Three terrible things happen in a single day. Essun, a woman living an ordinary life in a small town, comes home to find that her husband has brutally murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. Meanwhile, mighty Sanze — the world-spanning empire whose innovations have been civilization’s bedrock for a thousand years — collapses as most of its citizens are murdered to serve a madman’s vengeance. And worst of all, across the heart of the vast continent known as the Stillness, a great red rift has been torn into the heart of the earth, spewing ash enough to darken the sky for years. Or centuries.
Now Essun must pursue the wreckage of her family through a deadly, dying land. Without sunlight, clean water, or arable land, and with limited stockpiles of supplies, there will be war all across the Stillness: a battle royale of nations not for power or territory, but simply for the basic resources necessary to get through the long dark night. Essun does not care if the world falls apart around her. She’ll break it herself, if she must, to save her daughter.
Title : The Fifth Season Author : N. K. Jemisin Series : The Broken Earth (book one) Format : eBook (overdrive) Page Count : 378 Genre : fantasy / science fiction / dystopia Publisher : Orbit Release Date : August 4, 2015
Reviewer : Hollis Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5
Hollis’ 4.5 star review
So, wow. I’m not sure I actually have anything to really say? Particularly that hasn’t already been said a hundred times.
Reading this book, this series, is incredibly overdue and to be honest I didn’t know what to expect beyond the apocalypse. And yeah that happens. A lot. And is happening again. I was totally drawn in the moment I started this, to the point I read almost 50% in one sitting, and then felt a moment of astonishment when I finally put something together. And considering the weirdness of this world, the complexity, which we learn about as we go but is so smart, I mean.. it made me feel pretty smart for having figured something out.
[..] she [pays] no attention to the world that is ending outside. Her world has already ended within her, and neither ending is for the first time.
This story is cleverness and heartbreak and not only weaves in very relevant (always relevant) discussions about systemic oppression and internalized racism but gives us powerful POVs from Black women, features queer characters all along the spectrum, and.. honestly, you need to read it. Sooner rather than later. Now, even.
Combining the social commentary of The Handmaid’s Tale with the white-knuckled thrills of Red Rising, this epic space opera follows a comfort woman as she claims her agency, a soldier questioning his allegiances, and a non-binary hero out to save the solar system.
First Sister has no name and no voice. As a priestess of the Sisterhood, she travels the stars alongside the soldiers of Earth and Mars—the same ones who own the rights to her body and soul. When her former captain abandons her, First Sister’s hopes for freedom are dashed when she is forced to stay on her ship with no friends, no power, and a new captain—Saito Ren—whom she knows nothing about. She is commanded to spy on Captain Ren by the Sisterhood, but soon discovers that working for the war effort is so much harder to do when you’re falling in love.
Lito val Lucius climbed his way out of the slums to become an elite soldier of Venus, but was defeated in combat by none other than Saito Ren, resulting in the disappearance of his partner, Hiro. When Lito learns that Hiro is both alive and now a traitor to the cause, he now has a shot at redemption: track down and kill his former partner. But when he discovers recordings that Hiro secretly made, Lito’s own allegiances are put to the test. Ultimately, he must decide between following orders and following his heart.
A stunning and sweeping debut novel that explores the power of technology, colonization, race, and gender, The First Sister is perfect for fans of James S.A. Corey, Chuck Wendig, and Margaret Atwood.
Title : The First Sister Author : Linden A. Lewis Series : The First Sister #1 Format : eARC Page Count : 352 Genre : Sci-fi Publisher : Hodder Books Release Date : August 4, 2020
Reviewer : Micky Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★
Micky’s 4 star review
THE FIRST SISTER was an engrossing read, once I hit a third through, it was really hard to put down. Told from two different POVs, two sides of a war and two characters that couldn’t be more different, it took quite a time for these separate stories to converge but both narratives were gripping.
The worlds of Mars, Venus, Mercury, the asteroids and moons were complex in their settlements and evolving races but only in retrospect. This complexity was woven so carefully into the narrative without info-dumping. There was a drip of information when it was needed, so I was never jarred by getting to know history and contemporary life and their hierarchy.
I was probably most fascinated with the life of First Sister, her tenuous position on the ship, the new Captain and her self-discovery. First Sister was more than she first appeared, more than her silence, more than her role to serve and comfort. Her self-discovery and stretching of her own boundaries was riveting. Her relationship with Ren, slowly and naturally unfolded.
