Title: The Fever King
Author: Victoria Lee
Release Date: March 1 2019
Genre: Science Fiction
Goodreads Rating: 3.76 (of 2672 ratings)
There’s a reason I don’t usually read science fiction.
I consider myself fairly intelligent. *humble brag* moment, I got straight-As in school. But there’s something about science fiction that goes straight over my head. 95% of the time, the world-building turns to mush in my head no matter how well the author constructs the universe. Add in the facts that The Fever King was a scifi-dystopian mix with massive commentary on the refugee crisis in America overlaid with political machinations and MATH and my brain was working overtime to keep up … and sadly failing.
📌 I didn’t get into The Fever King until about two-thirds of the book. Yes, for most people this is a huge WARNING, ABANDON NOW sign. I wanted to see what the hype was about, okay? Which is why my biggest “lesson learned” is that this book is NOT for readers who aren’t fans of science fiction (aka people like me).
1. There is a lot of history that goes into the establishment of Carolinia and Atlantia. This is peppered in throughout the book, so if you suck at retaining historical facts you’ll often find yourself flipping back to see when an invasion happened and why it’s such a big deal.
2. Noam enters a branch of the military and ENTER MILITARY JARGON. This is not necessarily a “science-fiction” specific issue, but we do have magic-specific military workers. Needless to say I couldn’t follow some of the terms and we didn’t get in-text explanations for many of them.
3. The magic system in this book can be activated through *shudder* physics. And math. Which alright, cool that we get an explanation on how magical abilities happen, but I’m afraid my eyes glazed over during the paragraphs on p-sets (what is that?) and linear algebra and how that makes things go abracadabra. My brain is too simple for this!!
I didn’t dislike the sections like this but they did confuse me. And obviously it’s hard to enjoy a book when you’re confused.
My Confusion Aside though…
📌 By now we all got the memo: Sha was confused. I didn’t fully understand the world, I didn’t fully get how the magic worked (to my credit, I do believe it was poorly explained in some parts. By the end of the book, we still don’t know the abilities of some characters). Then it was time to find out the plot of the book which, this may surprise you, confused me.
From the start, I did not trust the person our protagonist, Noam, trusted. And he vehemently defended this person even as others were like, “Yeah, Noam, he’s shady.” (In fact, Noam made several decisions where I was like, “Okay, but how is that logical?” I thought Lee was trying to make a point similar to Angie Thomas’ in The Hate U Give, how rage doesn’t lead to change, but I didn’t really get any of that.) It took forever to get to the meat of the plot, which was overthrowing the current person in charge, and then it happened so fast that I didn’t feel satisfied.
(as you are seeing, this book was not my cup of tea)
📌 My general thoughts towards this book are confusion and a tiny bit of frustration (because I don’t like being confused). I prefer disliking a book to being flat out “wait but, what do I think???”
Here are a few things that still leave me puzzled:
⚡ What even was Taye’s character.
⚡ But what happened at the end? Did The Thing work or did Noam remember?
⚡ How is Calix still alive??
⚡ What is the magic in this book though, like, can you do anything you want or only certain powers like howwwwwwwww.
📌 Noam has an aggressive “you can never understand me because you’re not a refugee” attitude towards everyone in the book WHICH I am trying to understand because I am not a refugee and have not lived a similar situation. But in the book he hears from Bethany whose mom hates her because she’s a witching and Ames whose father risked her life and Dara who has all that backstory* and he still kinda has the “they are privileged and don’t understand” attitude. I don’t feel like he has any sympathy towards their struggles, because they have struggled, just not in the ways he has. IDK.
*I just want to add that Noam’s reactions towards Dara when Dara was trying to open up about the abuse he faced made me uncomfortable. (The first and second times. The scene was better written the third time, but I was still kind of off-put by the first two.)
📌 For a book that is drawing parallels between the current refugee crisis and magic users/refugees, The Fever King made some pretty poignant comments. More than few times I was nodding along with Noam like, yes, yes this is valid! I think sometimes the importance of the points were buried under plot elements, and I had trouble discerning when magic users were being targeted vs refugees.
This book has lofty goals and makes some hella important commentaries on the rights of refugees. The scifi world did overburden me and my comprehension in this book suffered. A Cinderella rating, and reminder that this book is best recommended to fans of science-fiction or even high-fantasy.
representation: Jewish/refugee/bisexual/latinx main character
content warnings: abuse, rape, murder, death of a side character, scenes of suffering and mistreatment of refugees, child pornography, sex, drug use, smoking, swearing
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