12 Weeks of Hot Summer Reads: Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve

This is Week 7 of a 12-Week series of blog posts reviewing new young adult books. Check back each Monday for a new review.

Fever Crumb, heroine of Philip Reeve’s Fever Crumb, is a 14-year-old girl with an unusual appearance. First of all, she’s bald. Second, she has two differently-colored eyes – one blue, the other brown. And third, she’s absolutely beautiful. But she doesn’t know that. She has been raised by Dr. Crumb and the Order of Engineers since she was a baby, and they’re not in the habit of telling her that she’s beautiful. Her upbringing has been rather dry and very self-composed, with both emotion and beauty being looked down upon.

Fever lives in London, but it’s not like any London that we know of. London is recovering from being occupied by “the Scriven,” a different species with speckled skin and long lives. The Scriven were overthrowed by the Skinners, and the New Council now rules the land. No one is as hated in London as the Scriven are, for being different and for being harsh rulers.
Fever is called out on her first official Engineer assignment, to assist archeologist Kit Solvent on a dig. While traveling to her job, Fever’s eyes attract some unwanted attention, and she is quickly branded “a Patchskin” or Scriven. A renowned Patchskin hunter follows her, determined to find out if she is human or Scriven.  Events occur that lead to rioting in London, even while barbarians are approaching the city to conquer it.

While these changes are happening in London, Fever similarly begins to change. Exposed to some key Scriven artifacts, Fever begins to uncover memories that she couldn’t possibly have had, and sometimes which overtake her consciousness. She has rarely questioned her orphan upbringing in the past, but now she realizes that the truth of her parentage is quite crucial to her identity.

I love steampunk novels, which often combine Victorian and high-tech for interesting and unique results. I found Fever a compelling character and the plot fast-paced without being dizzying. This is the prequel to Reeve’s "Mortal Engines" quartet, which is a definite must-read if you find yourself liking this one. You may also enjoy Scott Westerfeld's "Leviathan," which has been reviewed here. Recommended for ages 10-14.