Book review: The Electric Heir by Victoria Lee

Title: The Electric Heir by Victoria Lee

Publisher: Skyscape

Publication date: 17 March 2020

Genre: Science fantasy

Page extent: 480 pages

Rating:

Goodreads blurb: In the sequel to The Fever King, Noam Álvaro seeks to end tyranny before he becomes a tyrant himself.

Six months after Noam Álvaro helped overthrow the despotic government of Carolinia, the Atlantians have gained citizenship, and Lehrer is chancellor. But despite Lehrer’s image as a progressive humanitarian leader, Noam has finally remembered the truth that Lehrer forced him to forget—that Lehrer is responsible for the deadly magic infection that ravaged Carolinia.

Now that Noam remembers the full extent of Lehrer’s crimes, he’s determined to use his influence with Lehrer to bring him down for good. If Lehrer realizes Noam has evaded his control—and that Noam is plotting against him—Noam’s dead. So he must keep playing the role of Lehrer’s protégé until he can steal enough vaccine to stop the virus.

Meanwhile Dara Shirazi returns to Carolinia, his magic stripped by the same vaccine that saved his life. But Dara’s attempts to ally himself with Noam prove that their methods for defeating Lehrer are violently misaligned. Dara fears Noam has only gotten himself more deeply entangled in Lehrer’s web. Sooner or later, playing double agent might cost Noam his life. 

Before beginning this review, please note that Victoria Lee has a large list of content warnings for this novel – it is darker than The Fever King so please take note before reading (you can find the list here).

It was like Dara had been shot but hadn’t realised yet, was bleeding out.

Me reading this book

It has been almost four months since I first read The Electric Heir, as I was somehow the luckiest person ever and managed to snag a NetGalley ARC. If you’ve read other posts on this blog, you may have realised The Fever King is my favourite book in the world, and was most definitely my favourite read of 2019. It was always going to be hard to follow up what was one of the most impactful, resonant and utterly captivating novels I’ve ever read. And yet somehow, The Electric Heir stands up to the mantel of its predecessor and manages to be just as entrancing and magnificent as I ever dreamed it could be. 

Following from where The Fever King leaves off, we now get both Noam and Dara’s POVs and isn’t that just a joy to behold!! Dara, fine purveyor of pineapple pizzas and goats, is coming back to Carolinia, with one goal: assassinate Calix Leher. Noam meanwhile is determined to build a better society for refugees, even if that means he’ll need to take down another government. 

Where The Fever King addresses the immediacy of trauma, The Electric Heir brings a further edge to the discussions and implications of trauma: what happens after? Through both Noam and Dara’s POV, we see the different ways trauma and abuse can impact victims. We see the different behaviours that follow, the different thoughts and opinions, the different forms abuse can take. We see the subtle, mental manipulations crossing paths with the outright physical abuse. But we also see, from start to finish, a book of survival. And that makes The Electric Heir one of the most powerful books I’ve read.  

I am just completely in awe of Victoria Lee. 

The pacing of this novel is phenomenal. It is tense and action packed but filled with the emotional moments that feel like a knife to the chest in between. This is an extremely hard book to review, because much like The Fever King, all I want to say is THIS IS INCREDIBLE. Even sitting here, writing this review, my heart is pounding as I race to the end, and that is exactly the feeling I had reading The Electric Heir. It is everything I wanted, dreamt of and couldn’t even imagine I needed for the sequel, and end, to this destroying duology. 

Book review: The Dangerous Art of Blending In by Angelo Surmelis

Title: The Dangerous Art of Blending In by Angelo Surmelis

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Publication date: 30 January 2018

Genre: Contemporary | Young Adult

Page extent: 336 pages

Rating:

Goodreads blurb: Seventeen-year-old Evan Panos doesn’t know where he fits in. His strict Greek mother refuses to see him as anything but a disappointment. His quiet, workaholic father is a staunch believer in avoiding any kind of conflict. And his best friend Henry has somehow become distractingly attractive over the summer.

Tired, isolated, scared—Evan’s only escape is drawing in an abandoned church that feels as lonely as he is. And, yes, he kissed one guy over the summer. But it’s his best friend Henry who’s now proving to be irresistible. It’s Henry who suddenly seems interested in being more than friends. And it’s Henry who makes him believe that he’s more than his mother’s harsh words and terrifying abuse. But as things with Henry heat up, and his mother’s abuse escalates, Evan has to decide how to find his voice in a world where he has survived so long by avoiding attention at all costs. 

Please note this review contains some mild spoilers.

I have rather mixed feelings on Angelo Surmelis’ The Dangerous Art of Blending In. It is at once both a realistic and emotional portrayal of domestic abuse, alongside an odd romantic arc and I don’t think the two stories fit well together.

Evan is a Greek immigrant in the US. His mother has physically, verbally and mentally abused him since he was young. His father does nothing to stop him. Evan has spent his whole life trying to hide the abuse, and the fact that he’s gay. But after a summer camp, when he comes back and realises his feelings for best friend Henry go beyond friendship, Evan’s worlds start to collide.

At its heart, this story is about Evan and his journey to find the strength to stand up to his parents, his pastor and himself. It’s just a pity he spent so much energy and motivation on Henry and their relationship. Henry…..doesn’t seem like the nicest person. There are parts of the romance arc I thought were great; and there are parts that are very iffy. One of my most hated things was that Henry didn’t seem to care if Evan got hurt by his mother if she had caught them in his house. He literally comes over and sneaks in, falls asleep, even though he knows what would happen if Evan’s mother caught then. I just can’t imagine how someone could completely risk the person they claim to love like that. I know you want to sleep with Evan – but like, do you want him to die as well?! He also got oddly angry at Evan for no reason multiple times, didn’t bother trying to do anything to help Evan, there’s some constant consent issues (both sexual consent as well as that related to my above comment on ignoring Evan’s concerns about his mother catching then) AND after Evan trusted him enough to tell him what the fuck was going on at home, he just left him for three months to suffer….. Some love.

What I did love was the very honest, uncomfortable and distressing portrayal of abuse. The systematic way Evan’s mother would be nice and kind one second and ferocious the next, the back handeded compliments, the constant faults, it was handled well and is very reflective of the reality of the abuse cycle. This impact of this constant system was clearly reflected in Evan, in the way he still hoped and yearned for love from his mother or father, or for something to change or someone to notice enough and actually do something about it. There were parts where I felt the dialogue went very stiff and stilted, but given the subject material, I think it would’ve been really difficult to do otherwise.

All in all, this book would’ve been a really great portrayal of domestic child abuse, but the focus on the problematic romantic relationship took up so much energy and I think that let this book down.