Thursday, March 15, 2012

Fever by Lauren DeStefano

* * * 1/2

Rhine and Gabriel have escaped the mansion. But danger is never far behind.

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 – surrounding 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 this 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.

I was so eager to read Fever that I’d forgotten how disturbing this story can be. It took me a good three chapters to get over it and allow myself to get sucked in. Where Wither took place within the secure and insulated confines of the mansion, Fever finds our heroes on the run exposed to a damaged, volatile and unsympathetic world.

Rhine and Gabriel are instantly dragged into a sinister environment in the scarlet district run by Madame, where apparently Rhine will be the new attraction in this circus-like brothel. Rhine plays along to buy time for herself and Gabriel employing the same tactic she used with Lindley – getting Madame to be comfortable with her and earning her trust. However, Madame is a very unstable character who gives Rhine plenty of the "heebie-jeebies". There were a few times when I thought things would get so wretched. Thankfully, DeStefano sidestepped a potentially terrifying scenario but she didn’t eliminate it entirely. Rhine and Gabriel eventually make their escape but not before a couple of close encounters with some unsavory people.
When they finally reach their destination, Rhine is destroyed to find that the home she left – that she held firm in her memory to keep her strong – is no longer the way she remembered it. And … her brother isn’t there. Scouring the streets for some clue, they end up boarding at a foster home. It’s tight quarters but it’s nice that Rhine and Gabriel have some semblance of security.

As Rhine broods over the way things have changed, Gabriel is taking it in for the first time. It's gutting to hear Rhine describe the world as it used to be through her memories and what her parents had shared with her.

Fever has some disturbing and uncomfortable moments that had me on edge but this is the world they live in. Each turn of the page like a hesitating look around the corner to see what's lurking on the other side. Even with the disappointments they've experienced, Rhine and Gabriel manage to keep their humanity intact. By the end of the book, you see how wickedly DeStefano has twisted and spun the story leading to a surprising cliffhanger!

~ Bel

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