I gotta admit, the cover of Victoria Lee’s debut science fiction novel The Fever King doesn’t really grab me. My advance copy arrived months ago; I must have picked it up and put it down half a dozen times before I finally gave it a try. Turns out it’s a YA dystopian-superhero mashup with an interesting twist, reminiscent of the alien virus that leaves people twisted or with superpowers in George R.R. Martin’s long running Wild Cards series. In this case though, the result is a disintegrated America with magical elite, witching training centers, and an intriguing form of science-based magic. Here’s the summary from Kirkus Reviews.
In Carolinia, one of the nations of the former United States, magic enters people like a virus, mostly killing them.
If you survive, the magic stays and you become a witching. Noam, the Jewish Latinx son of undocumented immigrants from neighboring Atlantia, is one. With his parents dead, Noam is brought to the witching training center, receiving personal tutoring from the minister of defense, Calix Lehrer. Noam sees this as an opportunity to work from the inside to bring rights to the many refugees who have come to Carolinia to escape the virus that still plagues other areas…. Lee’s debut is a thriller with obvious allegorical connections to today’s political climate, but it doesn’t read as message-y; even those with genre fatigue shouldn’t regret giving it a try… Diverse characters, frank discussions about sexual and mental abuse, and reasonably plausible science-based magic elevate this above many dystopian peers.
The Fever King was published by Skyscape on March 1, 2019. It is 416 pages, priced at $9.99 in trade paperback and $4.99 in digital formats. The cover was designed by David Curtis.
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