfiction:
- Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee (Medical Nonfiction): You’re probably wondering why in all seven hells I’d recommend a 500-page book on the history of human cancers and their medical advancements but Mukherjee writes beautifully and I fully plan to read more of his books in the future.
- Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (Adult Science Fiction, Philosophical): I suspected this book would be better than the very flawed movie and hey, I WAS RIGHT. The different stories interweave into something that is so much more. I also recommend listening to the movie soundtrack for maximum feels. And yeah, this is a Bury Your Gays book, but it’s really more of a Bury All Your POV Characters book, to the point that I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised when any of them actually survive.
- Elements of Eloquence by Mark Forsyth (Nonfiction, Writing Reference): If you’ve been looking for a book that explains the elements of creative writing without putting you back in your worst memories of grade school, this is it. Read from front to back or peruse as needed, whatever works.
- Poppy Jenkins by Clare Ashton (Adult Queer Romance): You have no idea how relieved I was when I realized that this wasn’t a YA romance. Yeah, this book uses a lot of romance tropes, but I didn’t mind so much because it was so entertaining. Imagine if Pollyanna was a Welsh lesbian in her 30s running a coffee shop and you’ve got this book in a nutshell.
- The City of Dreams by Hailey Griffiths (Young Adult Fantasy): I expected nothing from this story, but it turned out to be really, really good and the ONLY book in this series so far so now I pass on those “I need more” fangirl feels to y’all. You’re welcome.
- A Faire Encounter by A.M. Valenza (Young Adult Urban Fantasy): I think this is gonna be released on its own next year, but for now it’s part of an anthology and it’s just such a super cute short story.
- Wolves in the Fold by Elizabeth Wambheim (Historical Fiction): Similar to More Than Enough, this story is short yet adorable.
Honorable Mentions (that I got too lazy to ramble about, mea culpa, so nudge me in the comments to ramble about them if you so desire):
- Maple Street by A.M. Dorhauer
- A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
- The Low King by Kristofer Nivens
- I Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn
- Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
- Before She Ignites by Joni Meadows
- The Dead Earl by Elliott Junkyard
- Sunblind by Ramona Meisel
- The Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
- Wrede on Writing by Patricia C. Wrede
- Tales of Nevèrÿon by Samuel R. Delany
- Rogue One: A Star Wars Story by Alexander Freed
- The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan
- The Bones of the Earth by Scott Hale
- Nightblade by Garrett Robinson
- Nine Tomorrows by Isaac Asimov
(Based on The Elements of Eloquence by Mark Forsyth)
Here’s something Forsyth inspired me to make to experiment with style and see what to add or remove from my writing toolbox.
For each of the figures of speech, try writing a few sentences (or more) using it. If you have the book, that’ll be handy since it has many examples of each type to get you thinking. Otherwise, a browser search plus the book’s Wikipedia page will be handy. Try not to focus on writing the best possible responses as much as practicing it and getting a feel for how it sounds in your writing. Good luck!
- Periodic sentences
- Hypotaxis and Parataxis
- Rhetorical Questions
- The Fourteenth Rule
- Metonymy and Synecdoche
- Transferred Epithets
- Scesis Onomaton
(Cross-posted from my other writing-focused blog)
Image credit: Pexels
Today is May 25th, the day Terry Pratchett fans wear the lilac as a reference to his beloved Discworld series (and also, more recently, in honor of the author and other Alzheimer’s patients). It is also, quite wonderfully coincidentally, Towel Day for Douglass Adams fans (author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series) and, as Jack reminded me, World Tarot Day. Let me take a moment to remind you, in case you forgot: DON’T PANIC.
But for me, this day is particularly special.
From my past experiences of reading books and watching movies, I know that I tend to intensely identify with one or two of the characters. Sometimes I think about how they would behave in my life situations and how I would in theirs. I don’t think this habit is all that uncommon, but if you want to read up more on it, see exhibits A and B.
This post, in contrast to the thousands of reviews on Kristen Cashore’s Bitterblue novel, explores the connection I developed while reading this book a few years ago and my recent re-reading to explore why it affected me so strongly. Rather than focus on the plot, I’m focusing more on the points of personal connection as a bit of a psychological exercise.
Slight Spoilers Ahead!
“Work is love made visible…
For if you bake bread with indifference,
You bake a bitter bread
that feeds but half man’s hunger.
And if you grudge the crushing of the grapes,
Your grudge distills a poison
in the wine.
And if you sing as though angels,
and love not the singing,
You muffle man’s ears
to the voices of the day
and the voices of the night.”
From The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran