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The Fever King: Feverwake, Book 1

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
The Fever King: Feverwake, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Absorbing but disturbing blend of sci-fi, fantasy, romance.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Very brief information about nature of viruses. Near-future blend of science fiction, romance, and fantasy meant to entertain and provoke thought.

Positive Messages

Explores and asks questions about whether it's OK to do something bad if it's for the greater good: How much wrongdoing, if any, is OK if it leads to something better? Who decides what the greater good actually is? Some hints that sexual abuse may be explored more fully in the second installment. Negative examples show the impact of a divided society of haves and have-nots. Kept isolated, impoverished, and without resources, they eventually rebel to better their situation. Briefly explores leadership responsibility for creating an environment of fearing others instead of inspiring empathy.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Noam is a bit of an antihero. He's not exactly easy to like and is too self-involved to see things for what they really are. But he genuinely wants to bring about positive change for refugees, which motivates most of his decisions. He works hard at education and physical training. He identifies as bisexual, and his romance with Dara (a boy) and the future society's lack of stigma about sexuality are positive representations for the LGBTQ community.

Violence

Frequent disturbing, violent imagery from torture, genocide, suicide, shooting, murder by repeated stabbing, magical abilities causing death and injury. Blood's mentioned but not described in detail, except one gunshot to the head; mention of blood and brains on wall. Plot frequently mentions murder, assassination, violent overthrow of government. A video of sexual activity between an adult and a teen is vaguely described, raises issue of sexual abuse, which isn't explored in this first installment. A bird is tortured using magical abilities; bloody feathers, broken bones mentioned. Mention of torture using medications and capsaicin injections.

Sex

A same-sex romance involves emotional and physical feelings of attraction, kissing, and caressing. One instance of sex isn't directly narrated but kissing, undressing, and caressing are described in some detail, like feeling hardness through jeans. Oral sex is implied. Mention of condoms and lube in a bedside drawer.

Language

"S--t," "d--k" (name-calling and body part), lots of variations of "f--k," "bitch," middle-finger gesture.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens, who seem to be of age in the future setting, drink whiskey, bourbon, tequila, vodka, and scotch, usually without consequences beyond a few hangover symptoms. A couple of teens' abuse of alcohol is mentioned but no one acts on it. A teen does a line of cocaine. Mention of using medications to torture. A few characters smoke cigarettes. One mention of an adult smoking a cigar.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Fever King is the first of two planned volumes in the Feverwake series. It's set in the near future and combines elements of science fiction, fantasy, and romance. Main character Noam, 16, identifies as bisexual; the central, same-sex romance and the lack of stigma in the future society make it a positive representation of a world without LGBTQ issues. Kissing, caressing, and feelings of attraction are described. An instance of having sex has some detail leading up to it, but the sex itself isn't directly described. Lots of disturbing, violent images from a plot that involves murder, suicide, genocide, torture, possible sexual abuse, assassinations, and violent government overthrow. Blood and brains spattered on a wall are mentioned once; otherwise, blood is mentioned but not described. Pain is sometimes described in detail. Lots of variations of "f--k." Other strong language is rarer but includes "d--k" and "s--t." Teens frequently drink alcohol, and a couple abuse it; consequences are infrequent and mild. Several characters smoke. Explores themes about a divided society, how we treat refugees, and whether it's OK to do something bad if it's for the greater good.

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What's the story?

THE FEVER KING is set in the 22nd century, after a deadly virus and nuclear attacks leave much of the United States in ruins. A massive outbreak in the new country of Atlantia means many people have fled in fear to the country of Carolinia. As the son of refugees, 16-year-old Noam's life has always been hard, and he's always been hungry. Noam somehow survives an outbreak in the refugees' part of town, and like all of the very few who survive, the antibodies created give Noam magical abilities. Noam's whisked off to an elite government-run training facility where he'll learn to hone his new abilities, and where he meets and falls for the mysterious Dara. If he can't be certain anyone is who they seem to be, can Noam figure out whom to trust? Or how far he'll go to bring justice and opportunity to the refugees?

Is it any good?

Debut novelist Victoria Lee has created an absorbing, genre-defying page turner that will appeal to a broad range of readers. The Fever King skillfully combines elements of near-future science fiction, dystopia, romance, and fantasy into a believable and relatable whole, so that a reader who's more drawn to one genre than another will easily incorporate the other elements into their enjoyment of the story.

The only slight drawback is that the world and its rules are a little difficult to piece together at the beginning, but things quickly fall into place as the story moves along. The story also raises lots of questions both timeless and of the moment. How do we treat refugees? Why do we fear people who are different from us? Is it ever OK to do something wrong in order to make a positive change? Disturbing, violent images, strong language, and sensual but nongraphic sexual content make it best for high-schoolers and up.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in The Fever King. How much is too much? Does it matter if it's real-world or fantasy? Is reading about violence different from seeing it in videos, TV, games, etc.?

  • What about the strong language? Does it bother you? Is it realistic? What's the big deal about swearing?

  • Are alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes glamorized in the story? Is it realistic, and if it is, does that make a difference? What are the consequences, if any? What about the characters who abuse alcohol?

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