Lito, Hiro and the Asters were also great reading, as was life on the worlds. This book had a superb non-binary character that I loved, how they were written was just really beautiful in my non-own-voices opinion. I just had a niggling feeling about the later twist and I was right; I felt quite smug about that.
I couldn’t be more excited to see this is the start of a series and not a standalone. I need more from this story of worlds, more from these characters who have found a home in my heart and I want to see justice in this opressive wrangling of species and races.
THE FIRST SISTER is one heck of a debut, written with deep thought, ingenuity and natural flair. The research underpinning the writing felt solid. Linden A. Lewis has my attention and I will be ready and waiting for more.
Thank you to Hodder Books for the early review copy.
– The emperor of the wasteland wanted to make an example of her mother and started with her – One of her mother’s boyfriends wanted to cover up what he did to her – She was born addicted and her lungs didn’t develop – She was left alone, and a stranger came along – The runners came for a neighbour and she was in the way – The runners came for her mother and she was in the way – The runners came for her boyfriend and she was in the way – The runners came for no one, serving nothing but chaos and fear, and she was what they found – Her mother left her alone in a shed while she worked or got high and she fell asleep alone and hungry and forever
Reasons Cara has lived:
– She doesn’t know but there are 8.
The multiverse business is booming, but there’s just one catch: no one can visit a world where their counterpart is still alive.
Enter Cara. Of the 382 realities that have been unlocked, Cara is dead in all but eight
But on this earth, she survived. Born in the wastelands where if a basic lack of resources didn’t kill you, violence would, Cara is happy to reap the benefits of a job and a safe place in the city to call home.
But when one of her eight remaining doppelgangers dies under mysterious circumstances, Cara is plunged into a new world with an old secret. What she discovers will connect her past and future in ways she never could have imagined – and reveal her own role in a plot that endangers not just her world, but the entire multiverse.
Title : The Space Between Worlds Author : Micaiah Johnson Format : Paperback ARC Page Count : 336 Genre : Sci-fi Publisher : Hodder Books Release Date : August 4, 2020
Reviewer : Micky Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★
Micky’s 4 star review
Fresh, unique, complex and compelling….this book took some navigation of world building at first but it was so worth that bit of investment to be pulled into Cara(s) lives and travels. This sci-fi navigated the multiverse with a cast of characters all of which were shades of good and bad. I got completely invested in the characters of Cara, Jean, Nik Nik, Esther, Mister Cheeks and eventually Dell.
Earth Zero had an identifiable society in many ways in terms of priviledge and colour and these similarities were perpetuated across the multiverse. Cara had come from the rough, dirt-ridden Ashdowns but her ability to traverse the different worlds had given her a place in the elite society. It was unsurprising that she really didn’t have any power despite the fact they needed her and any allies she had weren’t completely trustworthy. It was an isolated life for Cara and her only real connections were family back in the Ashdowns.
I was so fascinated by life on Earth Zero with shades of longing for her on Earth 22. It didn’t take long for the story to serve up some twists and there were many further twists along the way. I found the second half so unputdownable that I romped to the end as fast as I could.
Don’t come into this read expecting to know the rules of the world, the reader has to flex with the story as it rolls unexpectedly out and quite honestly, that’s one of the best things about it. I can’t say I’ve read a story quite like this before and I do read quite a bit of sci-fi, so complete props to Micaiah Johnson for her ingenuity. I’ll definitely be reading anything she publishes from here on.
Thank you to Hodder Books for the early review copy.
She arrived with her arts, her wits, and her only friend.
In victory, her world has turned to ash.
After rocking the cosmos with her deathly debut, Tamsyn Muir continues the story of the penumbral Ninth House in Harrow the Ninth, a mind-twisting puzzle box of mystery, murder, magic, and mayhem. Nothing is as it seems in the halls of the Emperor, and the fate of the galaxy rests on one woman’s shoulders.
Harrowhark Nonagesimus, last necromancer of the Ninth House, has been drafted by her Emperor to fight an unwinnable war. Side-by-side with a detested rival, Harrow must perfect her skills and become an angel of undeath — but her health is failing, her sword makes her nauseous, and even her mind is threatening to betray her.
