Review: The Electric Heir
Beautiful, self-destructive teens placed in abusive, impossible situations. An interweaving of magic and technology. An ongoing sense of dread.
Welcome back to Victoria Lee’s Feverwake series! THE ELECTRIC HEIR, the dark and compelling final installment carries our protagonist, Noam Álvaro towards a brutal confrontation with tyrant and with his own choices.
A brief note: while I tried to avoid spoilers for THE ELECTRIC HEIR, this review has MAJOR spoilers for the first book in the duology, THE FEVER KING. Reader beware.
THE ELECTRIC HEIR picks up a few months after THE FEVER KING. Dara is missing, presumed dead in the Quarantined Zone. Lehrer, with Noam’s help, has overthrown Sacha and rules Carolinia uncontested. Noam mourns Dara while uneasily filling the role of Lehrer’s protege and (underage) lover in a tumultuous, disturbing relationship.
Using his technopathy, Noam has shielded his mind so that Lehrer cannot read his thoughts or compel Noam. He now remembers everything, including how Lehrer used him and what Lehrer did to Dara. He despises Lehrer, but can’t seem to break away from the seduction of his power. But Noam is aware that he’s living on borrowed time; the first time that Lehrer gives an order that Noam refuses, the game will be up.
And the game is about to become more dangerous. Dara is alive and back in Durham. He’s working with a group called the Black Magnolia to assassinate Lehrer. Noam is ecstatic at Dara’s return, but their reunion is complicated by the fact that Noam is now in a relationship with Lehrer, Dara’s former abuser.
Adding an additional layer of complication, Lehrer knows about the Black Magnolia and orders Noam to play the double agent. Noam must continue to help the Black Magnolia, negotiate his relationship with Dara, and play his part convincingly with Lehrer. And he must do all of this while trying to sort out his own confused feelings about his relationship with Lehrer, and the consequences of his political and personal choices.
THE ELECTRIC HEIR lacks the typical outward turn that second books often make. The new characters it introduces aren’t bad characters–they just don’t matter. And while we get a brief glimpse of the world outside of Carolinia, specifically with an excursion to the anti-witching country of Texas, this insertion feels like just that–an insertion. Like any narrative choice, there are pros and cons to this. The broader political picture is hazy enough that some moments would have more impact with additional context. However, by making the political intensely personal in this second book, the tension between Lehrer, Dara, and Noam moves the plot along nicely.
Lee’s project in THE ELECTRIC HEIR instead explores the tangled and bruised relationship between Noam and Dara. Her interpersonal dynamics and observational power are razor sharp–the characters cut themselves on each other and the reader gets to see them bleed. It’s painful, but deftly done. While Noam and Dara are the relationship you’re rooting for, Noam and Lehrer’s scenes are crucial to Noam’s character development. The menace and allure of Lehrer exist in equal proportion, allowing Lee to share with her readers the sense of dread and desire that Noam struggles with. In particular, Noam’s scenes magically sparring with Lehrer were intense crystallizations of the abusive power imbalance that Lee explores in both installments of the series.
Lee’s world is interesting, her relationships compelling, and her prose serves her purpose well. THE ELECTRIC HEIR is a solid end to the Feverwake series.
While the assassination plot might have easily turned into a chase for a McGuffin (they need something to dampen Lehrer’s magical abilities), Lee re-frames the problem several times before leading to a satisfying conclusion (I hope it’s not too much of a spoiler to say that readers even get a glimpse of a happy ending?) While the personal storylines reach a satisfying arc, the political threads are left unwoven, which was a little disappointing. One of Noam’s defining characteristics is that he’s deeply political, so when the final pages of the novel gloss over the politics, it felt like a missed opportunity for a very explicitly political series.
Lee’s world is interesting, her relationships compelling, and her prose serves her purpose well. THE ELECTRIC HEIR is a worthy heir to THE FEVER KING and a solid ending to the Feverwake series.
- Recommended Age: 16+
- Language: Strong, moderately frequent.
- Violence: numerous self-destructive behaviors including alcoholism and drug abuse. Physical abuse. A battle scene. Discussion of rape of a minor.
- Sex: Yes, a fade to black with some detail. References.