My genre of choice will always be fantasy, especially YA fantasy, however I like to pick up the odd sci-fi or dystopian novel every now and then. The Fever King by Victoria Lee is the dystopian tale of Noam, a sixteen-year-old Jewish illegal immigrant in a future version of America where magical diseases kill vast swaths of people, but if you’re lucky enough to survive, you have the chance to gain magical powers.
Left for dead, Noam suddenly wakes up from a fever to discover he has technopathy: the ability to understand and hack computers. He’s immediately asked by Lehrer, the General of Defence and an heroic figure who once led a coup, to join a military school and train his powers for the good of the country. Noam grew up in a world where refugees were persecuted and his own family suffered for it, thus he agrees to sign up with two things on his mind; espionage and sabotage! As he tries to fit-in with his fellow students from more privileged backgrounds and he struggles to master his abilities, he finds himself inexplicably drawn to Lehrer’s charge; the handsome Dara.
The Fever King then is a tale of fighting for what’s right and rising up against a corrupt government by taking it down from the inside, whilst also acting as a love story between Noam and Dara. Though The Fever King is a young adult story, it does contain a lot of mature themes such as graphic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and themes of sexual abuse which younger readers may find upsetting. These are important issues which the author does not shy from. As an adult reader, I was drawn to the older characters, especially the charismatic Lehrer, and the underlining sinister persuasiveness that seeps throughout the story and makes you question reality – something that I’d not personally felt since I played the original Bioshock and met Andrew Ryan. And that’s something I loved about The Fever King; it’s ability to make you doubt those in positions of power and question them.
The love story in The Fever King is also a massive selling point for those who are looking for a diverse romance between two troubled boys who bounce from mistake to mistake. I did enjoy both characters of Noam and Dara, and really felt for Dara as we uncover more of his background and magical powers as the story unravels. There’s plenty of angst here, but none of it feels unrealistic. It’s a gritty, dark, and desperate world, and was inspired by the authors own Jewish background.
I raced through The Fever King pretty quick. My only complaints was that the story felt a little vague at times, making it hard to ground myself in the setting and scene, and it would have benefitted from more world building. I’d like to see Noam and Dara explore their powers more in the upcoming sequel, The Electric Heir, coming in 2020.