Philip Reeve’s Fever Crumb is a book to sink into. For some of you, all I really need to say is “Prequel to the Mortal Engines Quartet” and you won’t feel it’s really necessary to read any more of this review. That would make you already a Philip Reeve fan. That would mean that you know that a Philip Reeve book is all about amazing world-building, creative vision, and characters as quirky and rounded as they come. A Philip Reeve book is a truly transporting experience. If you haven’t yet read any of his work, I’d say Fever Crumb is a fine place to begin.
Fever Crumb takes place far in the future, a few centuries before the first book in The Hungry City Chronicles. Fever is a girl who was abandoned while she was still a baby, and raised by the Order of Engineers, scientists for whom logic is all. Years before this happened, Auric Godshawk, a powerful ruler and member of a strange social class known as the Scriven, was deposed during a violent uprising. Things haven’t really been stable in London since that time. When she’s nearly grown up, Fever is sent to work with an archaeologist named Kit Solent who believes that he may have found Godshawk’s secret laboratory, where he hopes he may uncover amazing scientific secrets. At the same time, invaders are drawing closer to London’s borders, and they have plans of their own for the city’s future.
Where to start with why I loved this book? First off, there’s an appealing Dickensian quality to it. I think it has something to do with the way that the atmosphere is alternately gritty and then suddenly funny, and how the characters are perfectly captured in their smallest gestures and interactions with other characters. You will feel like you are reading a real tale, a little bit old-fashioned in feel and grand in scope. And the world-building. One word: incredible. Every aspect of the London of Reeve’s imagination is right there for you to picture and smell and hear. Reeve is one of those amazing authors who manages to convey attention to the smallest details (the Scriven’s facial markings, the scent of a summer night), the kind of small details that make a world come to life for the reader, but at the same time, his big-picture world-building is remarkable and consistent. The story moves at such a pace but you never feel that you aren’t getting a sharp, fully-realized picture of things. His inventiveness is apparently unending. One of my favourite examples of this? There are these spooky/fantastic paper assassins that feature at several points in the plot. Just when you thought the mail slot was safe.
Of course, for those who are already wild fans of The Hungry City Chronicles, there is a great deal of additional appeal as you will discover in Fever Crumb more about the origins of traction cities, as well as the history of some of the characters featured in that series. I think Philip Reeve is masterful in how he develops different story threads, always knowing when to leave one to return to another but never leaving anything for so long that you stop caring about it. Every plot line gets its fair share of development and care, making for a rich reading experience.
If you’re still reading this review, and you haven’t raced away to get your hands on this book, check out this mini interview with the author. And then hurry off and get your hands on this book.
(He’s a charmer, yes?)
Fever Crumb is published by Scholastic Press. And it’s worth every second.
(This post is cross-posted at Guys Lit Wire).