Sealed in the gothic gloom of the Emperor’s Mithraeum with three unfriendly teachers, hunted by the mad ghost of a murdered planet, Harrow must confront two unwelcome questions: is somebody trying to kill her? And if they succeeded, would the universe be better off?
Title : Harrow the Ninth Author : Tamsyn Muir Series : The Locked Tomb (book two) Format : ARC Page Count : 512 Genre : LGBTQIA+ fantasy/sci-fi Publisher : Tor.com Release Date : August 4, 2020
Reviewer : Hollis Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5
Hollis’ 4.5 star review
No one does it quite like Muir.
“I could protect you, if you’d only ask me to.“ “I would rather have my tendons peeled from my body, one by one, and flossed to shreds over my broken bones. I would rather be flayed alive and wrapped in salt. I would rather have my own digestive acid dripped into my eyes.” “So what I’m hearing is.. maybe.“
And by that I mean no one confuses me so utterly, for so long, in such devastating ways, only to give me exactly what I want, and then completely messes with my mind, all over again, by the final pages of the book.
“What the fuck is going on?” <– what a mood
Like, what, even is that? Huh? Seriously? How dare.
“You’re certain that [spoiler] tried to kill Harrow?“ “Yeah.” “But that doesn’t– why would she–?“ “Do not fucking ask me for information. I could not be more lost right now.”
In a scarily similar recreation of my reading experience with GIDEON THE NINTH, this book took me forever to get through because of slumps, work, life, the world, etc. Also because this book is over five hundred pages of who even fucking knows. Truly, I had no idea what was happening because while I understood the words I was reading, and there were familiar characters and faces, even some familiar-ish events.. nothing made sense. I was confounded, confused, and having a crazy good time anyway. This author has skills, I tell you. No one else could put me through this nonsense and have me asking for more.
“Stay here.” “Get fucked. I absolutely did not become the eighth saint to serve the King Undying so [spoiler] could play hero for me.” “Why did you ascend to be Lyctor?“ “Ultimate power — and posters of my face.“
All I can say is : don’t go in expecting to understand anything. Possibly ever. Because what little I thought I had eventually grasped by the end of book one, was just, poof, gone, by the start of this. And then what I thought I had pieced back together just before this concluded? Obliterated. Elle oh elle.
“She wants the D. [..] The D stands for dead.“
But speaking of that, I laughed, oh how I laughed. Some parts were so outrageous I couldn’t believe it. It was weird, it was whacky, it was wonderful. I want more. Because here we are again where I have been devastated with how this second book has concluded and I.. what.. but.. I..
I was not following all of this, because necromantic theory is a lot of hot bullshit even when I’m not busy having Complex Emotions.
Yeah, I need book three, like, yesterday.
** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **
Orphan Black meets the post-apocalyptic Avengers in the vein of Ilona Andrews’ Hidden Legacy series by USA Today and New York Times bestselling author duo Kit Rocha
The United States went belly up 45 years ago when our power grid was wiped out. Too few live in well-protected isolation while the rest of us scrape by on the margins. The only thing that matters is survival. By any means. At any cost.
Nina is an information broker with a mission: to bring hope to the darkest corners of Atlanta. She and her team of mercenary librarians use their knowledge to help those in need. But altruism doesn’t pay the bills—raiding vaults and collecting sensitive data is where the real money is.
Knox is a bitter, battle-weary supersoldier who leads the Silver Devils, an elite strike squad that chose to go AWOL rather than slaughter innocents. Before the Devils leave town for good, they need a biochem hacker to stabilize the experimental implants that grant their superhuman abilities.
The problem? Their hacker’s been kidnapped. And the ransom for her return is Nina. Knox has the perfect bait for a perfect trap: a lost Library of Congress server. The data could set Nina and her team up for years…
If they live that long.
Title : Deal with the Devil Author : Kit Rocha Series : Mercenary Librarians (book one) Format : eARC Page Count : 336 Genre : sci-fi/dystopian romance Publisher : Tor Books Release Date : July 28, 2020
Reviewer : Hollis Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5
Hollis’ 3.5 star review
I have so many mixed feelings about this one! I mean, like, what a surprise, though, right? No one is shocked.
