‘Disease begins with a feeling Miss Darke. It has been that way ever since the Turn – when people’s feelings started making them ill…’
After being completely captivated by Angharad Walker’s critically acclaimed first novel The Ash House last summer, I was very excited to be offered the opportunity to review Once Upon A Fever.
An alternative dystopian London with stag-drawn carriages is the setting for this enthralling and at times unsettling medically-inspired story. Imagine footsteps of robed nurses echoing down dark hospital corridors, whilst disused underground brick tunnels network beneath the operating theatres…
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 water 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 …
‘We do not know why some feelings turn into illness Miss Darke. That is the mystery of the Turn. Medicine is only a small light shining in the darkness.’
Since the Turn, the wards of the foreboding gothic hospital of St Jude’s are lined with beds, treating patients afflicted by their own feelings. The Inertia Ward for example is one of the hospital’s oldest wings: the Sanatorium for Hysteria, Despair and Melancholy. A guild of Doctors or ‘Methics’ as they are ironically known throughout the story are working on ground-breaking treatment to ‘cure’ patients of their feelings and ‘blood reading’ is one such procedure being pioneered.
St Jude’s has all the feels of a Victorian Asylum, both in it’s physical appearance and in the courses of treatment the patients receive. As with The Ash House, Walker makes us think and question throughout – the ethics of the methics and their obsession with neutralising strong feelings vs the holistic, natural approach of a group of Wilders Ani meets outside the hospital.
Ani and Payton are such courageous, strong-minded individuals. Unafraid to disagree with one another and determined to hold onto their own beliefs, they carve out completely separate pathways to one another and the narrative skilfully switches between both sisters – I was willing them to find their way back to each other!
Once again, Angharad Walker had me gripped with another highly original story unlike anything I had read before.
Read the first Chapter of Once Upon a Fever here:
With thanks to Chicken House and Laura Smythe PR for my review copy of this fantastic book and inviting me to take part in the blog tour.
Once Upon A Fever is published by Chicken House Books and is available now.
Click on the image to read my review of The Ash house
Read the first Chapter of The Ash House here: