The day has come that I will finally be reviewing the much awaited sequel to The Fever King, The Electric Heir. Yes, that sentence deserved to be said before I greet you and welcome you to this review. Because if anything could express my excitement over this beast, I hope that would be it.
(Also just general warning, this is a sequel so if you haven't read the first book, please proceed with caution. I have tried to keep the review generally spoiler-free, but things such as the books description and particular implications from things I discuss are spoilers.)
About the Book:
In the sequel to The Fever King, Noam Álvaro seeks to end tyranny before he becomes a tyrant himself.
Six months after Noam Álvaro helped overthrow the despotic government of Carolinia, the Atlantians have gained citizenship, and Lehrer is chancellor. But despite Lehrer’s image as a progressive humanitarian leader, Noam has finally remembered the truth that Lehrer forced him to forget—that Lehrer is responsible for the deadly magic infection that ravaged Carolinia.
Now that Noam remembers the full extent of Lehrer’s crimes, he’s determined to use his influence with Lehrer to bring him down for good. If Lehrer realizes Noam has evaded his control—and that Noam is plotting against him—Noam’s dead. So he must keep playing the role of Lehrer’s protégé until he can steal enough vaccine to stop the virus.
Meanwhile Dara Shirazi returns to Carolinia, his magic stripped by the same vaccine that saved his life. But Dara’s attempts to ally himself with Noam prove that their methods for defeating Lehrer are violently misaligned. Dara fears Noam has only gotten himself more deeply entangled in Lehrer’s web. Sooner or later, playing double agent might cost Noam his life.
You can preorder/order on:
Barnes and Nobles
You can also find more information on the author's website. You can also read the Webtoon (comic) adaptation of the books here.
About the Author:
Victoria Lee grew up in Durham, North Carolina, where she spent twelve ascetic years as a vegetarian before discovering spicy chicken wings are, in fact, a delicacy. She’s been a state finalist competitive pianist, a hitchhiker, a pizza connoisseur, an EMT, an expat in China and Sweden, and a science doctoral student. She’s also a bit of a snob about fancy whisky.
Victoria writes early in the morning, then spends the rest of the day trying to impress her border collie puppy and make her experiments work. She currently lives in Pennsylvania.
(Also look at this wonderful photo of her scheming to rip our hearts out. What a queen.)
Release date: March 17th 2020
Hardcover Page Count: 480
My rating: 5/5 crushed hearts
Before I begin this review, I would like to say that though I did receive this book as an uncorrected proof, all the thoughts listed below are my own. Additionally, this book contains issues that might be difficult for some readers to read, such as child abuse, domestic violence, and others. For the full list and more detailed information, please see the author’s website: victorialeewrites.com/
I can’t believe it’s been a year since I read the first book in this wonderful duology. What I find even harder to believe is that this is the first sequel I’ve read in months. Scratch that, at least a year. I’m pleased to say that The Electric Heir is both the first non-academic book I’ve read in 2020, but also the first sequel I’ve read in a year. And it won’t be a stretch to say that this is probably the best book I’ve read in this year. It’s flawless. Perfect in every way. It contains wonderful, developed characters, elegant writing, and some of the most heart-tugging twists I’ve read in oh so long. Twists that made me audibly gasp and groan in pain. I pity my roommate.
I’d like to begin this review from a quote from Lee’s wonderful prose. A quote that I believe effortlessly describes my emotions towards this book.
“Words seemed insignificant to describe it.”
No arguing with that.
One of the main things that makes it so hard for me to describe the excellence of this novel are the characters. Each so nuanced and built up from protection, it isn’t a leap to say that it’s not every day that you find characters like these. Characters who make you want to rip your heart out, who with every little gesture make you feel for them, something that hasn’t happened to me in a very very very, long time. As I read this book, it was hard to fight the urge to bang my head on something. Because gosh Noam, why are you so hard-headed. And why Dara, why won’t you just say what you know you need to say. And Lehrer. Just…why?
The character I would like to start with is Dara, who defied my every prediction. In The Fever King, much of what we saw of him was through Noam’s perspective, which makes sense. It was in Noam’s POV after all. But what that gave us was a very limited view of the character. Dara was cold and calculated in Noam’s eyes, someone who you needed to work towards, who was hard to reach. Additionally, it wasn’t until the very end of the novel does he really start to make big moves, to become a main cog in the story’s machinery. In The Electric Heir, Lee explores this notion.
“Useless. He was useless, magic-less, good for nothing but sitting locked in a room while witchings went and saved the world.”
