A while back I reviewed the first book in the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning, Darkfever, and although I liked it, I wasn’t overly enthusiastic. This summer while visiting the U.S., I picked up the rest of the books and proceeded to devour them. So, what changed?
I had two main problems with the first book: the world-building and the main character of MacKayla. In Darkfever, there’s a stark contrast between the modern-day setting with real locations (Georgia, Dublin) and the fae world that supposedly exists alongside it. I just couldn’t make the jump between the two, so the fae world felt very unbelievable, even as Moning obviously spend a lot of time developing it in great detail. The second problem that I had was MacKayla. I didn’t like her, and even though I’m pretty sure Moning doesn’t mean for us to, she still annoyed me and made me enjoy the book less than I otherwise might have.
Obviously, for me to enjoy the later books in the series as much as I did, something had to change. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but as the series progresses, the modern-day reality begins to shift to incorporate the fae world to a greater extent, which made it easier for me to accept the premise of the books. There were still some jarring notes, but all in all the world that Moning creates becomes more believable, even as it is less realistic. I guess I like my fantasy purely so, and I have a hard time with books that try to blend fantasy and reality.
As a main character, MacKayla (Mac for short) undergoes a pretty radical transformation from book one of the series to book five. Moning emphasizes this metamorphoses by using light and dark imagery throughout the books, a technique which works really well. As MacKayla becomes “darker” on the outside, going from twirly pink skirts to black leather pants, her inner self becomes less naive, tougher, and more willing to do what needs to be done, even if she breaks a nail in the process. By book five, Shadowfever, we begin to see that MacKayla is neither one thing nor the other, which Moning illustrates through Mac’s return to her natural blond hair color but her continuing to wear the black leather.
This emphasis on appearance may seem superficial, but I think Moning is trying to make a much bigger point about being comfortable with who we really are and accepting ourselves as such, rather than playing a part to fulfill some aesthetic ideal. The same sort of dynamic can be seen in the character of Barrons, who is extremely polished on the outside but much more animalistic on the inside. Again, I don’t want to spoil the books, but the way that his relationship with Mac develops over the series was one of the highlights for me. The way they ultimately accept one another and their bare-bones honesty is really moving.
So, what didn’t work about this series for me? Moning’s plot development can be meandering at times, as the action tends to be non-stop and then suddenly slow to a crawl. Particularly in Shadowfever, the characters just up and take a month off when they are in the middle of an intense showdown with evil. The ending came kind of out of the blue, with little build-up right before it, although I did enjoy the way that Moning resolved the story and it definitely wasn’t predictable.
Overall, I would recommend this series to anyone who enjoys paranormal fiction (think Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but with faeries). And to anyone who is a bit put off after the first book, I would say to stick with it, because it gets a lot better.