"Rhine and Gabriel have escaped the mansion, but danger is never far behind.Fever by Lauren DeStefano
Running away brings Rhine and Gabriel right into a trap, in the form of a twisted carnival whose ringmistress keeps watch over a menagerie of girls. Just as Rhine uncovers what plans await her, her fortune turns again. With Gabriel at her side, Rhine travels through an environment as grim as the one she left a year ago - surroundings that mirror her own feelings of fear and hopelessness.
The two are determined to get to Manhattan, to relative safety with Rhine’s twin brother, Rowan. But the road there is long and perilous - and in a world where young women only live to age twenty and young men die at twenty-five, time is precious. Worse still, they can’t seem to elude Rhine’s father-in-law, Vaughn, who is determined to bring Rhine back to the mansion...by any means necessary.
In the sequel to Lauren DeStefano’s harrowing Wither, Rhine must decide if freedom is worth the price - now that she has more to lose than ever." (from Goodreads)
I had very mixed feelings about Wither, so I was a bit hesitant approaching its sequel, Fever. However, I ended up liking this one more than its predecessor (although not without some reservations still.)
Rhine: I'd had trouble connecting with her in the first book, but I suppose I must have acclimatized to her voice, because in Fever it didn't cause me the same difficulty. She's still distant in a way, and overly dramatic at times, but by then I was used to it and just recognized it as Rhine's unique tone. Rhine's impulsivity and acting without thinking haven't changed from the first book either, and it lands her in some pretty sticky situations.
Gabriel: he still didn't do much for me in this one. Sure, he's a nice guy and very devoted to Rhine (kind of blindly, actually), but he just doesn't impress me. In the end, I can basically take him or leave him and not really care either way.
Cecily: in contrast to Gabriel, I find her character fascinating. She presents an innocent facade, but she's very crafty and entirely underestimated by everyone. Cecily's trying to help both sides and most of all make sure that she and her baby are safe and taken care of. I think she does care about Rhine, but she wants to help in a way that doesn't jeopardize her own relationship with Linden. Make no doubt about this: Cecily is looking out for number one. I enjoyed seeing Rhine realize that she can't count on Cecily's loyalty.
Linden: where are you in this one??? The brief glimpses we get just aren't enough. Yet the few interactions we do see between Rhine and him are certainly illuminating, exposing truths that need to be aired. Linden is right on the mark when he states that the relationship he has with each wife is completely different in nature, demonstrating an insightful grasp of the situation. All in all, I think Rhine could stand to learn a thing or two from Linden, rather than dismissing him as a puppet controlled by his father. It's true, he has been rather wilfully blind, choosing to believe whatever Vaughn tells him, but I think the next book will provide the opportunity for him to prove himself (should he rise to the challenge). In some ways he's still like a child; I think he has the potential to do a lot of good if he can gather up the courage to stand against his father and society's expectations.
New characters: many of the new characters we're introduced to are distinctly drawn, and I enjoyed meeting some fresh faces. Madame was horrid, very unlikeable but certainly more interesting than Vaughn. She's extremely selfish, mercenary and ruthless, and her brand of "evil" feels a bit more real than Vaughn's does. Madame is just in it for herself, to make money, and that simple motivation gives rise to a character who really makes herself present on the page.
Maddie, in complete contrast to Madame, provided a younger, "child" character which gave Rhine a chance for her motherly instincts to develop, and a chance for her to care for someone. Maddie's smart but wary and timid, her personality and reactions really reflecting the dystopian world DeStefano has created.
While I didn't feel like Rhine really made significant advances in this book (in terms of getting closer to reaching her goals), at least she moved around more than in Wither. I enjoyed being exposed to some different settings in this world and meeting new characters. The abandoned carnival was a really interesting backdrop for part of the story — sort of like a microcosm of society. I'm hoping the characters from the carnival appear again in book 3.
I really enjoyed the twist involving Rhine's symptoms of illness (spoiler, highlight to read: I liked that the June beans from book 1 were tied in). However, overall I had difficulty swallowing some of the scientific explanations for what's happening. They come across as lacking a solid knowledge foundation about concepts of illness, with words like "chemical dependency" and "bacterial resistance" getting thrown around haphazardly and without making much sense. (What do bacteria have to do with, anyway? The whole premise of this world is founded on a VIRUS.) I still have a lot of questions about Vaughn's reasoning behind his experiments as well as the specific methods he uses. More spoilers: I still don't fully understand how the June beans were being used by Vaughn. To build up Rhine's immunity to the virus? If so, why would they be addictive? And how can you administer replicated symptoms of a virus to someone anyhow?? Symptoms are external signs of disease. You can inject someone with something that causes symptoms, but not with the signs themselves.
Also, there's one revelation towards the end which, while in line with standard dystopian fiction, is rather unoriginal and convenient. Furthermore, it makes the reader question the events of Fever in retrospect and wonder how they could possibly have happened given this new piece of information. (Spoiler: if Vaughn had implanted Rhine with a tracker, why did it take him SO LONG to capture her again?)
The action is concentrated more in the first part of the book, and then slows down in the second. Unfortunately I think Fever does suffer from "middle book syndrome" a bit, in lacking direction and a internal story arc that hangs together. By the end you may feel like most of what happened was pointless, and that the book is merely serving as a stepping stone to the final one in the trilogy. But the very last page is a good one, providing a hook that sets up perfectly for the third book.
Writing style: If you liked the writing style in Wither, you'll probably like it in Fever as well. Even if you didn't particularly like the writing style of Wither, you might find, as I did, that you become used to it. Rhine maintains the same voice, and the carnival setting in particular comes to life with DeStefano's description.
Final verdict: 3.5 shooting stars. Intriguing characters, but the scientific impracticalities annoyed me. Although I still have too many criticisms to bump it to 4 stars, I did prefer it to Wither.
Disclaimer: I received this book as an ARC from the publisher for review.