But seriously. This read was so strange for me. I was totally sucked in to this world and Rocha’s words, was consumed by it for the majority of a sunday afternoon, but nothing about the book had a wow factor, no character was particularly compelling or amazing, the plot itself didn’t feel too different from any other post-apocalyptic-esque-dystopian (obviously some elements differ but the familiarity is there) and I was still, somehow, almost tempted to give this four stars. Why? Because the writing was solid, it did consume me, and the ensemble cast and banter was just great (I’m such a sucker for this).
But as I sat down to write this, as I considered the lack of wow, the as-of-right-now (but maybe not in future books considering the final chapter) rather misleading series name, and that overall lack of stand-out from the characters (don’t get me wrong, some were better than others, all were pretty good, but none really moved to me think “favourites shelf!!”)? I knew I couldn’t give this more than what I’m giving it.
This world is a mash-up of survivors after solar flares have basically reduced human contact to those within your local area. And in Atlanta, where this is set, that leaves society to be mostly enforced by a military outfit who uses enhancements on their soldiers, and also an organization who dabbles in genetics, and both are basically no good. The story features a group of ex-military operatives who are trying to survive the ticking time bomb that is their degrading implants and a trio of women who have been enhanced in various ways. Romance, secrets, betrayals, and surprises — naturally — ensue.
This story is full of action, full of sci-fi elements, gritty and dark but not bleak or hopeless. The romance wasn’t my favourite part but I didn’t hate it. I just liked the “we don’t trust each other, we know betrayal is likely” edge better. At least in the beginning. The reluctant friendships, the thawing of the tension, and all the banter, as the story went on, I liked even more. There was a lot of like.
Additionally, I liked that this wasn’t a story with just one, or two, POVs, and we’d get little tastes of each character, either to give us some backstory or some perspective. OR to whet our appetites for future books. Either way, I liked it.
I will definitely read on!
Also, of note, after finishing my review and glancing through early feedback, apparently this is supposed to be set in the same world as the duo’s other series, though standing apart from it and also with less of an erotic categorization, so, that’s worth noting. I think I’ve read maybe two of the Beyond books so can’t really say that’s where I felt this was familiar. In all honesty it made me think of Kennedy’s Outlaws series but, again, without the erotica. Though, don’t get me wrong, there are some steamy scenes! That said, maybe in the wait for book two, I should go back and read more of this duo’s other works just so I can feel caught up on this universe. It probably won’t happen, though. I’m crap at follow through.
Ultimately, this is one that gets a cautious recommend from me. If you are into the genre, if you like lots of action, and a pretty stable attraction/romance thread between two opposing forces, you’ll definitely be into this. It is fairly long, though, clocking in at over four hundred pages, so if you’re more into wham bam thank you done, and don’t want this much plot with your sexy action times, maybe try the Kennedy series. Or, obviously, Rocha’s other books.
** I received an ARC from Edelweiss+ and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **
First, the bad news: an ancient evil—you know, your standard consume-all-life-in-the-galaxy deal—is about to be unleashed. The good news? Squad 312 is standing by to save the day. They’ve just got to take care of a few small distractions first.
Like the clan of gremps who’d like to rearrange their favorite faces.
And the cadre of illegit GIA agents with creepy flowers where their eyes used to be, who’ll stop at nothing to get their hands on Auri.
Then there’s Kal’s long-lost sister, who’s not exactly happy to see her baby brother, and has a Syldrathi army at her back. With half the known galaxy on their tails, Squad 312 has never felt so wanted.
When they learn the Hadfield has been found, it’s time to come out of hiding. Two centuries ago, the colony ship vanished, leaving Auri as its sole survivor. Now, its black box might be what saves them. But time is short, and if Auri can’t learn to master her powers as a Trigger, the squad and all their admirers are going to be deader than the Great Ultrasaur of Abraaxis IV.
Shocking revelations, bank heists, mysterious gifts, inappropriately tight bodysuits, and an epic firefight will determine the fate of the Aurora Legion’s most unforgettable heroes—and maybe the rest of the galaxy as well.
Title : Aurora Burning Author : Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff Series : Aurora Cycle (book two) Format : eARC Page Count : 512 Genre : YA sci-fi Publisher : Knopf Books for Young Readers Release Date : May 5, 2020
Reviewer : Hollis Rating : ★ ★ ★
Hollis’ 3 star review
So I think I’m in the same boat for book two in this series as I was for book one. There are good, and interesting, and twisty things happening, with some mostly fun characters, but I’m definitely not loving this series compared to the duo’s other books.
