Hello everyone! Today, to my upmost pleasure, I will be posting my review of Victoria Lee's The Fever King! The Fever King is by far the debut novel that I have looked forward to the most because of the lush world filled with dark corners that I couldn't wait to explore, and that was just from the description. A book truly unlike any other, the The Fever King is a book that I can't stop recommending to people, and I hope that after this post, you won't be able to stop either.
About the Book:
Release date: March 1st 2019
Hardcover page count: 412 pages
In the former United States, sixteen-year-old Noam Álvaro wakes up in a hospital bed, the sole survivor of the viral magic that killed his family and made him a technopath. His ability to control technology attracts the attention of the minister of defense and thrusts him into the magical elite of the nation of Carolinia. The son of undocumented immigrants, Noam has spent his life fighting for the rights of refugees fleeing magical outbreaks—refugees Carolinia routinely deports with vicious efficiency. Sensing a way to make change, Noam accepts the minister’s offer to teach him the science behind his magic, secretly planning to use it against the government. But then he meets the minister’s son—cruel, dangerous, and achingly beautiful—and the way forward becomes less clear.
Caught between his purpose and his heart, Noam must decide who he can trust and how far he’s willing to go in pursuit of the greater good.
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 is represented by Holly Root and Taylor Haggerty at Root Literary.
Where to buy the book:
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. All the thoughts below are my own. Quotes featured are also from an unfinished copy of the book and are subject to change*
In Carolina, a country part of the what was once the United States, sixteen-year-old Noam Álvaro wakes up alone in a hospital bed. Sent there after deadly viral magic swept through his neighborhood, he’s now alone, his family killed. Still, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Now a technopath thanks to deadly magic, his ability to control technology attracts the Minister of Defense. Inviting Noam to train with the magical elite, he’s asked to help serve his country by training to become one of their elite magical soldiers. But as the son of undocumented immigrants in a country whose Prime Minister promotes nothing but oppression of immigrants, the last thing Noam wants to do is help the government and wipe away the years he’s spent fighting for the refugees. So he embraces the opportunity as a way to finally make change, accepting the minister’s offer to teach him the science behind his magic and secretly planning to use it against the government. But when he meets the minister’s ward and all his dangerous beauty, Noam becomes less certain if what he’s doing is right. Stuck between his longing for change and wishes for love, Noam must decide if trust is a thing he can give out liberally, or if the more he lends his heart out, the faster his world might come crashing down around him.
This book was what I’ve been waiting for for so. Damn. Long. Ever since the day I saw one of the author’s beautiful aesthetics on her twitter (which you should definitely check out) I knew that I had to read this book. Why, you may ask, were you hooked on this book from the start? For most books, this might be a relatively hard question to answer. But for The Fever King, I never once questioned my seemingly undying love for its concept, characters, plot, setting, and just about everything else. So, let’s go over a few of these.
“Power’s a nasty thing, and none of us are immune.”
The first aspect that I was completely in love with was one that I feel isn’t discussed that frequently: dark characters. I’ve read many synopsizes and descriptions of books, and I feel like a common theme in many of them is saying that the book contains ‘dark’ characters or themes. As the person that I am, this attracts me to the point where I would do anything to get my hands on the book. The problem occurs when I get the book and finally get to read it. The book that claimed so frequently to be filled with darkness and pain, isn’t, leading me to feel let disappointed. When it came to The Fever King, I was excited because yes, it’s described by having dark characters, but the author also backed this up with amazing aesthetics and excerpts of things such as the first chapter (subscribe to her newsletter for more of this). And when I finally got to read the actual book… well it’s safe to say that excited couldn’t even get close to describing how I felt. Like, WOW. From page one, an almost painful sense of sorrow can be felt through the pages of Noam’s story as he goes through trauma unlike anything else I’ve read before. And even when something ‘light’ occurs, the sense that something can still go wrong is prevalent. This is caused by a few different elements, one of which being articles that the author includes at the ends of some chapters. The true definition of dark and particularly clinical, these articles chronical one of the character’s trauma while helping to promote the overall feel of the book by creating its dark history. Horrid descriptions of terrifying experiments and twisted recorded conversations are featured through these, making the reading wonder just how destructive and horrifying this world is.
