Today I have a review of a book that is part Gothic novel, part vampire horror novel-- The Quick by Lauren Owen.
It’s Halloween time and even though vampires are not as popular as other monsters in horror these days, many readers still love the lore of the vampire. It is a go-to character for many readers at this time of year, and what is perfect about Owen’s debut novel here is that it is truly half Gothic, Victorian novel and half old fashioned vampire story. It is truly a Halloween read with wide appeal.
Set in a Dickensonian, Victorian England [a setting well known to many readers], The Quick is the story of a young poet who accidentally gets wrapped up in the complicated world of the secret Aegolius Club. The novel has the leisurely pace of the Gothic novels from the era in which it is set, but readers who sit back and take in the well drawn characters, intrigue, and intricate plot, are in for a great ride.
We begin the novel meeting a brother and sister who live in a falling down estate. When their father dies, their Aunt takes them in. Then the two are separated as James, goes to the city and Charlotte stays behind in the country.
What follows is a story of Victorian London’s underground vampire world and James and Charlotte’s roles in it. It is important to note that James and Charlotte and their sibling bond is what ultimately drives the story here. In fact, the opening chapters are slower, but the reader reaps an excellent reward for reading through them as they set up the final chapter perfectly. The end of this novel is moving and satisfying because of the well crafted sibling bond and those slower opening chapters.
This is an extremely detailed novel that unveils its story through multiple points of view. We see life for different people on all of the vampire battlefronts. This changing perspective enhances the moody, atmospheric, and foreboding tone. It also allows the world of the vampires and those who fight them to be carefully and intricately built. Overall this leads to the satisfying nature of the novel as a whole.
However, this stylistic choice also makes this dense and intricate story move at a leisurely but compelling pace. One of the most striking things about this debut novel is how perfectly it embodies the story telling techniques of the era in which it is set. This Victorian style adds authenticity to what is a fantasy story. But readers must remember that Gothic novels unravelled at a much more methodical pace than today’s tales, even those of today that invoke the Gothic storytelling style.
While the world building of the Victoria era is realistic, I loved the vampire world building here too. It was all steeped in classic vampire lore, but the specific details on how they survived in the real world and the other side of the story, how the vampire hunters worked to track them and stop them, were both extremely interesting and compelling.
But don’t get me wrong here. It’s not all about the Victorian setting, There is some great vampire action here. These creatures are mean, nasty, and vindictive. There is an epic battle between the warring vampire groups that matches any vampire novel I have ever read. And again, it moves between points of view which was very satisfying.
Overall this is an excellent literary, Gothic novel that has enough about vampires to satisfy horror readers, but enough other frame to attract those looking for a seasonal read. It has its gross and violent moments, but it is nothing today’s average reader does not encounter already in bestselling suspense stories.
Three Words That Describe This Book: Gothic, Vampires,character centered
Readalikes: The Quick’s appeal is best described as Dickens meets Dracula. Both are excellent readalike options, and together they capture the novel’s appeal perfectly.
This novel also reminded me of The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, although The Quick is much better in my opinion. I found the protagonist of The Historian whiny and weak. Charlotte is the exact opposite. Also, the vampire parts in The Quick are much better for horror fans.
For people who like the idea of The Quick, but find the 544 page count and leisurely pace a bit too slow, the novels of Matthew Pearl are a much better choice. Click here for my reviews of some of Pearl’s mysteries.
Finally, Here is a great list of books people who liked The Quick also liked on Goodreads. It includes a book I read and enjoyed this year, The Swan Gondola by Tony Shaffert. Click through to my review to see more on that fantastic Gothic novel.