There were some big reveals in AURORA BURNING; some I saw coming, others I didn’t, and while there is a bit of overall underwhelmingness happening here for me (and that makes me a little sad), I’m not about to get off this ride because we’re only one book away from the end. However, that said, I did chew through this book in one afternoon, so it’s still got that compulsive readability that you would come to expect from these talented authors, both as solo writers and a duo. It just doesn’t have the kind of characters I’m used to loving unequivocally, and for all the Big Moments, Big Stakes, I’m still just not feeling them.
I’m again surprised (I can’t remember if I mentioned it in my review for book one or not) about the heavy romance element that we have going on, mostly because it feels so less organic than their previous couples, and as a result less romantic despite the additional page time, so, it’s just adding to the weird headspace I have over this whole series.
When it comes down to it, I think if you loved AURORA RISING, you’ll be very satisfied with this follow up — but probably pretty mad about that ending.
** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **
Murderbot returns in its highly-anticipated, first, full-length standalone novel.
You know that feeling when you’re at work, and you’ve had enough of people, and then the boss walks in with yet another job that needs to be done right this second or the world will end, but all you want to do is go home and binge your favorite shows? And you’re a sentient murder machine programmed for destruction? Congratulations, you’re Murderbot.
Come for the pew-pew space battles, stay for the most relatable A.I. you’ll read this century. — I’m usually alone in my head, and that’s where 90 plus percent of my problems are.
When Murderbot’s human associates (not friends, never friends) are captured and another not-friend from its past requires urgent assistance, Murderbot must choose between inertia and drastic action.
Drastic action it is, then.
Title : Network Effect Author : Martha Wells Series : The Murderbot Diaries (book five) Format : eARC Page Count : 352 Genre : sci-fi Publisher : Tor.com Release Date : May 5, 2020
Reviewer : Hollis Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★
Hollis’ 4 star review
I enjoyed, but didn’t quite love, the first four novellas in the Murderbot Diaries. With one exception being the second installment which featured ART, aka Asshole Research Transport, because the snark and hilarity was just top notch. Not that the snark and hilarity didn’t exist in all these books, really, because Murderbot is.. Murderbot. But it was just on a higher level.
“Was that a subtle threat?“ “No. It wasn’t subtle.”
So naturally when given a full length (!) Murderbot story which heavily featured ART? Well, it’s no surprise I loved this.
“Do you have to call it a relationship?“ “You don’t like the word ‘friendship’. What else is there?“ “Mutual administrative assistance?“
This series has heavily benefited from this full length story, not just because of the aforementioned snark and hilarity, but all the layers of Wells’ writing and cleverness is just so much more fleshed out. I think, too, this particular stage in Murderbot’s story was just really compelling to begin with. And I hope we get more full length installments moving forward because.. reasons.
“You look angry.” “That’s just something my face does sometimes.“
If you didn’t think your life was missing a not-human but not-quite-fully-a-construct who once was considered disposable security, and is now mostly autonomous, and loves to watch soap operas and be anti-social, while also multitasking to save humans it mostly likes, and who also has a complicated relationship (or, in Murderbot’s words, what, ew, no) with a research ship, I’m here to tell you.. it is. You are. As in, you are missing out. This won’t be for everyone, I know that, but if this sounds even remotely appealing, it’s worth pushing through some of the installments that you may not totally love (as in, I’m basing this off my own experience of books one, three, and four, being three star, and two being a four), because this one? So much love.
** I received an ARC from Edelweiss and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **
The Earth is in environmental collapse. The future of humanity hangs in the balance. But a team of women are preparing to save it. Even if they’ll need to steal a spaceship to do it.
Despite increasing restrictions on the freedoms of women on Earth, Valerie Black is spearheading the first all-female mission to a planet in the Goldilocks Zone, where conditions are just right for human habitation.
The team is humanity’s last hope for survival, and Valerie has gathered the best women for the mission: an ace pilot who is one of the only astronauts ever to have gone to Mars; a brilliant engineer tasked with keeping the ship fully operational; and an experienced doctor to keep the crew alive. And then there’s Naomi Lovelace, Valerie’s surrogate daughter and the ship’s botanist, who has been waiting her whole life for an opportunity to step out of Valerie’s shadow and make a difference.
