Title: The Fever Series (Darkfever, Bloodfever, Faefever, Dreamfever, Shadowfever)
Author: Karen Marie Moning
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
Page Count: 309, 303, 327, 386, 608
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Notable Notables: In-depth world building in a modern setting, morally gray characters
Recommended Readers: Ages 16+, fans of urban, fae-heavy fantasy with a dash of mystery and romance
Rating: ★★★★☆ (Average of all five books)
So, I was going to review all of these books individually, but I ended up devouring them before I could even think about penning a review. As a result, I’m going to try something a little different, reviewing them somewhat individually but mostly as a series all at once. Haaaaaa, let’s see how this goes.
Anyone who knows me well knows that I’ve been pining for an engaging, Fae-centered fantasy series after how disappointing Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses series ended up being. I took a risk on Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series, and I’m glad I did because it healed me in ways I didn’t know I needed and provided me with content I’d been dying for.
In Darkfever, we meet MacKayla Lane, a vain, pink-obsessed, 20-something, who travels to Ireland after her older sister, Alina, was gruesomely murdered. In trying to find answers, Mac discovers that she is a sidhe-seer, part of a sect of women who can see through Fae glamour, with a special ability: she can sense the Sinsar Dubh, an ancient, evil, and all-powerful book created by the Unseelie King, a book that everyone seems to be after, including V’lane, a Seelie Prince and death-by-sex Fae. Yeah, you read that right.
I won’t lie. The main thing that got me through the first book was two-fold: the world-building and a little someone named Jericho Barrons who over the course of the novels I became a tad bit obsessed with. (He’s hilarious! In a ruthless, asshole way, so I felt like I was in like-minded company. Also, attractive. Insanely attractive.)
Mac, on the other hand, is so incredibly obnoxious and she has so many ridiculous, unnecessary internal monologues, but a lot of her obnoxiousness comes from writer choices and mistakes rather than actual true character choices. Let’s recall some of my favorite examples.
At one point, Mac sees through an Unseelie’s glamour at a bar, one of her first times doing it, and is horrifically shocked by the gruesome thing it truly is. In the middle of this actually intense moment, she monologues something to the effect of, “And I would never be able to eat fries again,” and then proceeds to go into great detail about how she once ate her fries. Like. Now is not the time??? It was straight from a bad fanfiction scene, honestly.
Mac also has an incredibly annoying habit of breaking the fourth wall to hint at future events, but when I say “break,” what I really mean is “beating it like it’s the most rotted, decomposing horse you’ve ever seen.” So many times I’d be reading something, drawn completely into the scene, and she would say something like, “But little did I know, all that would change when x and y happened,” and I’d be taken completely out of it, sitting there with an underwhelming sense of “gee, thanks for that” that I didn’t have before that giant, foreshadowing neon sign slapped me in the face. Moning, dear, way to ruin both the moment and the anticipation. You’re giving everything away!
There’s so many “bad fanfic” things wrong with Mac, in the first book especially. She waxes on about her clothes and hair a lot. She comments on her looks and how attractive she knows she is a lot. She talks about how much she loves cars a lot and knows so much about them, but all she can manage are the stats listed on any car at any dealership ever. Yeah, you’re a real expert, dude. (A real shame you all can’t hear my roommate’s impression of her “450 horses” bit. You’d laugh so hard you’d cry.)
This series is not Shakespeare or John Green or even Cassandra Clare, not by a long shot, so, if you’re going into this one, brace yourself for all the mistakes, such as characters over-using other characters’ names. (Nobody calls anybody by name that much in real life, have you noticed? I think Moning was still figuring out how to be a good writer by this point, which is interesting since she had written another series before Fever…)
You almost have to get through these books in spite of Mac. Well, not almost. You do. Either you’ll grow to like her because there’s something about her you find endearing even while you want to strangle her (me!), or you will just continue to think she is the dumbest, most irritating protagonist alive. There is no in between.
