Book Review: Fever by Lauren DeStefano

Rhine and Gabriel have escaped the palace but find themselves trapped again in a carnival with a ringmistress who dabbles in prostitution.  Rhine and Gabriel are determined to make it to Manhattan, where she hopes to reunite with her twin brother.  But there’s a great deal of danger awaiting the duo, and time is fleeting.

Arguably one of the most disappointing reads for me this year, Fever suffers from middle-book syndrome in the worst way.  This book feels like the epitome of filler when it comes to trilogies, and sacrifices character development and plot development in favor of more of the same plot lines from Wither.  The result is an unsuccessful, uneven disappointment of a sophomore novel.

The elements that made DeStefano’s Wither so good and so compelling–the atmospheric feel of the world-building, the authentic character dilemmas, complex interpersonal relationships, and hard, complicated questions about science, ethics, sexuality, and power–get overshadowed here by Rhine and Gabriel’s constant pattern of getting trapped and running away.  There’s no forward movement in this book–Rhine ends up exactly where she was in the first novel, and that is unbelievably frustrating.  None of the depth of the first novel is present here.

Although the novel is arguably very well-written, DeStefano’s prose sometimes borders on the overwrought.  This will work for readers who are looking for particularly lush prose.  However, this reader got tired of some of the overly-descriptive dream sequences and nearly constant illnesses that plagued the characters.  Everything about this one felt a little off.

What is also troubling is the fact that there’s none of the chemistry between the characters that marked the first novel.  At more than one point in Fever, readers are going to be asking themselves if Rhine and Gabriel even like one another.  It’s possible that DeStefano is building this tension deliberately, but there’s no payoff here, and certainly no resolution.  The rushed ending will lead into the third and final installment of the trilogy, and readers hoping for answers will have to wait another year.

Recommended to fans of the first in the series, but with certain reservations.

Fever by Lauren DeStefano. Simon & Schuster: 2012.  Library copy.

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