Science Fiction Book Reviews

Temper, by Nicky Drayden (Book Review)

Temper reveals a brilliant world filled with magic, both good and evil, that paints a vivid portrait of a deeply flawed society. Drayden’s use of class structure examines the struggles of the real world and the implications of poverty on a child’s future. Complete with an epic clash between religion and science, and a fast-paced narrative, Temper is a must read.

TEMPER: A NOVEL

Nicky Drayden
Harper Voyager, August 2018

QUICK SUMMARY

Twin brothers begin to struggle against forces beyond their control. They fight against the evils of the world to rise above the poverty they were born into. By working together to discover who they truly are, the brothers find their place in the world is so much more than it seems.

Spoiler

WHY I LOVED IT

A HUGE PLOT TWIST

Temper surprised me. I thought I fully understood the direction it was going and, just as I was figuring things out, it took a different direction. Get ready for a rollercoaster!

COMPLICATED CLASS STRUCTURE

Class structure and struggle is at the heart of Temper, revealing a world where nobody is given equal opportunities and everything is dependent on status predetermined by birth. The vice and virtue part of the narrative definitely plays into this. Most alarming is the segregation of the cities, mirroring the issues we have in our world. Those living in the impoverished areas have to dream about getting out one day and succeding. The rest don’t have anywhere else to go and are looked down on by those living outside of the walls. School systems are hierarchical by wealth, especially when it comes to advanced schooling. It’s heartbreaking to see such a realistic portrayal of the primary issues of a society structured around wealth, that brings children into the world already at a disadvantage thanks to society’s prejudices. Drayden writes about these struggles expertly, showing us the unfairness of the system.

REPRESENTATION OF VICE & VIRTUE

This was a fascinating concept to me. Vices and virtues are split between twins in a religious ceremony, making for a very interesting way to divide society. They believe this can create one perfect child at the expense of creating a deeply flawed child. This highlights how broken their society has become. The system instantly paints things as good and bad, sorting people into one of these two categories with preset connotations. I see it as a representation of how hard a kid in poverty has to work to be accepted by those who look down on them because of where they came from. Kids with more vices than virtues are ignored as throwaways, and the kids with only a few vices are barely looked at either. It takes endless hard work mixed with inhuman expectations in order for an impoverished kid to get close to success. The novel makes me yearn for an equal world without the absurdity of class structures.

FASCINATING RELIGION

This robust, intricately detailed religion is so deep in its imagination and originality. It’s a mix of magic, demons in animal forms, religious ceremonies, and a dedicated language for religious practice. Possession is a very real thing — it’s not played up for effect. Being infected by demons is taken seriously by the whole society. The experience of the twins takes this to a new, terrifying level, but you’ll have to dive into the book to really experience it. Drayden also expertly skirts the line between the mundanity of religion and the horrors that have been committed in its name. At first, it seems like a modern day religion that stops at regular ceremonies and prayers, but the realities are so much deeper, and darker, than expected.

A BIT OF SCIENCE

There’s a hidden scientific community that adds a bit of mystery to this society. Science is forbidden, the result of an old war that outlawed mechanical creations. We see a number of strange creations that seem to resemble steampunk inventions. It’s an interesting concept, deftly portraying the differences of religious and scientific belief systems.

UNCLE PABLO’S BOOKS

This is a somewhat minor part of the book but I LOVE Uncle Pablo’s hilarious, absurd and lewd children’s books that he gives to the main character. It’s a thinly veiled, passive-aggressive use of Pablo’s annoying family and it’s fun to imagine the strange, low-talent drawings and illustrations. Love it.

CONCEPTS

Fantasy, Religion, Demons, Magic, Class Structures, Vice & Virtue, Twins

Interested in more books like Temper? Check out our book reviews here.

Photo by Gabriele Diwald on Unsplash

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