Wednesday, 30 April 2014

The Quick - an early review

by Lauren Owen
Hardcover: 544 pages - 19.99 $
Publisher: Random House (June 17, 2014)

An astonishing debut, a novel of epic scope and suspense that conjures up all the magic and menace of Victorian London

London, 1892: James Norbury, a shy would-be poet newly down from Oxford, finds lodging with a charming young aristocrat. Through this new friendship, he is introduced to the drawing-rooms of high society, and finds love in an unexpected quarter. Then, suddenly, he vanishes without a trace. Unnerved, his sister, Charlotte, sets out from their crumbling country estate determined to find him. In the sinister, labyrinthine city that greets her, she uncovers a secret world at the margins populated by unforgettable characters: a female rope walker turned vigilante, a street urchin with a deadly secret, and the chilling “Doctor Knife.” But the answer to her brother’s disappearance ultimately lies within the doors of one of the country’s preeminent and mysterious institutions: The Aegolius Club, whose members include the most ambitious, and most dangerous, men in England.

In her first novel, Lauren Owen has created a fantastical world that is both beguiling and terrifying. The Quick will establish her as one of fiction’s most dazzling talents.

What's about that book

I enjoyed the quality of writing, fluid and very pleasant. From the beginning of the book, one is swept away by the story. James and Charlotte are two characters we love to discover. The very Victorian style, both in writing and in story, which makes its charm. Some topics, interesting and well fed (but not enough exploited). All in all, the book is very pleasant and one loves to meander in London or to live a happy life in Italy. I really loved some characters, even if they weren't not present for long (Shadwell and Adeline). It does have a bit of Anne Rice in it, mostly for the supernatural part, the way the characters are written or the setting. 

I least enjoyed the second quarter of the novel - after James' disappearance - which mainly includes the logbook of the famous Doctor Knives, interspersed with parts of the story. It was very confusing, especially as the logbook is not very understandable. Of course, we understand that the logbook was partially destroyed for who knows what reason and it missing pieces but the writing is so weird that it becomes difficult to understand. That would have been clever if one did not already know what element Doctor speaks in his diary. In short, it was a rather laborious part to read and therefore quite unpleasant.

Thereafter, the story starts again and one finds again with pleasure the writing of the author, to which she adds different characters and themes. Now, I admit that the profusion of themes is, in my opinion, unnecessary and sometimes superfluous. The story of the disappearance of an aspiring poet, linked with a more or less secret society of the Victorian London and the differences in social classes have enough to make a good book, given the ease with which the author takes us into her story.

Some characters deserved a little more flesh on the bones as they were so promising. I think of Liza, the street urchin, Mrs. P., Alia's emblematic figure, James which is no that important after all, Burke who is so important but of whom we know nothing...

In a nutshell

A pleasant novel, Gothic at will, well written but which probably addresses too many themes and has too many character at the same time to make it consistent. This is a 3.5 / 5 for me.

Warning: An e- galley of this title was provided to me by the publisher. No review has been promised and chronic above is an unbiased review of the novel.

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