Looking back over my book club reads for the year, Fevre Dream was one of my favorites, so I decided to write up a review of it. I am a huge fan of ASoIaF, but had not read Martin’s Fevre Dream. With such a successful series, you have to wonder about earlier books by the author. Will they live up to the expectations built from the work you have already read and loved? I was concerned. Also, vampires? Martin does vampires? Hmmm… Wasn’t real sure about that. Well, all I can say, is I am so glad I read this book. It was absolutely wonderful.
Fevre Dream leaves the reader struck by such wonderful imagery that the riverboat era and the Mississippi river come alive before the reader’s eyes. For some reason, the main descriptions I remember in ASoIaF are of food, which I really didn’t care about. I often felt like Martin needed to take a break, go eat a snack and come back when he could stop thinking about food.
It may just be that it’s been awhile since I have read those books and the politics and characters are more memorable than any of the images. Not the case with Fevre Dream. Perhaps on my next re-read, I will realize that ASoIaF has as much imagery as Fevre Dream and I just don’t remember it. I actually look forward to figuring that out (any excuse to revisit ASoIaF is a good one).
Marsh is an unattractive and unlikely protagonist in many ways, but Martin makes us interested in him and his story. He is a steamboat captain down on his luck. That is, until he is approached by York who offers him an opportunity that seems just too good to be true. A mysterious stranger, with even more mysterious and eccentric friends, offering him a dream opportunity? Oh, yes, excellent idea. Nothing could possibly go wrong with that.
This absolutely is a vampire novel, but not like any I have read before. Martin created a very intriguing vampire culture and history. There are also some very interesting parallels between the vampires and slavery. Slavery was very much a part of the culture during the time period and is featured accordingly. This could be hard to read at times, not because it surpassed the grittieness of today’s “grimdark” (or what ever you want to label it), but because it is based on such a relatively recent history. This was our world not that long ago and to see people treated so horribly is a hard truth to face. But Martin deals with it well.
My only real negative is that there was not a single character that I cared about as much as many of his characters in ASoIaF. There’s no Arya, Tyrion, Littlefinger, Jamie, etc., etc. And no, I am not looking for the same character as any of those, but there are so many characters in that series that I just can’t wait to read more of. I didn’t feel that way about either Marsh or York. In all fairness, the other characters have had 4 or 5 rather large books to become so well developed. But I am pretty sure, some of them I latched on to almost immediately. Perhaps that is not so much a fault of this book, but a strength of ASoIaF that I was disappointed to not see in this as well.
For me, I absolutely enjoyed this book. It has a considerably different feel to it than ASoIaF and there were members in the book club that were not fans of ASoIaF that really enjoyed this one. I loved getting a chance to see how Martin finishes a story and felt he did a superb job of it. Martin’s prose, imagery and ability to set tone and atmosphere is just amazing. It was a slow paced book, even during the ‘action’, but a story doesn’t have to be fast to be intriguing and wonderfully done. I feel Fevre Dream is a perfect example supporting that.