The Fever King is the first book in a futuristic sci-fantasy series set in what is left of the once-United States. It follows a main character who is bisexual, Jewish and Colombian and it features a main m/m romance. It’s a story that talks about a lot of interesting themes, and I’m going to get to that in this review, but first I want to talk about what this book made me think about predictability.
Was The Fever King completely predictable? Yes.
Did I care? Not even a little, and that should tell you something about how well-written these characters are.
I think we often use “this was predictable” to mean that a book was boring and banal. And I mean, that’s often true, especially for books in which predictability isn’t the point – I… wouldn’t complain about predictability in the romance genre, you know – but sometimes it’s just not.
Sometimes a book is predictable because it took the path you wanted it to have, because it developed in a way that made sense, because the author didn’t decide to sacrifice a perfectly solid and entertaining storyline for the sake of shock value. And as long as the main character isn’t naive or unobservant for no reason – and here, that wasn’t the case (I’m going to explain why later) – I’m not going to penalize a book for doing what it should have done.
And did this book go there. The Fever King is set in a country with an internal refugee crisis and an external persecution problem, as it’s the only state in the world that doesn’t imprison people who have magical powers, and it’s a story about how people react to personal and generational trauma, a story about whether and how much the goal can justify the means.
If you know anything about me, you should also know that this last sentence is probably the thing I like to see the most in fiction. Why? Because it makes for terrific villainous characters. And this was no exception. I can’t tell you as much as I’d like about the character I’m talking about – because while it’s a very predictable storyline, I’d rather write a spoiler-free review – but I found him really fascinating and awful, and isn’t that the best combination? As usual, the characters that make me think “I want to know more!” and “please die, like, right now” are the ones I feel strongly about
I also really liked the main character, Noam. He’s the son of immigrants, and after he survived a deadly virus and became a witchling, he’s thrust in a world that represents everything he has always hated – and to see how conflicted he is, how he’s desperately looking for allies and at the same time kind of wants to go back? He was a really interesting character to read about.
And his romance with Dara? The way they start out suspicious of each other but grow closer anyway and still don’t really know what’s the right thing to do… I have a lot of feelings, it must be that I just really like reading about confused young gays who are trying their best to do the right thing.
Click here to see why I didn’t think Noam was too oblivious (SPOILERS)
…most of the naïveté and looking the other way was totally Lehrer-induced, come on. It’s literally his power. The reason I didn’t get frustrated with Noam’s behavior is exactly that this book was so predictable I guessed Lehrer’s power before halfway through and… if you read this novel with that in mind, the parts in which Noam is being supernaturally manipulated are pretty blatant?
A certain character says that maybe Lehrer needs to order something to you directly to make you do it, but there are parts of this book that strongly imply otherwise (and it’s the only thing this book actually used subtlety for, and maybe it shouldn’t have, because I think many are missing it?)
Anyway, it’s funny that I finally have found a book in which the predictability was a positive thing, I would have disliked the main character otherwise.
The other side characters weren’t that developed, but seeing how marginal most of them were, it wasn’t that much of an issue. (This also meant that there isn’t a woman who has a relevant role in the whole book, which I… don’t really like)
I liked reading about this world. It looks like a horrible place to be in, but it also has one of the most interesting magic systems I’ve read in a while, both because it includes superpowers I had never seen in a novel before – the main character main’s power is technopathy, basically magical hacking – and because it’s based on knowledge; you can get new powers if you study (for example, you can get telekinesis from physics).
What I liked less about the world is that I often had no idea how anything looked like, but I can’t say I didn’t like the writing either, because this is the kind of story that felt effortless and that I went through in less than two days, two days during which it took over my head and I couldn’t think about anything else.
My rating: ★★★★¾