I’m writing this not only after finishing Lauren Owen’s debut novel The Quick (due out in bookstores June 17th) in two days, but also after walking home in the dark and being scared to death despite the fact that I know full well that I just read something fiction. Translation: points to her, now please let me lock my door and curl up in a corner with a blanket and some Friends reruns.
This is another ARC that someone at work handed off to me. And let me say that, while ARCs usually are at least decent about giving a good blurb and something to intrigue you (I mean, that’s the point – you get interested in the advance copy, you read it, and then you order it for your store), this one wasn’t nearly as awesome as the book ended up being. This is what it said:
An astonishing debut novel of epic scope and suspense that conjures all the magic and menace of Victorian London
I mean, seriously? That’s how you’re going to sell me on the book? Once again, “epic scope” doesn’t do anything for me, and the only part that made me say, “Well, yeah, I guess I should read this,” is that I love Victorian London. It’s kind of my thing. But the plot, while not entirely original or shocking, is twisty and fun and overall a good mystery/thriller/romance/etc. things you expect in Victorian London.
Now I’m going to put the SPOILER ALERT very early on here because the “surprise twist” happens pretty early on in the novel, and it’s kind of impossible to review it appropriately without mentioning… well, the “surprise twist.”
Seriously, don’t read on if you want to be totally surprised.
You’re still hanging in there? All righty then.
The Quick opens with a pair of children living on an estate. The mother is dead, father is not able to connect, older sister Charlotte loves baby brother James desperately, and they’re kind of accustomed to the general air of mystery around their home. Fast forward to James’ graduation and decision to move to London. And then he meets his flatmate – who he met briefly at school – and eventually they recognize a mutual attraction. Important to note that at this point, the time of Oscar Wilde (who makes a brief cameo), homosexuality was still a crime and could be punished with death. So obviously James and new lover-boy Christopher aren’t able to go gallivanting around as freely as they’d like.
But then, after they’ve decided to run away to Italy together, they’re attacked in the street. By none other than a society vampire.
Yep, there’s your page 100 twist: vampires.
Now, when I read this I thought that it was going too far. I’m a big fan of supernatural on occasion, but after Twilight, I got a little tired of vampires. Werewolves I still love and just have yet to find a book that I really think works for the lovable lycanthropes. But vampires? A little overdone.
But I kept reading. Like I’ve said, the plot twists weren’t complete shockers – there’s only so much you can do with vampires, after all – but it was a well written book. Some of the old myths are adjusted into new vampirisms, which was a nice change (not the stereotypical garlic/holy water/stake through the heart).
When the narrative returns to Charlotte, the story kind of picks up because she gets to meet a young man who escaped the vamp club (I’m not kidding – a gentleman vampire’s club) as well as some… they’re not vampire hunters, but they’re still pretty badass. And they’ve got an interesting little backstory too.
So the plot, once Charlotte returns, becomes the adventure of her trying to rescue her brother from the evil vampires, run away from the people chasing her and the escapee, and figuring out a cure for James.
Generally, I wasn’t really intrigued with the story until about page 350. It was (I’m repeating myself again) well written and the characters were developed with interesting quirks, but then it kind of got my attention. My main gripe was the occasional interruption from one character’s diary, which felt more obligatory (vampire stories like Dracula – and even Twilight, I suppose – always seem to require some first person narration) than plot driven. But again, around 350 I kind of got into the story and actually wanted to figure out how it ended.
And while I was not entirely surprised by the last sentence, I will say that I had just read that when I had to walk in the dark. And the fact that I’m still kind of freaking out should tell you something about that.
I must admit that, although I started this feeling obligated to finish for the sake of the two copies we ordered for the store, I really enjoyed it. And the ending made it a book that I can appreciate more because the longer I let it sit on my palate, the more I like it.
I also have to take a moment to congratulate Ms. Owen on a great first novel – it’s pretty incredible that this is the first, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of her work in the future.
Remember, The Quick flies into bookstores near you June 17th. Check out more details at IndieBound.