Shadowfever: This series has everything and it’s great on audio

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.

~Kelly Lasiter


 

Smart is the new cool.

Shadowfever is the fifth and final novel in Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series. Readers will be pleased that it’s longer than the previous books, yet still chock full of plot.

After the horrific cliffhanger at the end of the previous book, Dreamfever, we find out that things are pretty bad for Mac — worse, in fact, than they were at the beginning of Dreamfever. Much of Shadowfever is emotionally draining as Mac deals with grief and starts to become harder and tougher. The result is a young woman who doesn’t quite know who she is. This change is painful to watch, yet it’s not unwelcome, and sometimes it’s amusing (now she’s likely to be wearing a semi-automatic weapon strapped across her pink Juicy shirt).

There’s also much joy in this final novel, and Moning brings everything together into a complex and satisfying conclusion. There are a lot of new revelations in Shadowfever, some that I saw coming (though none were so obvious that I was certain about them), others that truly surprised me, and a couple that I thought were slightly unbelievable (but I didn’t really care). Thus, like the previous installments, Shadowfever was a quick read that kept me on the edge of my seat — a place I like to be when I’m reading a book.

I don’t read much romantic urban fantasy because I usually think that the sex and romance overshadow the plot, but Moning’s Fever series is the best romantic urban fantasy series I’ve read. It’s got a complex twisty plot, a wonderful setting (I can’t wait to visit Dublin someday!), great characters, mystery, a pleasant writing style, and plenty of tension-relieving humor. What I liked most, though, was Mac herself. She’s a smart and strong heroine (though she doesn’t know it) who I can understand. She’s sweet and self-confident, sassy but not snarky, and she knows she’s in way over her head. She admires the alpha male and is strong enough to resist being pushed around by him, but she has her own goals and realizes his value as a tool to reach those goals. I found their behaviors and relationship to be believable and was pleased that the series didn’t devolve into a sap-and-sex story. (There is a lot of sex in the last two books, but it’s an integral part of the plot.) I’m glad that I started Fever after the final book was published because I flew through them in a few weeks and would have been seriously disgruntled about those nasty cliffhangers if I’d had to wait.

This is a great series to read on audio, but be warned that the narrator changes after book 3. I was so absorbed in the story that this change was a bit upsetting, but I adjusted. The narration on the first three books (Joyce Bean) was excellent — I especially liked Ms. Bean’s male voices. In the last two books, Natalie Ross reads Mac’s parts perfectly. Phil Gigante’s male voices were sometimes over-the-top in the fourth book, but they seemed more appropriate in the final dramatic volume.

If you’re a fan of urban fantasy and you haven’t read Fever yet, you’re missing out!

4.5 stars

~Kat Hooper


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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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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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2 comments

  1. I agree. I have listened to the whole series on audiobook and finishing with Shadowfever now!!!

  2. I couldn’t put these down when I was listening to them.
    Cait045, since you’re an audiobook reader, are there any other series you’d recommend on audio?

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