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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

What I’m Reading: The Quick

The review train keeps rolling...

Back in August I read The Quick by Lauren Owen. Here is what I said about it in Library Journal:
What is a list of Halloween stories without some vampires? Lauren Owen’s debut, The Quick(Random. 2014. ISBN 9780812993271. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780679645054), introduces James Norbury, a shy young Victorian poet who accidentally gets wrapped up in the complicated and secretive Aegolius Club. Owen’s narrative has the leisurely pace of the Gothic novels from the era in which it is set, but those who settle in and let the well-drawn characters, intrigue, and intricate plot sweep them away are in for a great ride. Think Dickens meets Dracula for a sense of what Owen’s textured novel has to offer.
While this says a lot about The Quick, let me add a bit more.

This novel gets off to a slow start, I mean really slow.  The first third is almost a different book; however, the slow set up is important as it establishes some key relationships, settings, and situations that come into play as the novel runs its course.  The resolution here is perfect because of that long set up. It all comes around upon itself in a satisfying final chapter.

Also, this novel is filled with a rich cast of well developed, interesting, and intricate characters.  I especially like James’ sister, who is prominent in the beginning, disappears for a while, but then turns into the heroine of the novel.  But there are all of the vampires, those from the Aegolius Club and their rivals, as well as the vampire hunters/historians.  Owen spreads the point of view around to many of these characters.  We get their back stories, their motivations, their inner most thoughts.  While in less deft hands this might be confusing, Owen did a wonderful job of allowing these characters to come alive and take shape in front of the reader’s eyes, as they each take their turns with the story.

If you love interesting and fleshed out characters regardless of how you feel about vampires, you will love this novel.

By the way, the action, when it comes, is awesome.  Totally worth the wait.  The intricate plot, richly drawn characters, and intriguing frame (with vampires, humans, and vampire hunters/historians all set in “normal” Victorian London) combine for a great final third.

This is a perfect read for fans of dark, historical fantasy because much of what I have said above is standard for those fans.

Three Words That Describe This Book:  Gothic, Moody, Leisurely Paced

Readalikes: Let's start with the obvious, as I described above, The Quick is Dickens meets Dracula, but while that is helpful to catch someone's attention quickly, here are some more specific readalikes with detailed reasons why.

The Quick is the novel I had hoped The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova would be, but wasn't [for me at least].  So if you loved the idea of The Historian but didn't like the execution, The Quick is the novel for you.

Here are a few other books I have read [and enjoyed] which work as good readalikes here.  Click on the title for my full review:
  • Drood by Dan Simmons-- for the setting, the mood, and the dark fantasy element. Both novels are long, but Drood moves quicker.
  • Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker-- for the historical fantasy element, the detailed plot, and the wonderful characters. This is the shortest and most swiftly paced of the readalikes listed.
  • The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters-- for the creepy mood, leisurely pace, and intricately plot. The setting [England] is the same, but the time periods are different [Victorian vs post-WWII]. 
  • The Swan Gondola by Timothy Schaffert-- for the leisurely pace, historical setting [different place but similar time] great characters, creepy atmosphere and macabre elements.

1 comment:

Jenny O said...

I just finished this a few days ago! I would mostly agree with your review except that I didn't find the final chapters very satisfying. I felt that the book had such a focus, not necessarily on fighting/destroying vampires, but on studying and understanding them (as with the earlier chapters from Mould) that the book would have been better ended with Certain Characters escaping after the climactic action scene, then continuing in a sequel that delved into the Certain Characters' travels and study in more depth. The travelling library was also an interesting touch that didn't get enough page time in my opinion, just one of many hints at the broader world of the novel (which is a wonderful way to write but leaves the reader wanting more).
The Golem and Jinni as a readalike is spot-on, and I also agree 100% that The Quick will appeal to those who wanted to like The Historian.