published: 17th March 2020
spoilers? some in the content warnings
Six months after Noam Álvaro helped overthrow the despotic government of Carolinia, the Atlantians have gained citizenship, and Lehrer is chancellor. But despite Lehrer’s image as a progressive humanitarian leader, Noam has finally remembered the truth that Lehrer forced him to forget—that Lehrer is responsible for the deadly magic infection that ravaged Carolinia.
Now that Noam remembers the full extent of Lehrer’s crimes, he’s determined to use his influence with Lehrer to bring him down for good. If Lehrer realizes Noam has evaded his control—and that Noam is plotting against him—Noam’s dead. So he must keep playing the role of Lehrer’s protégé until he can steal enough vaccine to stop the virus.
Meanwhile Dara Shirazi returns to Carolinia, his magic stripped by the same vaccine that saved his life. But Dara’s attempts to ally himself with Noam prove that their methods for defeating Lehrer are violently misaligned. Dara fears Noam has only gotten himself more deeply entangled in Lehrer’s web. Sooner or later, playing double agent might cost Noam his life.
Galley provided by publisher
CWs: CWs are detailed here. To note: relationship between adult and minor is between Lehrer and Noam, with particular scenes in: ch 3 (all), ch 4 (end), ch 7 (opening), ch 9 (middle/end), ch 11 (sort of, throughout), ch 17 (middle), ch 23 (beginning to middle), ch 31 (middle; sexual assault), 32 (throughout; attempted rape)
Sometimes, you love a book so much that you wonder just how the sequel can live up to the first book. That was the case for me, with The Fever King. This sounds a little like a set-up for me to say this one didn’t live up to it, but it’s not. It was just as good as the first book, but it was good in a different way, and perhaps not the way I was initially expecting.
The Electric Heir opens up a few months after the end of The Fever King. Noam thinks Dara has succumbed to the sickness and is working with Lehrer, to ostensibly find the cure. However, he has remembered what it was Dara told him at the end of the first book, and is also working to take Lehrer down (albeit slowly). But Dara isn’t dead, and when he arrives back in Carolinia to kill Lehrer, Noam finds himself torn between loyalties.
To be quite honest, I had a rough start to this book. I had read the content warnings, so I knew there would be depicted a relationship between an adult and minor. Perhaps foolishly, I thought that this would mean flashbacks for Dara. Nope. It was between Lehrer and Noam. So this first point is a highly personal one, and actually just meant to make others who might be in a similar position aware. Because, in this case, I needed that little bit more information. But anyhow, after a week of being less-than-keen to pick the book back up, I did (and finished it in a day so). And, barring my immense discomfort reading the scenes (I ended up skimming a few), I really enjoyed the book.
Unlike The Fever King, which I would say has more action, this book is a lot more character-driven. Yes, there are events happening at the same time, but it really centres more on Noam and Dara, and telling a story of survivorship (much like Girls of Storm and Shadow, really). And honestly, I feel like YA needs a whole lot more of that. And yes, the pacing sometimes felt a little off, and it’s a wholly different focus from what you might expect, but it’s a necessary focus. And a very well done one. It definitely helps that Victoria Lee’s characters just jump off the page – even the side characters have a lot of depth – and, for the most part, you sympathise intensely with them (except Lehrer, for obvious reasons. Though I also appreciate that Lee went the way of not using his backstory to excuse his actions. More of this in YA, please).
I mentioned pacing earlier, and mostly, the balance between the narrative and the character-driven aspects of the story is excellent. I would say, however, there were a few places that jumped out at me where the pacing felt a little off (to me, at least). That is, the war with Texas and the ending. The war started very abruptly (like, I turned a page and they were at war, abruptly), and I think it could have had more build-up or started earlier. The ending too seemed to happen very fast, although that was more understandable in the narrative. But balancing these aspects is difficult, and I can’t think of that many books that have done so as successfully as this one did. (Another nitpicking thing though: I sort of wanted to see Noam remember what Dara had told him rather than that being a “oh he’s done this part already” bit at the beginning. But yeah. Nitpicking.)
But like I said, the characters are excellent and the perfect vehicles for a character-driven novel in that sense. And, most importantly, it gives you a happy ending.