Dara begins, and remains, powerless throughout the book. Having lost his powers because of the vaccine, powers he’s had since birth, it isn’t hard to fathom the emptiness he must feel. But, as Lee explores, you don’t need power to be powerful. What I mean by this is a lot of Dara’s arc is him overcoming his past trauma and working in the background. He plots and schemes with the resistance, all from the safety of a single building. He’s powerless, literally, and can’t leave the apartment out of fear of being discovered and killed. So readers might wonder, how exactly is he a part of this story? On the surface, his role seems quite passive. But as the story progresses, readers discover that its anything but. Dara works through his various addictions, he squashes old fears and overcomes old boundaries. He does something that is a superpower in its own right. He grows. Like a flower, his arc follows him as he blossoms out of the shell of past traumas and into an entirely new creature. Lee makes sure that none of this seems fake or unnatural. He doesn’t become better in a blink of an eye. He doesn’t make irrational leaps just for the sake of moving his character along the path. He feels real.
Like any “real” person, he doesn’t live his life dominated by one emotion. Though a lot of his arc focuses on overcoming trauma, this doesn’t mean that he is just sad all the time. He doesn’t just mope around waiting for a night and shining armor to be his reason for change, like a lot of books with abuse victims have. Instead, he works toward change on his own. He is angry. He is vicious. He is charming. He is loving. He is joking. He is real.
“For the first time in years, Dara wanted to live.”
We can’t discuss Dara without his partner in crime; the armor-covered soft-boi Noam. Noam, who has so beautifully over the course of these two books. Noam, whose arc absolutely is a picture of how to write. Like Dara, none of what Noam does feels forced. He evolves into someone harder than he once was. Certain actions that he once struggled with are no longer hard to accomplish. But this, as all change is, doesn’t come without a price. I love how Lee shows the emotional toll to his growth. Things don’t just change in a blink of an eye for him. His character ebbs and flows with the story. Sometimes, he wants to recede into past actions. Sometimes, he wishes for change. Sometimes, he lives his life in denial, even when it hurts. Just like Dara, this makes him feel real.
“Noam wasn’t like Lehrer. But he had to pretend he was, just a little while longer.”
I especially loved how his arc mirrored Dara’s. Noam turns into someone very much like Dara at the start of The Fever King. Bound to an all-powerful man and serving him like a perfect golden slave. He acts to what he believes is the good of the country. But, as he slowly learns, what one man believes is good is not what the majority might believe. Readers will appreciate how Lee outlines this journey towards independence, and how though both Dara and Noam suffer through the same things and initially respond in the same way, they both grow out of it uniquely.
“Dara[…]I have to, we don’t have any other—”
“Choice?” Dara’s mouth twisted in a sardonic knot. “But you do have a choice, Álvaro. You’ve always had a choice.”
The discussion of characters wouldn’t be complete without Lehrer, who in my opinion is the perfect villain. Cold and manipulative, but also charming and endearing, he pulls readers on an emotional roller-coaster. We love to hate him. He is disgusting. Cruel. A literal piece of human garbage. But the way he is built, with his personal trauma, his moments of love, and his of so devious plans, you can’t help but feel conflicted. Because even despite his horrors, he is never 100% wrong. That being said, he isn’t a 100% right either. Beyond that, readers will appreciate just how much thought has been put into crafting him. He truly is the type of villain authors dream of writing. The type of villain who inspires real fear, both in the characters and in the readers. Even I felt this at times, and I’m sure you will too. This fear is not something I find myself often experiencing when reading, and I am so impressed that I do here. I also adore how Lee has built his personality into his own unique flair of planning and tactics as well. As I once saw in a twitter post from Lee, Lehrer doesn’t like doing things the easy way. He is playing a long game. This is something readers will see clearly in his actions, something that will both scare and impress readers. It’s something that builds perfectly with the changes he undergoes, with the past trauma he’s already experienced. It’s something that with Noam and Dara, will make him come alive.
“Lehrer’s anger had emerged in subtler ways, seeping up like rotten groundwater to poison them both.”
Lee creates a wonderful plot and world for these characters to interact with. I love the care that Lee puts into making sure every part of the plot is fluid. It moves organically, with bits of the most heart-wrenching terror and swoony romance mixed in with fast-paced action that feels reminiscent of super-hero movies. Additionally, the expansion of the world in this book, with the characters exploring more than just native Carolinia both through their actions and the news articles, wonderfully fleshing out the world. Going into it would of course bring spoilers so let me just say, you are not prepared for the twists Lee will through your way. Honestly, my only complaint about the plot was that this nearly 500-page beast wasn’t longer.
