The Fever King by Victoria Lee (Feverwake, #1)
Queer Rep Summary: Gay/Achillean Secondary Character(s), Bi/Pan Main Character(s).
THE FEVER KING was engrossing, pulling me into the story as it stayed tightly wound around the MC’s unreliable narration. It introduced a lot of characters early on but then only really focused on a couple of them, breaking my early expectations for this as a "group of kids with powers bond in training story". It's definitely not that. They have powers, they have training, there are bonds, but being an immigrant who joins the clique late in a post-nuclear-event dystopian society with an immortal(?) leader who is the only one who remembers the history does not for a fun time make. What it does create is space for a quieter story about grooming, manipulation, brainwashing, and abuse in a situation where powers are secret, magic requires complex and detailed understanding, and the gatekeepers to knowledge also run the country.
This book is definitely the "throw the reader in the world and they'll figure it out" kind of book. There are sections that explain how things connect and the implications of them, but they're woven in naturally as the character figures things out. Even the few infodumps which happen are telling the MC things they didn't know, or them thinking about stuff the secondary characters don't know, but in a way that informs the reader without feeling patronizing. What the MC notices and comments on it sometimes less important than what he dismisses or downplays, creating this feeling that while he's not trying to lie to the reader, he's also not picking up on things or not realizing their importance. This definitely feels like a book where a bunch of hints were there all along and then the end makes their importance suddenly resonant.
CW for xenophobia, genocide, vomit, animal death, plague, grooming, incest (not depicted), child sexual abuse (not depicted), suicide (backstory), torture (backstory), gun violence, parental death, child death, major character death, death.
End of year-a-thon: Recently acquired