“I take back what I said about silence.”
These articles would mean nothing without the setting. In a post-war Carolina, the world is in shambles. Yes, there are some ‘good’ parts to some of the cities, but most of the people live in disease-ridden ruin and struggle to survive because of the poor treatment they receive. So who exactly are these people who are treated so horribly? They’re citizens from the country lining Carolina’s border—Atlantia. Fleeing their home country to purse a better, safer life in Carolina, they’re often treated like disease ridden rats, given little if any rights, treated horribly, and left to die by the hundreds from the viral magic. Being Atlantian is a big part of Noam’s identity. Fighting for Atlantian rights for as long as he’s been alive, all he wants to do is to continue in his parent’s footsteps and help them. I loved how Lee included this aspect into her book and wove it in so beautifully. The way she discusses a topic so current to our world is breathtaking. Readers will appreciate how she didn’t just mention it once and let it be, but fully ingrained this theme throughout the book, showcase the horrid and disgusting lengths that some leaders might go to prove a point or please the wealthy. The way that she discussed fascism in a young adult book was truly unique, and how she dealt with it even more so.
“‘That’s super Atlantian territory now, right? I heard it’s pretty overcrowded, with all the refugees.’
‘Yeah. I guess it’s…’—what the hell was he even saying?—‘super Atlantian.’”
This theme was seen prominently in Noam and how he dealt with things. As I mentioned before, Noam was practically raised in fear of the Carolinian government and all that they might do to his people. But he was also proactive in his fight against them, doing all he could possibly do to help. When he was originally taken to train, he almost decided not to go but changed his mind when he discovered the power that his new role could grant him. And though he learns not to be so fearful of the pain the government could inflict on him simply because he was Atlantain, his pain and motivation doesn’t lessen. If anything, it gets stronger. The character of Noam is one that would appeal to many in this sense because the sheer motivation and anger that pushes him to act. I loved how he embodied all those that are marginalized and pushed down. The way he moves in such fervor to get to his goal, the way he can be blinded by his ambition at times but still fights for what he believes in, is breath-taking. One other aspect that is so refreshing about his character is that though he actively fights, he still feels the pain of being an Atlanitan. In the quote above, he takes part in a conversation with others from the training center where they say things about his people that, while are not necessarily horrible, are degrading and uncomfortable. Readers would appreciate this as Lee shows the various sides of the immigrant, or minority, experience. How these people speak so plainly about another’s people, thinking of them as a nuance and not as a struggling minority group, and can’t comprehend how horrible their words are, is sadly something that happens every day.
“A moment passed, then Dara abruptly turned his face away. His spine was too straight, head bowed like he was waiting for the blade to fall.”
The fight for immigrant rights wasn’t the only aspect of the book that helped make it the masterpiece that it is. Trauma, a thing that Lee showcased beautifully, was heavily present. And though it was written more obviously for some and more hidden in others, it was such a strong aspect of the book that it would not be complete without it. Now this is the part of my review where I WISH everyone already read it because DAMN I NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE ABOUT THIS. But, I will contain myself and hopefully still successfully explain the absolutely magnificent job Lee did with including this in the book. In the world we live in, there are a few main types of reaction to trauma, including the person who does something about it, the person who allows it to ruin them, and the person who allows it to engrain with their being and take over their world. Each of these people are present in this book. Written in a way that felt oh so real, these characters in no way behaved like Lee just read an article about trauma and decided to write it into her book. Instead, Lee gives them each their own variations and made sure that not a single aspect about them was left loose and sloppy. From subtle things that readers might not notice right away, to aspects of a personality that both the reader and characters won’t realize are destructive until too late, Lee uses this aspect to once again give a new dimension to her characters. This blends in with how she describes the immigrant experience. Many people don’t think much beyond immigrants besides the fact that they are there. Fewer think about helping them. It’s an even smaller group that thinks about what they might be going through once they are ‘safe’ or a full citizen. This is the group of people that Lee seeks to expand. And while this is not necessarily true for all of her characters that experiencing trauma, it’s still an important part them. Lee includes these themes to help educate the youth, something that can’t be said for many books in the same genre. By exposing readers to new aspects of life, she helps turn a simple book into something that means much more.