But Mac learns how to survive and gets a lot better to deal with from a reader’s point of view. (I never thought I’d say this, but thank God for near-death experiences!) The writing that was flawed does improve, though is never anything close to perfect or beautiful like some authors can manage without sounding too high-brow or condescending.
I know what you’re wondering. “Mel, if there’s this much wrong with this series, then why did you even continue? How?”
Two reasons: the plot of the novels themselves (and everything that entailed) and thirst. Pure, blind thirst. Sigh, I wish I wasn’t this way.
Bloodfever was enough of an improvement from what Darkfever was that I was able to get hooked and wanted to know how the series ended. That’s when I really started liking Barrons as a character (and wondering what that mouth do). Mac was improving, and the intrigue around them both was deepening. I wanted to know if Mac would ever discover the truth of who killed her sister, if she got revenge, what the Sinsar Dubh was really capable of, why Barrons wanted it specifically, and of course what all the Fae were plotting. Bloodfever was the board, and Faefever is where everyone showed up to play. This series ended up having many twists and turns, some predictable and some subverting that predictability, as well as a lot of dangerous characters who are at cross-purposes with each other, building tension, and if that ain’t my shit!
I also loved reading about Moning’s take on Faery and the different kinds of Fae, especially the more disturbing ones since so many writers want to only focus on the pretty ones. Her imagination excelled here, and she presented and executed many good, unique ideas about Fae culture and lore. Also, the mystery surrounding Barrons and his “will they, won’t they” relationship with Mac was the dark, delicious slowburn I’ve been yearning for.
This series is more of an urban fantasy series than a romance one (which is probably why I liked it so much), but I will note, though, that the romance it does involve probably isn’t for everybody. For one thing, it’s incredibly straight with no real, notable diversity to speak of, unless you want to count Barrons and his men. Which I don’t, really, because I still don’t even know what manner of creature they technically are. Jericho is also incredibly alpha, incredibly problematic, and I love him that way. But again, not everyone’s cup of tea, and I get that. V’lane is equally problematic, bordering and sometimes flat-out crossing lines of consent that could make some readers uncomfortable. Or turn them on. Hey, no judgements here!
Of all the books, Dreamfever is probably my favorite even though Faefever has the most intense, cliff-hanger ending. (Don’t do what I did and finish Faefever after the library has already closed for the day. #Agony.) The transition between Faefever and Dreamfever is a huge turning point for Mac, and she gains a lot of courage and independence after she finally emerges from the other side of the hell she goes through. She learns much faster from her mistakes.
In contrast, Shadowfever did not need to be as long as it was, and the constant mental acrobatics that Mac gave us were tiresome and repetitive to read. Not to mention, they over-complicated the plot and made things much more convoluted than they needed to be. I also needed a bigger confession moment between Mac and Jericho than what I got, a better crossing of the bridge between lust and love. I know to Jericho actions speak louder than words, but there definitely needed to be something more here to really make me believe the relationship had become something more than only lust. I like what went down with V’lane, though. That was awesome!
Looking back, there are some plot holes I’ve noticed that I wish Moning had caught, and the pacing with all five books is so incredibly fast, it’s almost unbelievable. So much stuff happens all the time!
But, despite everything, I truly enjoyed these books. They gave me a lot of complex characters—Mac, Barrons, Ryodan, V’lane, Christian, dreamy-eyed-guy—to love and many that I loved hating (Rowena). It even gave me characters I didn’t expect to like as much as I did (Dani, Jayne, and Darroc), and there are so many powerful, emotional moments to relish (the beach scene in Faerie, my heart).
This series made me laugh, made me smile, made me furious, made me roll my eyes, made me tear up—I just had so much fun with it! In the end, that’s enough to make me a little more generous with my rating than I may otherwise have been if I’d just flat-out hated it or not cared.
As I’m writing this, I’ve continued the revival of the series with Iced, which apparently has a lot of controversy surrounding it. Many people don’t like Dani apparently, and I’d have to politely disagree with them, but there are also some… shall we say, troubling things with this book and its sequel, Burned. When I get there and see what all the fuss is about, I’ll provide an update!