Rhine and Gabriel have escaped the mansion, but danger is never far behind.
Running away brings Rhine and Gabriel right into a trap, in the form of a twisted carnival whose ringmistress keeps watch over a menagerie of girls. Just as Rhine uncovers what plans await her, her fortune turns again. With Gabriel at her side, Rhine travels through an environment as grim as the one she left a year ago – surroundings that mirror her own feelings of fear and hopelessness.
The two are determined to get to Manhattan, to relative safety with Rhine’s twin brother, Rowan. But the road there is long and perilous – and in a world where young women only live to age twenty and young men die at twenty-five, time is precious. Worse still, they can’t seem to elude Rhine’s father-in-law, Vaughn, who is determined to bring Rhine back to the mansion…by any means necessary.
In the sequel to Lauren DeStefano’s harrowing Wither, Rhine must decide if freedom is worth the price – now that she has more to lose than ever.
Tell Me More: Wither was a novel that snuck up on me in the best way. Though the similarities to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale are unmistakable, I saw great potential in this dystopian series despite having never heard of it before I bought it.
As I mentioned in my review of Wither, Lauren DeStefano’s prose is utterly brilliant. Where Wither may have fumbled a bit in the middle of the story, Fever is superbly written and pulsing with action and revelations. DeStefano’s knack for description knocks everything out of the park and she pairs it with plot twists that will appall readers. Rhine’s life is almost always in jeopardy, but she is a resilient main character. That said, some of her actions were perturbing at best, and ridiculous at worse.
Without giving away any spoilers, I’d like to discuss Rhine in connection to the extremely powerful male characters in the novel. As readers will discover, what Rhine goes through in this book makes Wither look like a trip to a daycare. The abuse she suffers at the hands of the carnival ringmistress and Vaughan is truly horrifying. Unfortunately, I’m starting to feel like there is no way out for Rhine. The love triangle holds no interest for me, because I think she is better than both men. This is one case in which I am Team Rhine more than anything else. No matter where she goes, it seems there is always going to be a man who wants to control her in one way or another. And sadly enough, rape becomes a trope in this novel.
Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed reading Fever. But I am bothered by how rape was used to “advance” the plot, when really all it does is add more scars to Rhine’s soul. While I would love to see this series earn its happy ending from a bath of fire and blood, there were times when I felt as though those scenes were there for shock value. I can’t see Rhine ever becoming truly happy with Linden or Gabriel, because both of them see her the way they want to see her, and not who she really is. I want Rhine to be happy, but I don’t see how that can happen in the world they inhabit. My anticipation for the third and final novel is tinged with anxiousness for her future, and I’m starting to believe that I want more for Rhine than the story is willing to give.
The Final Say: Chilling and terrifying, the Chemical Garden trilogy pushes on with a harrowing account of Rhine’s next steps after leaving the mansion. Readers’ hearts will break for Rhine and her seemingly impossible search for a real life and happiness.