Rhine and Gabriel have escaped from the Housemaster Vaughn’s mansion, hoping for a life together, and Rhine is determined to go home to her twin brother, Rowan. However, horrors they could never imagine await them in the outside world. First, they fall into the hands of Madame Soleski, a crazed woman who runs a brothel inside the remains of a carnival. They get out of that situation with an added burden—Maddie, an intelligent, but mute, malformed child, only to have one roadblock after another thrown into their paths. As an added distraction, Vaughn keeps showing up unexpectedly, and Rhine cannot figure out how he is able to find her.
If you are a fan of “The Chemical Garden” series, you will not be disappointed with Fever. In fact, in many ways, I think it is even better than Wither ! Fever begins right where Wither ends. There is more action in this new installment, and we learn more about Rhine’s brother, Rowan, and life beyond the mansion.
In Fever, we are introduced to new characters, many of whom are extremely complex. I am especially fond of Lilac, one of Madame Soleski’s “girls”, and Maddie, her young daughter. Lilac helps Rhine and Gabriel cope with living in a strange brothel; she is knowledgeable and strong way beyond her nineteen years. Maddie, though deformed, is smart and has learned how to survive in a dangerous environment, despite her handicap. She has literally beaten the odds. I love Grace Lottner, who owns “Grace’s Orphanage”. She is a caring and devoted woman. The way she dotes on her charges is both commendable and extraordinary.
Madame Soleski, the twisted, delusional owner of the “Carnival of Love”, is the epitome of evil. Not only is she controlling, but she is also conniving, and heartless, only caring what she can get out of the girls’ short lives. She even has an incinerator built so she can easily dispose of her dead girls’ bodies. Then there’s Housemaster Vaughn. If you thought he was awful in Wither, just wait! He is even more of a monster in this second book! The evil he exudes in the first book cannot even compare to what we learn about him in Fever !
Lauren DeStefano’s lovely prose descriptions of the carnival, Manhattan, and the orphanage are stunning! The world beyond the mansion is dark, disturbing, and desperate. It is hard to believe that people can actually live their lives in this crumbling, dying world. Many of the first generations are also pro-naturalists, scornful of children and teenagers, and hold disdain for President Guiltree and his ideas to begin experimenting for a cure for the virus which claim young adults. Setting off bombs to make a point is reminiscent of some of today’s terrorists, and that is how Rhine and Rowan’s parents were killed.
Although the book is very dark, it does the ending does leave the reader with some hope. Fever will make its debut on February 21, 2012. I highly recommend it to high school and public libraries!
**The copy reviewed was received from the publisher at the ALA Midwinter meeting in Dallas, 2012.