Arcane Hearts: A Touch Of Fever – Nazri Noor
What do you do when you can’t cast spells? You make your own magic.
Jackson Pryde was never great at wielding magic. Instead, he works as an artificer, crafting enchanted devices in the Black Market, a shadowy bazaar of wonders. But Xander Wright, the mouthy, pretentious mage next door, hates all the hammering in Jackson’s workshop.
When a chance assignment forces them to team up, they discover a terrifying predicament. Something is driving members of the magical community into murderous rages. Jackson and Xander must combine might and magic to find the source of the Fever and stop it. Can they put aside their differences long enough to end the Fever, or will they succumb to its bloodthirsty curse?
A Touch of Fever is a 73,000-word M/M urban fantasy romance with a HFN ending. Join a fast-talking artificer and a snarky sorcerer, best friends turned bitter enemies, as they navigate an adventure filled with strange flora, mythical fauna, and magical murders. If you like your urban fantasy with humor, horror, and a whole lot of heart, you’ve come to the right place. Experience A Touch of Fever today.
A Touch Of Fever is an urban fantasy adventure that reads like a shounen anime with a shounen-ai romance. It is the first book of the Arcane Hearts series and my first book by Nazri Noor. I’m guessing, this is connected to the author’s other urban fantasy works.
Our hero is Jackson Pryde, last of the Pryde family of artificers. He lives in the Black Market, a magical mercantile city in a pocket dimension of sorts that has portals to different places around the world. It’s one bustling bazaar after another, a mish-mash of cultures and creatures where every conceivable item can be bought for a price. It is dominated by various guilds.
After an incident that blew up their labs and killed almost all artificers, the guild and the craft were deemed pretty much defunct. As a result, Jackson’s life is an everyday hustle to put food on the table. These frequently involved selling and bartering prized items he foraged or embarking on quests to retrieve one.
One day he was requested to retrieve a rare flower, with the condition that he work with a partner. This turned out to be Xander Wright, frenemy, neighbor, and the magical boy of his dreams. The two lived to annoy the heck out of each other. Dorks!
Like many shounen anime heroes, Jackson is cocky and brash. He has no false modesty about his looks and loves to flex his muscles just to get a rise out of Xander. He’s also insecure about not having much magic in him.
Artificers use artifacts to amplify the little magic they have inside them. Jackson has been working for years to create a gauntlet that actually works. He carries the thing around in his backpack, testing it whenever the opportunity arises. It’s his ticket to bringing in gold and bringing back glory to artificers.
Xander is from an elite family of mages and went to an ultra-elite school for magic. He and Jackson were childhood friends who grew apart and became antagonistic. His hobby was to file noise complaints against his artificer neighbor.
Xander’s life is the opposite of Jackson’s. He hasn’t seen much of the world, just going about studying magic and not much else. The quest with Jackson might be the first time he stepped out of the Black Market. Naive he might be, Xander is also a highly-trained, walking, talking arsenal of deadly weapons.
The story is written in Jackson’s 1st person POV. Our boy is quite the talker, building a detailed picture of the Black Market and the Arcane Hearts world through smart-ass comments and various asides. If you love world-building that goes down to the nitty-gritty, you’ll liked this.
It’s a wordy book to read on paper. I do feel I wouldn’t have finished it if not for Zachary Johnson’s energetic narration. He was the perfect audiobook narrator for the series. His voices and characterizations were fabulously on point!
I only noted the wordiness because I am a lazy reader who has no patience with details. The writing was able to keep the mood lively and the momentum consistently moving even through the denser prose. It struck a good balance between action, humor, magic, and romance.
The main thing that kept me hooked was how the author deftly weaved together a grand adventure filled with action and magic while building up the delicious anticipation between two frenemies with very obvious USTs.
This was wonderfully demonstrated during Jackson and Xander’s quest, where they snapped and sniped, battled a very angry sylph, and were forced to acknowledge a truce or else. They would have ended up acknowledging so much more if not for a griffin with very bad timing.
The quest is actually just part of a wider plot. The titular fever is the big mystery that runs in the background. It is mostly heard via secondhand news as the cause of various death. It wasn’t until another neighbor spontaneously combusted that Jackson and Xander took an active part in the investigation.
The cast is fantastic! Jackson’s friends, the talented Beatrice, the gentle giant Paxton, and the majestic griffin Zephyr, all had colorful personalities that made their interactions hilarious.
I loved the fight scenes! They’re always an adrenaline-pumping mix of death-defying stunts and spectacular displays of high-level magic. I especially liked that we get high-octane action and magic from the get-go. No boring training tropes here!
All in all, A Touch of Fever is a super fun action-adventure with winsome heroes to root for. It was great to listen to on audio, and it would be even more amazing to see on screen.
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits
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