Rhine finally escaped from the sinister Housemaster Vaughan, and brought her former servant and friend, Gabriel with her. They are on the run and trying to get to Manhattan to find Rhine’s brother, Rowan, and to make a new lives for themselves away from the haunting illusion of the mansion. They will never have to face the basement again, but is what is out there now even worse?
Fever, the second book in the Chemical Garden series picks up exactly where the previous book, Wither, left off. Rhine and Gabriel are washing up on the shore, trying to figure out how far they have come and how much further they need to go. Eventually, they stumble upon an old carnival where a strange madam has turned the existing skeleton of the camp into something even more bizarre.They meet Lilac, one of Madam’s girls, along with Lilac’s mysterious child, a malformed but intelligent little girl. Finding themselves trapped once again, Rhine and Gabriel must escape a second time, all while continuing to avoid Vaughan’s clutches, who somehow has managed to track them down.
Fever is a very different book from its predecessor. While it has some of the same characters, those characters seem very different, more shallow and obsessed, somehow. Gone are the intricacies of the various relationships, the budding romance, the complex feelings, the strategic plotting and discovery. Instead, it is a matter of plodding along amid the harsh realities of the America of the not-to-distant future, where murder, prostitution and disease are taken at face value.
Rhine and Gabriel are getting tired and depressed, and many readers may find themselves feeling the same way, navigating a gritty and bleak world, rambling along without those bright spots of hope or intricacies of plot that kept us all so intrigued. Rhine once again has to play the same role she did in the first book, but it doesn’t quite work, both for the character and for the plot.
In trilogies, the middle book is often the most mundane, and Fever is no exception. Even Rhine apologizes for the expectations she raised when she tells Gabriel, “It wasn’t supposed to be like this.”
Still, having been invested in the series now, and given a last minute plot turn, I am looking forward to reading the final book in the series, expected to be published some time in February 2013.