Shadowfever: This series has everything!

fantasy book reviews Karen Marie Moning 5. ShadowfeverKaren Moning ShadowfeverShadowfever by Karen Marie Moning

What a ride! I count myself fortunate to be a “late adopter” of Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series, because that meant I was able to devour its five books in rapid succession, almost as if they were one single long novel. It’s been an intense experience, the kind I always want to find in urban fantasy and so often don’t. This series has everything: a mystery; a twisty plot that isn’t confusing to read even when you don’t yet understand everything that’s happening; a dynamic heroine who changes as the story progresses; a complex, fascinating world; great sex (yeah, I said it) that always serves plot or character rather than the other way around; a touch of humor…

I’ve also seen Moning’s writing develop over the course of the series. Her descriptive prose has grown more lush and her plotting more complex. I’m pretty sure she’s had much of Shadowfever’s plot planned all along, but this hefty (608 pages) final installment has enough plot twists for another four books! When I was about halfway through it, I told a friend it was “a big brick o’ plot,” and I meant it in a very good way. Much like this is a big brick o’ chocolate.

”Now I’d lost everything,” Mac told us at the end of Dreamfever, but because Moning is EVIL, she didn’t tell us who had just died (though it’s not hard to guess). At the beginning of Shadowfever, we learn who bit the dust, and what Mac decides to do afterward. She starts thinking maybe she wants the Sinsar Dubh for her own purposes. Now she just has to decide what she’s willing to do to get it. She’s always had an unusual connection to the tome, too, and she begins to wonder about the nature of that connection — especially when she finds evidence that she may be the reincarnation of the Unseelie King’s concubine, or maybe of someone even more frightening.

There’s so little I can say about the plot without leaking major spoilers. I’ll just say that there are a ton of twists and that the tension level is somewhere in the stratosphere. Rarely have I felt so much temptation to flip ahead in a book and make sure this or that disaster didn’t happen; yet the story is so enthralling that I resisted that temptation due to sheer desire to let it unfold as written.

There’s one plot element, [SPOILER — highlight to view it:] Barrons not being permanently dead [END SPOILER], that I was quite sure would transpire, and I was worried that it would feel like a cop-out when it did. Instead, Moning weaves this into a major subplot with a tragic history, and makes it feel like an organic part of the story rather than a cheat.

Mac’s world is a male-dominated one in many ways, and Mac has often needed to be rescued. It’s gratifying that her input ends up being crucial to the solutions of two of the biggest problems in the book: in one case her willpower is needed, in another case it’s her ability to think outside the box.

Now that the series is finished, I can heartily recommend it with two caveats: you have to be willing to read about morally ambiguous characters — the “heroes” are often as ruthless and conniving as the “villains” here, and Moning has stated on her blog that it’s intentional — and you have to be OK with a lot of sex. As I said above, it’s always relevant to plot or character, but there is a lot of it, and progressively more as you get further in the series. If you are accepting of those two elements, Fever is an addictive, spellbinding, unforgettable series that takes you on one heck of a trip and then comes to a satisfying end with Shadowfever. Moning has stated that there may be future books in this universe, but these five books are a self-contained and resolved storyline.

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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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One comment

  1. Thanks for reviewing this series, Kelly! I never would have thought to try it otherwise. I’ve now got the first book in audio.

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