Lehrer lifted a brow. ‘Do they leave that part out of the history books? He said, and Noam laughed, surprising himself.”
Another aspect that was much needed in the YA world was all the representation it had, in particular the Jewish and LGBTQ rep. I’ll preface this that while LGBTQ+ used to only be popular in contemporary, they are slowly starting to make their way into fantasy. And the same could be said for books with Jewish themes/characters, only much less so in fantasy. And though I like to specifically seek out books that have these themes, it’s quite rare for me to satisfy both my love of fantasy and my yearning for a Jewish/LGBTQ rep book at the same time. Because of this, I believe that it is safe to say that I have actually never read a book that not only showcased LGBTQ characters in a speculative fiction book, but Jewish characters as well. Too say that I was excited would be undershooting how I felt about this. In fact, as soon as I heard that The Fever King was a book that featured both magic, gays, and Jews, I knew that I would have to read it right away. I could not stress this enough but, wow, did the author not only write these aspects in a way that will make readers swoon, but also made them feel heard. As a Jew myself, I couldn’t help but freak out whenever something Jewish-y was mentioned. And as someone who loves LGBTQ representation in books, I couldn’t stop fangirling when an um…certain pair… did basically anything together. And the fact that Jewish references were featured so prominently through this, blew me away. This was particularly meaningful because these two groups are so rarely seen together, so the fact that Lee was able to combine them in a way that didn’t feel forced but meant to be, was absolutely amazing.
“He wasn’t eating a proper dinner, just picking the red pieces from a bag of sour candies. He’s accumulated quite the pile next to his lukewarm potatoes.”
This review would not be complete without mentioning the beautifully crafted side characters. Each with their own characteristics and personalities, I loved how Lee didn’t just write them for the sake of writing them, but wrote them to be a part of the story. I know this sound kind of silly because of course they were written to be a part of the story. But what most readers might not realize is that often times when an author mentions themes like immigration and trauma, or have certain types of representation including, they reserve them for either just the main character(s) or just the side characters. Lee, on the other hand, did not want to stick with that. Readers will appreciate how she took some themes from the main cast and carried it over to the rest of the characters. By doing this, she proves that those themes shouldn’t just be used as a way to make a particular character seem ‘special’, but expand it to show how similar different people could be. Readers will be able to fall in love with her side cast of characters just as easily as with Noam and Dara, slowly, but then all at once.
I would also like to really quickly address the magic system that is featured in this story. Truly unlike anything else I’ve ever read, I was completely obsessed with it from the moment I read about how the viral magic was something people feared, not sought. With most magic books that I’ve read, having magic is something that is wanted and held on a high pedestal. But in The Fever King, it was something to run from. From the very beginning we learn that Noam is the only survivor of the viral magic that swept through his whole neighborhood. And that’s what happens when you have such a low survival rate, only one out of thousands may make it out alive. Readers will find this captivating as it means that for one person to have powers, hundreds of people have to die. I thought that this added yet another dimension to the darkness of the book, but also increased the urgency of which Noam must save his people. Never have I thought that a book’s magic system would serve as almost an antagonist, which was something I enjoyed greatly in this book.
Wow, well that was definitely something. This review meant so much for me to write because I cherished this book so much. Filled to the brim with so many emotions, it’s clear that Lee poured her being into making this book as beautiful and perfect as it could be. From the representation showcased, to the characters that demand to be adored, to the plot that is guarantees to make readers scream because WHY????, Lee wrote precisely the type of novel for me. Utterly perfect in every sense of the word The Fever King is not a book to be missed. If you found yourself interested in any of the themes I mentioned, don’t hesitate to check this book out on Goodreads and maybe even preorder. Inspired by true pain and built in a magical world unlike any other, The Fever King will shock you with the horrors it showcases, but make you fall in love all the same.
Enter the Giveaway:
I hope that you enjoyed this post! This book is definitely the best book I've read in a while and I know I am going to struggle finding my next obsession because AH who could obsess over anything else when you have The Fever King? I hope that you consider checking out Victoria Lee and her beautiful gem of a debut, The Fever King.
Until next time,
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.”