Steamboats and vampires. . . I have to admit that I've always been intrigued by George R. R. Martin's Fevre Dream. So when Bantam Books released a new mass market edition of GRRM's early novel, I decided that it was time to give this work a shot. And I'm sure glad I did, for Fevre Dream is an original and engrossing read!
Here's the blurb:
Abner Marsh, a struggling riverboat captain, suspects that something’s amiss when he is approached by a wealthy aristocrat with a lucrative offer. The hauntingly pale, steely-eyed Joshua York doesn’t care that the icy winter of 1857 has wiped out all but one of Marsh’s dilapidated fleet; nor does he care that he won’t earn back his investment in a decade. York’s reasons for traversing the powerful Mississippi are to be none of Marsh’s concern—no matter how bizarre, arbitrary, or capricious York’s actions may prove. Not until the maiden voyage of Fevre Dream does Marsh realize that he has joined a mission both more sinister, and perhaps more noble, than his most fantastic nightmare—and humankind’s most impossible dream.
As always, Martin excels at creating a genuine and realistic setting. His vivid prose brings the reader back to the Mississippi river runs of the 1800s. The narrative is filled with a wealth of historical details from that period, and the author's love for steamboats adds another dimension to the tale. Inventive, Fevre Dream also offers an explanation regarding vampirism that sets this work apart from all the other vampire novels on the market. All of this put together makes for interesting and original worldbuilding. Indeed, in terms of style, Fevre Dream is quite unique.
As is usually his wont, GRRM's characterization is "top notch" and he created another cast of fascinating protagonists. Most of the POV sections are split between chapters in which we witness events taking place through the eyes of Abner Marsh and the despicable Sour Billy Tipton. Although these two characters are far from likeable, both men grow on you as the story progresses. Understandably, the mysterious Joshua York and Damon Julian are the most captivating protagonists of this book. It will come as no surprise that GRRM has a few surprises up his sleeve. Indeed, the author's different take on vampirism allows him to keep readers on their toes.
The pace is fluid throughout, which makes Fevre Dream a page-turner. George R. R. Martin sure knows how to capture your imagination and suck you into a tale, and Fevre Dream is no different in that regard. The more you read, the more you want to know what happens next. Choosing that particular historical period as a backdrop for the story gives Fevre Dream its unique flavor. Add to that a few chilling and disturbing scenes, as well as superior characterization, and you have something special.
I know that most fans would prefer to get their hands on The Winds of Winter instead of this or any other work by George R. R. Martin. Still, Fevre Dream is a fresh and imaginative read that showcases the length and breadth of the author's talent. It has aged rather well, and at no time does it feel that you are reading a novel that was initially published thirty years ago.
If, like me, the premise has piqued your curiosity, do give GRRM's Fevre Dream a shot. You won't be disappointed!