The problem is that they’re not the authorized crew, even if Valerie was the one to fully plan the voyage. When their mission is stolen from them, they steal the ship bound for the new planet.
But when things start going wrong on board, Naomi begins to suspect that someone is concealing a terrible secret — and realizes time for life on Earth may be running out faster than they feared . . .
Goldilocks is a bold and thought-provoking new thriller for readers of The Martian and The Handmaid’s Tale.
Title : Goldilocks Author : Laura Lam Format : eARC Page Count : 352 Genre : Sci-fi/Thriller Publisher : Headline Release Date : April 30, 2020
Reviewer : Micky Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★.5
Micky’s 4.5 rounding up to 5star review
GOLDILOCKS is the rare kind of sci-fi that kept pace from beginning to end without any kind of lull or overly descriptive narrative. I have just finished the book on a wow whilst congratulating myself on already having secured an order for a signed hard copy; it was that good.
This did not feel like a story I’d read before, it was fresh and gripping. The protagonist Naomi was the daughter of a renown scientist and protege of a leading researcher into all things space science. This story was set in the backdrop of a close dystopian patriarchy with an active programme of sidelining women and their rights. Therefore, this story took a matriarchal path into the future on another world.
I could not predict the twists in GOLDILOCKS, nor could I predict many of the character developments. But I knew Naomi, I came to admire her, cheer for her, will her survival. The team she was working in was complex with allegiances unknown. The morality and ethics of the mission had me taking quick in-drawn breaths, thinking…what???
“Success will never be linear. Success is illusive, it’s a mirage. What you learn, what you do, how you react – that’s what matters.”
Success came at a price in this story, this mission and whether the crew were willing the pay that price was the nugget to follow through the story. The ‘baddie’ of the piece came from initially unexpected quarters for me, although later I questioned why I hadn’t been more suspicious.
The science in this story was utterly palatable, readable and not beyond any readers’s comprehension. I liked the botany aspects of the science, I found the futuristic nutritional ideas fascinating. This was an intelligent read and I devoured it front to back.
I am now off to work out if I can turn Alexa into a male voice in my house…you have to read to understand this subtle but creepy suggestion.
Thank you to Headline Books for the early review copy.
Six months after Noam Álvaro helped overthrow the despotic government of Carolinia, the Atlantians have gained citizenship, and Lehrer is chancellor. But despite Lehrer’s image as a progressive humanitarian leader, Noam has finally remembered the truth that Lehrer forced him to forget—that Lehrer is responsible for the deadly magic infection that ravaged Carolinia.
Now that Noam remembers the full extent of Lehrer’s crimes, he’s determined to use his influence with Lehrer to bring him down for good. If Lehrer realizes Noam has evaded his control—and that Noam is plotting against him—Noam’s dead. So he must keep playing the role of Lehrer’s protégé until he can steal enough vaccine to stop the virus.
Meanwhile Dara Shirazi returns to Carolinia, his magic stripped by the same vaccine that saved his life. But Dara’s attempts to ally himself with Noam prove that their methods for defeating Lehrer are violently misaligned. Dara fears Noam has only gotten himself more deeply entangled in Lehrer’s web. Sooner or later, playing double agent might cost Noam his life.
Title : The Electric Heir Author : Victoria Lee Series : Feverwake (book two) Format : eARC Page Count : 469 Genre : YA dystopian / sci-fi / LGBTQIA+ Publisher : Skyscape Release Date : March 17, 2020
Reviewer : Hollis Rating : ★ ★
Hollis’ 2 star review
After coming out of THE FEVER KING with much less love than I thought I would, I was pretty pleased by how strong I felt this follow up was. At least, initially.
My main problem was where this story went in regards to a certain relationship and the direction it took. There are so many complicated emotions, so many traumas, so much grief, wrapped up in the why or maybe the how of it. And Lee does (I think, at least) a good job of trying to explain the messiness of it all, the conflicting perceptions and means to which one might convince themselves of something, through her characters. But I still didn’t like it, and every time it came up I wanted to put the book down and walk away. One particular exchange, between the two POVs and leads, made me oh so very angry. And hurt. So, I mean, kudos for that. But that didn’t make me like the story anymore.
