The Fever King – Identity, Trauma & Moral ambiguity in a thrilling story

The Fever King

Series: Feverwake #1

Publication date : March 1st, 2019

Publisher : Skyscape | Amazon Publishing

Genre : Young Adult | Fantasy

Page Count: 375

Synopsis : 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.
(From Goodreads)

Rating:

5 stars

The Fever King

CW: mention and description of suicide, illness, death, violence, fascism, drug use, excessive drinking, pedophilia, statutory rape, abuse in all its forms, manipulation, trauma, murder, gore, generational trauma, ableist language, slut-shaming.

(No Spoilers)

Do you ever rate a book five stars and the more you think about it the more you realize just how much more you love it and how you wish you could give it a billion more stars? Because that’s me with The Fever King. I finished this book two weeks ago and yet the more I think about it then more I realize how much I underestimated my love for it. Which… is understandable because my goodreads reaction right after finishing it was literally “Just. Can someone please explain what the fuck?”. And that’s still accurate now and will probably be until I read the sequel because literally what the fuck?

I love Victoria’s writing so much, if you think about it, it’s quite clean and simple, but the way they string sentences together and charge them emotionally just drives a nail through your heart. They wrote The Fever King as a very timely and politically aware piece of literature, this is a book that didn’t come to play and isn’t afraid to call out everything that’s wrong with the system. And I know this is something that it’s been criticized for. Too political. Too queer. But I think what those people mean too real. Because this book will speak the truth and it will make you uncomfortable but you’ll love it all the more for it. I know I did. I adored it with every rotten fiber of my heart.

The concept of this book is a great one and I loved the angle the author approached it with. The Fever King is set in a future US that has been divide into different nations. We’re in Carolinia, one of said nations and the world has been fighting this virus for decades upon decades because when it strikes, it kills most people and those it doesn’t kill get magical powers, excuse me but mixing science and magic? HOW COOL IS THAT? The powers the person ends up getting are more often than not influenced by their affinities pre-infection and they can learn other skills, if they understand the science behind them. It’s been a long time since a magic system had me so giddy to learn more but this did it. My science nerd brain was well fed. And all of this was extremely easy to grasp.
Noam, our bisexual Colombian Jewish main character, survives the infection that kills his dad and wakes up with technopathic powers. And listen. I would die for this boy, I loved how witty and cunning he is, he has a smart mouth and isn’t afraid to use it, but he’s also naive, strong headed and could avoid a lot of trouble if only he listened once or twice. He’s also the son of undocumented immigrant and has grown up extremely poor because of Carolinia’s cold shoulder to its refugee population as well as its increasingly loud and violent anti-immigrant sentiment. And he’s determined to destroy the system that killed his parents from the inside out.

This book not only draws parallels with what is currently happening (in the US) but it also explores inter-generational trauma when drawing a parallel with the Holocaust, and space was explicitly made for that discussion by making the main cast Jewish.

I was drawn to Noam’s character because of the decisions he had to make and how that created a golden opportunity to explore moral ambiguity and the lengths people would go to for what’s right, where do they draw the line? Is the line the same for everyone? Does this line even exist in such an oppressive and borderline genocidal climate? What’s right? What’s wrong? Are things really either or and not somewhere in the murky grey middle? And that was fascinating to read, and quite frankly one of the stronger suits of the book, which makes me circle back to this book being “political”, and makes me ask, how can it not be when the very existence of its characters and the people they represent is made political?

Then there’s Dara. Troubled soft Dara who just wants to live on a farm and stargaze until he grows grey and old. And through the whole book, I just wanted someone to wrap him in a -consensual- hug, tuck him in bed with a good book and some hot chocolat. He’s Jewish and the adoptive son of the Defense minister of Carolinia, comes off as a snarky jerk who doesn’t care about anything, but who just has to deal with a huge amount of trauma every. waking. moment. And listen, I’ve never felt more seen, acknowledged or validated by how trauma coping was handled in my whole life.

Victoria didn’t shy away from showing the gritty, messy, dark and very much unhealthy ways people can cope with trauma. How sometimes your only coping mechanisms are isolation and self-destruction because it’s better to suffer at your own hands than at another’s and because you don’t have the tools or vocabulary to do it any other way. Dara’s touch aversion, his nonchalant and dick-ish façade, the way he had to live with people worshiping his abuser while he knew how much of a piece of shit he was and not being able to do anything about it. All of it. It was extremely hard to read but also extremely cathartic.

Because of how much trauma both characters deal with, the relationship between them was intense, and they weren’t always great for each other but they ultimately stuck by each other no matter their differences. Which…is another real part of this book, trauma not only affects you but it also affects the way you interact with people and if you ask me, it adds some kind of urgency and intensity to the way you care about people, which can turn toxic if not handled well, and I feel like this book navigated that line so very well, showing both sides of the coin. I not only rooted for Noam and Dara to KISS ALREADY but I also rooted for them to open up to each other, and be honest and GOOD to each other. Their romance was so slow-burn and tentative and I lived for the few sweet moments they had.

Another prominent character I want to talk about is Lehrer, who’s the queer Jewish minister of defense and never in my life have I felt so conflicted about a character. And I’m still not sure how I feel about him even after finishing the book. He’s lived over a hundred years, maintaining himself with his magic (being the most powerful person to exist), and he’s mysterious and complicated and absolutely horrifying but that draws you to him even more because you can never be sure of what his attentions are or if his agenda is really what he says it is (I don’t think it is but!!!! i don’t know!!!!). There are other side characters in the book that make up Dara and Noam’s friends group, who are Ames, Taye and Bethany and I hope we can see more of them in the future, especially Ames. I love that girl to pieces.

This review is long enough as it is, and I think I’ve overshared more than enough for one post so I’m gonna leave it at this and urge you to PLEASE read this book if you can handle the topics it tackles. It’s brilliant. Now yours truly has to agonizingly wait for THE ELECTRIC and HOW am I supposed to survive so long on that ending? HOW?


That’s it until next time.

Did you read The Fever King? If so, what did you think?

Who was your favourite character?

Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.

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20 thoughts on “The Fever King – Identity, Trauma & Moral ambiguity in a thrilling story

  1. Please don’t feel bad about the length of this review because I loved reading every word 💙 I’m so glad you loved this, and I love how you analyzed each of the characters and character relationships so well! And as a lover of magic systems, I am so excited to read this book more than ever! I was actually supposed to get to it in March, but life happened, but I hope to still get to read this book really soon !

    Like

  2. HAHAHA OKAY I NEED TO READ THIS THANK YOU I had no idea the characters were supposed to be Jewish and that makes me very excited for it, because you know the book isn’t going to pull punches.

    Like

  3. Wait oh my god… I wasn’t THAT THAT interested in this book until I saw that jerky minister’s son as the love interest… oh my god I need this now… why am I a sucker for arrogant sons of powerful people?? I don’t know. it’s wild and weird. I NEED THIS NOW

    Like

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