Review of Once Upon a Fever by Angharad Walker

Since the world fell sick with fantastical illnesses, sisters Payton and Ani have grown up in the hospital of King Jude’s.

Payton wants to be a methic like her father, working on a cure for her mother’s sleeping fever. Ani, however, thinks the remedy for all illness might be found in the green wilderness beyond the hospital walls.

When Ani stumbles upon an imprisoned boy who turns everything he touches to gold, her world is turned upside-down. The girls find themselves outside the hospital for the first time, a dark mystery unravelling … 

Once Upon a Fever is a fantastic MG standalone fantasy which pits the scientific and the natural world against each other, it also has some really important messages about feelings which is covered in a really unique way and gets the message across without sounding forced or preachy. 

Ani and Payton are very different siblings and whilst they both have the same end goal their approaches to it take different paths. They have a strong bond, which despite their differences, really shines through After a frenetic opener I enjoyed how the story became split with each sister travelling their own and very different path of discovery

As mentioned at the start, I really liked the important discussions around feelings, all the ill’s of this world are caused by feelings after an event called “The Turn”. Their Methics work with science and botany for often bizarre approaches to healing,  what if we could wipe out all memory of the feeling, would that necessarily make us a better person? That feelings can consume us if we push them down too far is a important lesson, but the book also carefully balances that we can often surprise ourselves with our resilliance – it’s actually very layered for it’s short pages.

The worldbuilding is artful with the wilds coming alive against the almost oppressive feeling of the methic towers – this sister a wonderful shade of grey between the two. Ani’s discovery of life outside of the walls is a delight as Payton is dazzled by the grandeur of what life as a Methic could be like.

The book did take a darker turn than I was expecting but in that i actually applaud the author for taking the route that we knew the sisters would over the route that we would traditionally expect young fantasy books to tread.

Once Upon a Fever is a wonderful upper MG read that I would recommend to the suggested reading age and above.


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