Mixing a magical epidemic with prevalent societal issues, Victoria Lee’s The Fever King electrifies with its magnetic story, strong characters, and sweet romance.
After a magical virus decimated modern civilization in the U.S., the land was cleaved in two, divided into two separate countries: Carolinia and Atlantia. The latter’s overrun by the virus, a deadly dose of magic that most people’s bodies can’t withstand, let alone learn to wield like the witchings—the rare few whose bodies both survived the fever and absorbed the magic. To escape the grim conditions and near promise of death, Atlantians cross the border into Carolinia in search of refuge. However, their troubles don’t end in Carolinia, for border control and deportations are in abundance to try to stop the spread of the virus.
When an outbreak strikes Carolinia, Noam Alvaro, a Carolinian by birth yet Atlantian by parentage, becomes not only another of the virus’ victims, but a survivor. Now a witching harboring a rare power, Noam’s recruited into a government agency to hone his powers. Amidst influential figureheads, governmental authorities, and a witching more myth than man, the chance to spark real change for the Atlantians is at Noam’s fingertips, if only he can siphon intel from someone higher up. As Noam grows close with a renowned witching, he’s confident that change is on the horizon, yet little does he know, he’s a pawn in a much larger scheme.
Although it possesses all the facets of a run-of-the-mill sci-fi fantasy, The Fever King breathes new life into the genre with a fresh and vivacious spin. Portraying magic as a lethal epidemic, survivable by few individuals, brings something new to the table of magic-centered fiction. Namely, it highlights a far more punishing and costly side of magic, one that ails before it aids. And even if the individual survives to become a witching, the magic still majorly taxes the body if it’s used too liberally. It’s an inherently fascinating concept that enriches the story with a direness and urgency that fuels Noam’s motivations in the novel.
Like the concept of viral magic, the resulting powers themselves are similarly distinctive. With powers such as technopathy, the magical abilities tap into a more technological and mental side of magic, differing starkly from other magical portrayals. Albeit a lesser known and less outwardly-demonstrative quadrant of magic, it’s one that shines in The Fever King despite my initial reservations. Given the seemingly more passive and internally-concentrated nature of technopathy, I wasn’t certain that it would translate well into the story. Yet, rather than the mundane and unremarkable role I’d feared, Lee incorporates Noam’s technopathological ability in a manner that’s engaging, integral, and just so befitting of his character.
An Atlantian living in the slums of Carolinia, Noam’s no stranger to the horrors of the virus and the loss left in its wake. It makes him a driven and dedicated character, a real cornerstone to the Atlantian cause, yet that’s also his greatest flaw. His loyalty and burning devotion to right societal wrongs, coupled with his youth, make him naive and easily manipulated. Though his actions left me baffled and questioning his disposition at times, this facet of his character feels realistic given Noam’s circumstances, and despite his mistakes, he’s an admirable and lovable character that you hope succeeds in his endeavor and blooming relationship with Dara.
Initially, Dara comes across as a rather stoic and cold character, who immediately takes a disliking towards Noam. While this cold persona vilifies him to Noam, creating Noam’s own ill feelings towards Dara, Lee expertly frames Dara’s character so those feelings aren’t replicated in readers. She balances Dara’s standoffishness with strategical moments that glimpse a softer side of him, and when his coldness starts chipping away and he warms to Noam, it’s a slow and sweet experience watching as they come closer together.
Teeming with romance, compelling characters, and gripping plot, The Fever King is an infectious tale that readers will feverishly devour.