And the story itself, well, there’s not much I can say regarding the plot for a sequel/finale, but mostly I’m just confused. I have no idea how we got to the ending we did, and how it’s going to stick, considering.. everything. Additionally I guess I just don’t understand why the story, the series, happened in the first place? Why these kids, why couldn’t Lehrer just.. I don’t know. I feel like I understood what I read, what happened, but I’m missing the point, I guess.
For all that I clearly have no idea how to feel, despite knowing I didn’t love this, I have to say that Lee’s writing is strong. She doesn’t shy away from darker topics (there’s a warning at the front, and content/triggers listed at the back) and I feel she handles a lot of it with dignity and care. These characters, all of them, have been through so much, are still dealing with so much, and while sometimes it felt like too much, it’s all rather tied up in one catalyst. It’s heartbreaking and awful and while I didn’t hate Noam, one of our POVs, I absolutely adored Dara. Full stop.
Anyway, I don’t know. I feel like this is a series I should’ve loved and, when pitched to me, I knew I wanted to read it. Something about this just didn’t connect. And I’m sad about it. But I’m also an outlier, so, please read the glowy reviews and, if this sounds like your thing, definitely give it a try.
** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **
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.
Title : The Fever King Author : Victoria Lee Series : Feverwake (book one) Format : paperback Page Count : 376 Genre : YA dystopian / sci-fi / LGBTQIA+ Publisher : Skyscape Release Date : March 1, 2019
Reviewer : Hollis Rating : ★ ★ .5
Hollis’ 2.5 star review
This is a book that my mind is shying away from being too critical about because it’s doing a lot of great things. And yet..
Beyond the representation offered in Lee’s characters (one lead is bisexual and Jewish/Latinx, the other is black, I believe), this is a sci-fi/dystopian story that heavily deals with how society treats refugees. For all that this is set, like, a hundred years (or something?) in the future, this is a very timely narrative and I felt the author did a good job of making this less of just a conveniently relevant backdrop and, instead, you really feel the struggle, the disparity between the social classes, which is made more dramatic by the haves, and the locals, being magical while the have-nots, those who have fled their home, are not.
But I found the worldbuilding somehow overly complex, or confusing, and I’m not entirely sure why. It centers around this big event that tore apart the US and left the remaining habitual areas into their own countries, the wars and tragedies that ensue, and along the way we’re given glimpses into that history, and particularly the figureheads of that time; one of which happens to still be around, now that he’s not only all powerful but also immortal. Somehow Carolinia is the only place in the world where it’s okay to be witching, someone who survives the fever brought on by a magical surge (or something.. notice a trend?) and Britain and Canada had tried bombing them, because to hell with magical people, but now.. they don’t? But, instead of Carolinia being a refuge for people, they close their borders? And, specifically relevant to the current plot, there’s the Carolianians vs the Atlantians conflict, because in Atlantia apparently it’s really terrible and toxic and you die, but somehow they make it to Carolinia anyway, but Carolinians want nothing to do with them, and.. I don’t know, like, I get what was happening but I also feel like I have no idea what was happening. Even in writing that summary (ish) I confused and doubted myself. I have no idea what’s just happened, I think I blacked out.
This paragraph is where I had a bunch more words written that I’ve since deleted. I mention this to honour their memory. You tried. You tried to make this review work. But it just didn’t.
Suffice it to say, this book is doing a lot. There are a lot of moving parts, a lot of characters we don’t know if we are supposed to like, and a hate-to-love romance I wanted to get behind.. but only sometimes did. This book should’ve been a new favourite because of all that, plus a lot of darker and adult themes which made this YA the least YA-feeling YA book I’ve read in a long time (take a shot for every time I said “YA”) but I found it easy to put down, either because I was bored or my brain was just processing white noise. This should’ve been action packed and thrilling (and I guess it sort’ve was in a muted kind of way) and I should’ve been speculating and making theories (some of which I did, shoutout to my buddy Amanda who loves this book and got some of my reactions), and while I was clearly invested and following along enough to guess some things correctly, to see things coming, I’m still not sure what to do with any of it. Particularly after that ending. I think half the problem is there’s so much still not being revealed, or left unknown, and that is why I have one foot out the door on this one.
I can only hope book two has me diving into the feels, and the love, with both feet.
** I received a finished copy from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **