fever coverRating: 4.25 stars
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Length: Novel

 

Colin Muir and his brother, Doug, have been on their own and living as con men since they left their abusive home as teens. Doug takes the lead between them and he is always the one spearheading their latest “performance,” as he calls their swindles. Colin would love to just settle down somewhere and live an honest life, but he knows Doug is always looking out for him and keeping his secrets.

Gold rush fever has hit the country, and when a ship bearing the latest lucky miners to strike it rich pulls into port, Colin and Doug can’t resist the chance to try their luck. They connect with a local woman, Eleanor, who is willing to fund their journey as long as they take her along and all split the gold they find. It is clear that Doug plans to not only run off with Eleanor’s share, but the shares of a family that they join forces with along the journey as well. But Colin hopes that he will get Doug to change his mind before things get that far, particularly as he finds himself drawn to one of the new travelers, Steve.

The journey to the Klondike is harrowing and arduous and the group is lucky to survive the trip. When they are tipped off about a potential find in an area called Coffin Bone Creek, they consider themselves lucky, especially with the deadly winter bearing down on them. But even as it seems like their claim might actual bring the gold they all covet, mysterious and dangerous events begin occurring. Colin has strange dreams that bring him back to a devastating event from his childhood, he and others are hearing voices from their pasts, and worst of all — something seems to be stalking their isolated cabin. Colin and the others traveled to the Arctic hoping to find the gold that would change their lives; now, they can only hope that they survive.

Fever is an exciting and fascinating horror story with a touch of romance by Jordan L. Hawk. The story is set during the Klondike Gold Rush when the adventurous (or desperate) sought to find their fortunes in the frozen Arctic. I found everything to do with the historical side of this story beyond engrossing and I was totally captivated following along with Colin, Doug, Steve, and the others along their journey. It is hard to even fully grasp how arduous and life-threatening it was to trek into the frozen wilderness in hopes of finding gold. Miners had to not only fund an expedition, but then sail to Alaska, hike up snowy and treacherous mountains with all their gear on their backs, survive the freezing conditions, and build boats and cabins by hand — and that is before they even start mining. Hawk brings this whole process to life in such vivid detail, I felt like I was right along with them. (Note: If you are curious to learn more about the trip, this National Park Service page and this site from the University of Washington both have pictures and details about many of the stages of the journey the group takes. Also, this Wikipedia page has a photo of the Chilkook Pass, a near vertical ascent over icy terrain miners had to climb, often multiple times to move all their gear.) Like I said, I found it all just fascinating and Hawk does such an incredible job combining the real life history with this fictional story.

Once the group makes it to their claim in Coffin Bone Creek, they set to work mining for gold. At first, the dangers all seem to be ordinary (if potentially deadly): unrelenting cold and dangerous weather, isolation and limited supplies, and the hazards of mining. However, soon things take on a more supernatural tone, as Colin and others have strange dreams, hear voices, and see mysterious tracks — and then things really get bad. Hawk builds this horror side so well, bringing things in slowly, so they seem to have logical explanations, until suddenly it becomes shockingly clear something truly awful is going on. I don’t think this book is over-the-top scary, FWIW. It definitely fits into the horror genre and the group faces danger, death, and disaster. But I think even folks who are not into super scary books can enjoy this one.

I would say this is a horror/supernatural adventure first and a romance second. While Colin does have a love interest in Steve and they

Spoiler title
do get a happy ending,
their relationship is definitely not the focus of the story. We know Colin finds Steve attractive and is drawn to him. We also see them exchange a few kisses and are told about developing feelings, but we don’t really see it build on page. Steve feels more like a secondary character to me, with the real focus being on Colin and Doug. I think all that is fine, given the nature and focus of the story, though I did feel like Colin’s declaration of love caught me sort of off guard given how little we see of their actually relationship development. But as I said, the relationship here is definitely the secondary plot line and not the focus, so I think it works well and add something sweet to the more dark main story.

The story is told in Colin’s POV and we also get to see his growing understanding of his complex relationship with his brother, as well as reconciling his past. Doug has been keeping Colin’s secrets, but it was clear to me as a reader that he is also manipulating Colin, preying on his guilt to get Colin to give in to him. So there is some nice opportunity for growth for Colin and coming to terms with his past and his relationship with Doug.

Overall, I found this story just fascinating. I think the historical event at is core is really so interesting and I have read several books set during this period, so I am definitely a key audience for this book. But I think even for those not as interested in the real-life events, the way Hawk brings it all to life and weaves the history together with the fiction makes for a compelling read anyone will enjoy.

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