A major theme that this book wouldn’t be complete without is the discussion of trauma and abuse. In The Fever King, Lee’s main characters imbodied the three main ways that trauma and abuse takes over a person. In this book, Lee shows us how to overcome it. She does this by not only showing the growth happen, but by also highlighting how it does happen. Using this book as a platform to show what must be looked out for, Lee does a wonderful job at creating a discussion in a way that doesn’t feel shoved down readers’ throat or forced. This has been something that I’ve thought a lot about recently with shows like Doctor Who coming under-fire for preaching to their audience. Staying away from specificities, in Doctor Who, despite the qualified actors and wonderful effects, a recent change in scriptwriters has drastically altered the effectiveness of their storytelling. With preachy monologues and stories that are written around/for themes (instead of organically including them) viewers no long feel as though they are taking a much-needed break from the world, but are being lectured to. Though these episodes touch on important subjects such as racism, environmentalism, and fascism, their inclusion isn’t seen as a good one, but as something to be hated. It’s not because people don’t want to learn about the subject matter, but because the storytelling is done ineffectively.
This isn’t the case with The Fever King or The Electric Heir. By introducing them off the bat in the storyline, by making it so the discussion of trauma and abuse are necessary for the plot to go on, readers can feel both like they are enjoying a wonderful story and learning. She explores this through each of her main characters, interacts with it through her plot, and expands it through the “stolen material” that is scattered through the narrative. As I’ve previously said, nothing feels forced. Everything is natural with what characters have experienced. I believe there is a certain value in having a discussion like this. With how Lee crafts the story and includes these issues, readers themselves will discover things about trauma that like Noam or Dara, might not have been known before. Signs that not everyone think are obvious because of how they are covered in charm, words and behaviors that some of us might think are harmless but aren’t. These are things that more people need to think about. Its something that I myself found myself thinking about when I read one of the “documents” that just so happened to be a poster about abusive partners. A poster that, I should add, serves to both teach and expand Noam’s character. It made me think back to a friendship I have that ticks off so many abusive behaviors. With the inclusion of this in the narrative, it made aspects of this relationship clear and open itself to me. I’m not quite sure if I would have noticed it without this book. And hopefully, it helps other readers notice things in their lives too.
“But. You’re strong. He won’t break you like he—”
His throat closed around the rest.
Noam’s inhale was sharp, audible. He lifted his hand and slid chilly fingers into Dara’s shorn-short hair. “You aren’t broken, Dara.”
The Electric Heir is a book that will make you recoil in shock, that will make you gasp and desperately send photos of pages to your friends, a book that will make you reread the previous one to look for signs and question if you were fooled along with Noam and Dara. A book that will change you. Even now I am in shock over how well written it is, with how fleshed out the characters are and how well the world came together. Seriously, the writing is so good I couldn’t help but take notes on it, like it were a writing textbook instead of a novel. This is just one of those books that make you scream and throw the book across the room. Numerous times while reading, I forced myself to pull away so I can stare off in the distance and wonder what the hell it exactly was that I just read. Through the Electric Heir, Victoria Lee shows us that it is possible to top perfection. Yes. It’s just that good.
I would recommend this book for speculative fiction and fantasy lovers who are looking for a story which just a pinch of romance and a whole lot of devious plots and action. I would also recommend this for readers 14 and up because of some of the subjects that are discussed. Please consult the author's website if you have any additional questions.
Quick moment of prose appreciation for those who are still somehow on the fence about reading the book. These are a few of my favorites that I couldn’t help but mark down. Just look at these lines and tell me what’s not to love:
“…a pang of something grotesquely like sympathy shot through Noam’s blood.”
“The bloody light from the late sun deepened her hair from blonde to red.”
“It crumpled like jewelry wire under their tracks.”
“Lehrer’s smile was slow as a knife being unsheathed.”
If you want more, BUY THE BOOK! You won’t be let down!
I hope that you enjoyed this review! This was so fun to write and I honestly do not know what I am going to do with myself now that this duology is over. Actually, I lie. My new mission is to wait in anticipation for Victoria Lee's next novel, A LESSON IN VENGEANCE which will be coming out next year! If you would like to fangirl with me over any of Lee's writing, please let me know down in the comments below. Because gosh do I have feelings.
Until next time,
Click here to read my review of THE FEVER KING.
Welcome to the Book Enigma! I review different genres of books from young adult fiction to sci-fi. Enjoy!
Aspiring author who, along with reading YA and with other genres, also fosters kittens, and play the piano and cello!
“A room without books is like a body without a soul.”