Fevered Star (Between Earth and Sky #2)
by Rebecca Roanhorse
Expected publication: April 19, 2022
Panic and disorder reign in the once-powerful city of Tova, and the sun is blocked by an eclipse that lingers on with no end in sight. But even in this darkness, a comet’s imminent arrival heralds the rise of a new order. But will this new order mean life or death for the people of Tova, the Meridian, and the rest of the world? Meanwhile, Serapio and Naranpa struggle with their roles as avatars of their newly returned gods. Will either of them be able to hold onto their identities, or will their divinity destroy them utterly? In the midst of all of this, the Teek sea captain Xiala finds a new and treacherous ally as she is pulled farther and farther from the sea. War is gathering, and far-flung enemies begin to circle as the war in the heavens begins to descend to earth.
The first book of the Between Earth and Sky series, 2020’s Black Sun, introduced readers to a fantastical world based upon Mesoamerican lore, where crow riders ride their giant corvids from city to city, where the secretive Teek women have the ability to Sing the seas into calmness– or a storm, if it suits them– and where a cult seeks to claw their way into power by whatever means necessary, even if that involves slaughtering everyone in their way.
At the end of Black Sun, it seemed as though the conspirators had succeeded– but they hadn’t. Not quite. And so readers were left wondering, “what happens next?”
Fevered Star takes that question and runs with it for nearly the entirety of its 416 pages, as it features far more brooding than doing. Readers are treated to long discussions of world history, which, despite being a secret history, are still history lessons delivered by characters who clearly aren’t charismatic history professors, able to rattle off historical details in an engaging way so the reader’s attention doesn’t turn to something else. These historical discussions, along with their political counterparts, may have a payoff in the long run, but in the short term, they often cause Fevered Star to slow to a snail’s pace before a bit of action tugs things along.
In short, Fevered Star has a serious case of middle-book syndrome, which most often affects the second book of a trilogy. Bereft of a true beginning or final ending, these middle books feel as though they are wandering around in search of a plot while the characters spend their pages pondering the weight of their actions and doing very little at all.
Picky readers who appreciate it when authors adhere to some sense of physical verisimilitude in even the most magical of fantasy worlds may wonder about the consequences of a sun blocked by a perpetual eclipse. How will plants grow without enough sunlight? Will harvests begin to fail? Will animals stick to their normal routines without day or night? Will the people of this world be able to function in endless twilight? Will panic and famine ultimately ensue when the sun fails to reappear? There were no signs of it in Fevered Star, though it seems that such things would be inevitable, given real human reactions to celestial events like the appearance of comets, fireballs, or historical solar eclipses.
Ultimately, Fevered Star is a middle book. It has little to do except move characters around and infodump information that will hopefully be relevant later on. Like the long empty highway that separates a traveler from their long-awaited destination, Fevered Star is a book to be traversed rather than savored. It answers few questions, asks many more, and spends a good deal of time twiddling its thumbs while it stretches the story out to cover, presumably, the fantasy genre’s requisite trilogy format– whether it needs three books or not.
Where Black Sun had mystery, danger, and romance on its side, Fevered Star has historical and political commentary. Enter of your own free will, Reader, but bring a cup of coffee. You might need it to keep awake during the lectures.
Thank you to Saga Press and NetGalley for providing me with a free eARC in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion.