Though still enthralling, Fever doesn’t quite live up to the page-turning potential of the first in The Chemical Garden trilogy. Rhine spends a fair bit of time unconscious — periods mostly glossed over in Wither, but which seem slower here. But tantalizing dreams and snatches of remembered conversation point to a sister-wife-centric mystery to be fleshed out in the third book. The beginning is undoubtedly the strongest section of the novel: Rhine and Gabriel stumble upon a creepy, drug-fueled carnival of sorts — a fascinating introduction to the nonsociety the virus has wrought.
Rhine has escaped her forced marriage to Linden and the guardianship of her mad scientist father-in-law, Vaughn, with Gabriel in tow. But freedom proves more elusive than Rhine predicted when she hatched her poorly planned escape plot, especially in a world as dangerous as the one outside her gilded cage. With the virus still raging and time running out, Rhine and Gabriel cling to shreds of hope — and one another — as they flee their past. (SIMON & SCHUSTER, Feb., 341 pp., $17.99, ISBN: 9781442409071, HC, 14 & Up)