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Radiant Shadows

Fever (Chemical Garden Trilogy)

Fever - Lauren DeStefano **May contain some spoilers from Wither.I was so intrigued with the ending of Wither, I couldn't wait to get my hands on a copy of Fever. I was excited to see the world outside of the mansion, and to watch Rhine fight to get back to her brother. A lack of real plot progression, the absence of some of the strongest personalities and poor world-building has left me disappointed and unimpressed.Fever picks up almost exactly where Wither left off - with Rhine and Gabriel washing up on the shore of some unknown beach. Almost immediately they are captured by "Madame" - a seemingly delirious and slightly senile old lady - and brought to work in her carnival. Madame mysteriously takes a liking to Rhine, dubbing her Goldenrod, and decides that she will not be forced in to prostitution like the rest of her girls - she will instead be forced to be intimate with Gabriel in front of men who have paid to watch. Fortunately for Rhine and Gabriel, they're both so doped up on heroin that they're mostly unable to distinguish between their hallucinations and reality. So naturally, I found myself hoping for her to overcome this obstacle and show her strength by devising a well-planned escape. When she's virtually handed freedom, after failing to help herself (or Gabriel) in any way, I couldn't help but wonder why these strangers were denying themselves their freedom in order to give Rhine hers. This theme continued throughout the rest of Rhine's journey to Manhattan - perfect strangers willing to bend over backwards for her, for nothing in return - and I had a hard time coming up with reasons why. What's so special about Rhine that she holds this kind of power over others?As the plot continues, we follow Rhine and Gabriel (and their newly acquired ward, Maddie) as they slowly cross the country in search of Rhine's brother. Gabriel is mostly useless as he's going through withdrawal (which Rhine magically avoids), Rhine begins to realize that she might have idealized the outside world, and Maddie scampers around a lot on all fours (generally making better decisions then Rhine) but serving no real purpose. And nothing happens. Sure, they encounter some minor obstacles, but for the most part their entire journey from the carnival to Manhattan could have been removed and we wouldn't be without any vital information. I was hoping to see Rhine and Gabriel's relationship develop (as I found it quite lacking in Wither) but when Gabriel wasn't in a drugged-out stupor, he seemed to be angry with Rhine for withholding some important information about life outside the mansion. I felt like I kept waiting and waiting and waiting for SOMETHING to happen, something to explain why Gabriel felt so compelled to follow Rhine, why he continued to stay with her after realizing she pretty much lied about life outside of the mansion and I got nothing. There was no development of their relationship, no steamy scenes, no sexual tension - nothing. And Gabriel might have well been mute like Maddie - he had absolutely no personality and after two books I still can't tell you anything about him - including why he seems so fascinated by Rhine.After finally arriving in Manhattan, and looking back on their journey, I kept wondering what the point was. What was the point in enslaving Rhine in a prostitution ring, if she wasn't going to be forced in to prostitution? What was the point in showing such physical child abuse, if the child seemed untouched by it's effects? What was the point in showing Gabriel's reliance on heroin, if it wasn't going to play a larger role in his development? I couldn't help but feel like a lot of the things thrown at Rhine and Gabriel were to create shock value, rather than for character or plot development. The repercussions of these experiences, the emotional toll they must have taken on both Rhine and Gabriel, were never touched on. The only response Rhine had to any of her traumatic experiences was her anxiety to riding in the back of a truck, as it reminded her of when she was first captured by the Gatherers. She begins to question her choice to leave the mansion and doubt whether freedom outside the mansion was worth all the obstacles they had overcome. Because of their complete lack of emotional reaction to...anything, I felt completely disconnected from Rhine and Gabriel and their struggles.The newly-introduced characters were so underdeveloped I wasn't able to care for any of them - I missed Linden and Cecily and Jenna. I even missed Housemaster Vaughan! They were all such strong characters that their absence was felt in every page. Some slight cameos at the end were destroyed by another drug-induced Rhine stupor and we were left with a mostly-unresolved cliffhanger ending. Other then a couple of not-so-surprising revelations, Fever suffers fully from "middle-book syndrome" and does nothing to further the plot.Find this review, and more, on my blog: Radiant Shadows