Friday, May 16, 2014

Book review: The Quick, by Lauren Owen

Owen’s strong debut infuses the classic Victorian-set horror novel with many original, bloody twists. It begins at a decaying Yorkshire mansion, the childhood home of James Norbury and his sister, Charlotte, and later moves over to London. Here James, a new Oxford grad, plans to hone his poetry-writing skills.

Then, suddenly, what seems to be a gothic saga transforms into an intricate, sinister epic involving many unique personalities, immense personal danger, unexpected love, and an unusual pursuit of scientific advancement—all centering on the exclusive Aegolius Club. Revealing any more would be a spoiler.

With her startling plot, Owen proves a master at anticipating readers’ thoughts about future happenings and then crumbling them into dust. Her world building is exceptional, and readers will simultaneously embrace and shrink from the atmosphere’s elegant ghastliness, but the novel’s structure is uneven—it feels overlong in places—and she devotes regrettably little time to her most intriguing characters. It’s an impressive feat, nonetheless, one with the potential to attract a cult (and occult) following this summer.

This review first appeared in Booklist's May 15th issue. The Quick will be published in June by Random House ($27.99, hardcover, 523pp).  The hype surrounding this forthcoming novel has been unavoidable, and I don't think it lives up to it, quite, but The Quick does have a lot going for it. If you've read it already, what did you think? 

9 comments:

  1. I think your assessment is spot on. I reviewed this yesterday and my thoughts were along the same lines, with the added complaint that the ending didn't serve the narrative well at all!

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    1. I enjoyed your review and agree with your points (although I haven't read The Historian yet). Shadwell and Adeline were my favorite characters.

      The ending... yes. I was like "what?" It wasn't the nice wrap-up I expected, but I suppose, thinking about it, that it's one more way in which the novel was unpredictable. The link from your review was the first mention I'd seen of a sequel. Based on the conclusion, I wondered if there would be one in the works.

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  2. If I'd known it was the first of several books, I would probably have been far more forgiving of that ending than I was now. It's a shame that wasn't communicated anywhere on the cover or in the blurb.

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    1. I agree that would have been helpful. "First in a series" would have done it.

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  3. I saw this one on Library Thing and was intrigued by it. Nice review Sarah. Sounds worth reading for several points, even if it's not perfect in other regards.

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    1. Hi Cynthia, that about sums it up. Maybe by the second book, the pacing issue will have been solved. That was a biggie.

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  4. I didn't think it was worth it either. I think thats starting to be the feeling around the internets now...

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    1. Yes... reviews are mixed, to say the least.

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  5. i enjoyed this review as i have not read this yet it gave me a good insight on what this book is all about

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