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.
TW: off-page sexual abuse of a minor, violence, intergenerational trauma/genocide, abuse, mental health and suicide. A more comprehensive list of trigger warnings can be found on the author’s website.
Governments didn’t have to listen to the people until the people made it hurt not to listen.
I had heard of The Fever King for quite a while on Twitter. Many of my friends had been lucky enough to receive ARCs of this novel and seemed to be losing their minds over it. I had put it on my TBR, partly because of the intriguing plot but mainly for the bisexual MC, and was more than happy to wait until its release in March.
And then I read Victoria Lee’s letter, Why I Wrote the Fever King on her website. I decided then and there that I needed to read this book as soon as possible.
Thankfully, seriously bless, Amazon featured the novel on their First Reads page — a collection of about six novels you are able to read for a very reduced price, a month before the book is to be published — and immediately bought the book.
It did not disappoint.
The Fever King is about Noam Álvaro, a Jewish Latinx bisexual boy who is the sole survivor of a magical virus outbreak that wipes out his entire neighbourhood, taking the life of his father, and leaving Noam a witching. In a post-nuclear America, a dangerous virus has claimed the lives of millions of people and has forced new states to close its borders, leaving even millions more as refugees. Noam is one such refugee who has spent most of his life trying to help his fellow refugees, but now, as a witching, he is granted a government and military position among other young witchings, people who, after surviving the magic virus, develop powers. Noam now finds himself living with the very people he and his family were fighting against.
“What happened here?” Lehrer asked and touched his own cheek.
I’d try to warn you not to fall too much for any one character, because Victoria takes sadistic pleasure in putting her characters through the wringer, but you won’t be able to take heed of my warning because you physically won’t be able to stop yourself from loving them.
Noam was a powerful main character and a great choice for narrator. His character voice is distinct and you can feel his frustration, anger, and love, and the guilt warning within himself for being given a life of privilege when so many are starving and dying and the government is refusing to help them. He’s very sure of himself and his identity, which I’m appreciative of and happy to see. He knows his sexuality, he stands up for himself and he’s quick with a comeback or a fist when someone threatens him or someone he cares about.
Noam has intimate relationships with two very different men in very different ways: Calix Lehrer, a queer Jewish political leader, and Dara Shirazi, a young gay Jewish man of colour and a powerful witching. Lehrer was a very fascinating character — I hated him, but I liked him, and then I wanted to know more about him. At 120 years old, Lehrer sparked the original revolution that saw the collapse of the U.S., was crowned king at twenty, and is the most powerful witching in history. He becomes Noam’s personal mentor, and Noam begins to look at him as a pseudo-father. The book is peppered with transcripts from Lehrer’s childhood and teen years, giving us a small look into him and his power as so much of his character is mired in shadow and kept hidden from Noam. Just putting this out there: after the last couple of chapters of The Fever King, I now hope Lehrer has a long, slow and painful death in The Electric Heir.
I honestly didn’t expect to like Dara so imagine my surprise when I found myself loving him. My adoration of him really did sneak up on me, because you’re following along with Noam: you don’t really like Dara because he comes across as rude, then you’re intrigued by him and then, slowly, you love him — all like Noam. His background story just breaks my heart but I also have so much respect for him because he’s a survivor. I loved his relationship with Noam, the sort of on-again-off-again feel when they fight but you know they’ll return to one another. Their romance is hard-won and both soft and angry at the same time. I will seriously beg Victoria to give Noam and Dara a happy ending in The Electric Heir, because if anyone deserves one, its these two boys.
Dara reached over for his wrist again. This time his touch was light, just the barest pressure against Noam’s pulse point, guiding him forward. Dara’s magic was as palpable as a thousand quivering strings. Noam never in his life felt so alive.
The Fever King Is a wild ride from start to finish. There’s not one moment when the plot lets up, especially with the last ten chapters of the novel. I read this book perched on the edge of my seat and I physically had to hold myself back from flipping forward to make sure my favourite characters were okay at the end of the book. Spoiler: they’re not.
Victoria Lee’s writing was superb. Like I mentioned, Noam’s character voice is very distinct and nuanced, and that is a testament to Victoria’s wonderful prose. Her writing perfectly captures the tension and pleasurable anxiety of Noam and Dara’s romance, mixed in with hectic action scenes and jaw-dropping plot twists.
All that’s left to say is: BUY THE FEVER KING, PLEASE. If you like books that will make you laugh, keep you glued to the page and then tears your heart out, then this dystopian queer book is the one for you.