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Reviewed by A.D. Cole
The Quick was one of the most startling and enjoyable novels I’ve read in a long time. It is a Victorian gothic novel in the tradition of Bram Stoker, centered around a pair of siblings, James and Charlotte Norbury. The novel opens in the mysterious mansion where the two children grow up parent-less. It follows James’ young adulthood as he finishes university and remains in London to cultivate his poetry. He meets and befriends a young man who is much more worldly than him, and their friendship blossoms into romance.
But the night before the two men plan to run away together, tragedy strikes and the narrative abruptly shifts, jumping back in time thirty years. We are introduced to the journals of a scientist who finds himself connected with the mysterious Aegolius Club. Through these journals, we see the dark and disturbing events that lead to James’ tragic moment. The narrative shifts once again, back to Charlotte who, troubled at her brother’s lack of correspondence, ventures into London to find him.
The remainder of the novel follows Charlotte and her dark adventures as she searches for the answers to her brother’s plight. The world created by Lauren Owen is dark, intense, and filled with characters reminiscent of Dr. Van Helsing or Victor Frankenstein. Except for the more modern style of writing, this novel might have come straight from the age of Poe or Emily Bronte.
And now I feel I’ve provided adequate information in this review for readers to determine whether this book is for them or not. I’ve hopefully done so without spoiling too much. I say this, because when I read the synopsis for the novel, I had a far different expectation of what I would find inside. I was delighted at the surprising turns of events. But I can see that the lack of information going into the novel could also result in disillusionment. I’ve seen several reviews where people were upset to find their gothic coming-of-age novel suddenly shift into different territory.
That said, if this novel sounds good to you, read it now because it was fantastic. References to real-life celebrities such as Oscar Wilde bring life and whimsy to the world. The darkness is tempered by the sincerity of the characters, their humor, their complex relationships, and their occasional and surprisingly poignant romances. I was completely drawn in for the week I spent reading it and found I had quite a book hangover afterwards—a rare occurrence for me anymore. I highly recommend this one.
A.D. Cole is a homeschooling mother and aspiring romance novelist. She lives in the Ozark foothills and spends her free time reading, writing, baking and pondering life’s little mysteries.
Review and giveaway copies were provided by Random House. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.