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3.4 out of 5 stars
3.4 out of 5 stars
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I have a love-hate relationship with Victorian and Victorian-imitative fiction. It can be lush, eloquent and rich.... or it can be bloated like a dead whale.

And Lauren Owen's "The Quick"... has a little bit of both. It's an ambitious project, marrying modern vampire fiction to the dense Gothic horrors of the 19th-century, but it also has a staggeringly slow-moving first hundred pages. Once it does get moving, Owen delights in draping it with lush atmosphere and prose -- decaying country houses, the shadows of Oxford, and a gentleman's club of immortals.

For the last few years, shy James Norbury has been attending classes at Oxford, hoping to become a poet/playwright. He's also become friends with the decadent and charming Christopher Paige... and eventually the two young men become lovers. But since this was 1892 England, their love is very illegal. When Paige's brother threatens James, they decide to run away to Florence together... only to vanish.

We're then introduced to the Aegolius Club, an elite club of vampires. Yes, vampires -- the word is painstakingly blotted out, but the inquisitive Augustus Mould's investigations reveal that they are none other than vampires. They are the enemies of those whom they call "The Quick," and they have recently discovered that The Exchange (which makes vampires) can be done against the victim's will.

Charlotte comes in search of her brother, but is strangely unable to find him, which she chalks up to mental illness. But she soon runs afoul of one gang of vampires, and is narrowly rescued by a group of men whose quest is to protect the living from the dead. Can she save James from his bloodthirst, and from the Aegolius Club?

"The Quick" is an beautifully-written piece of vampire fiction, dancing between the vaguely penny-dreadful and the elegantly gothic. Owen drapes the book in beautiful language that reeks of fogs, cobblestones, rains in the Yorkshire countryside, the halls of Oxford and sleek cold things lurking in darkened rooms. And she handles the whole matter of vampires with a deft hand, although they're pretty standard bloodsuckers.

Here's the problem: it takes FOREVER for stuff to happen. It's a good hundred pages before James does anything but fall in love and write; and after that dramatic attack, we get several chapters of Augustus very... very... slowly recounting his observations and experiences.

"The Quick" would have been a very good historical-fantasy book, if it been trimmed to roughly two-thirds of its length, and perhaps rearranged so that Charlotte doesn't take HALF THE BOOK to properly enter the story. While Owen grasps the eloquent verbosity of Victorian literature, her story is simply too slow-moving to be as entertaining as it should be, especially with a fairly complex and promising vampire culture.

The character are also rather spotty -- James is a rather endearing character, a blossoming artist who is on the verge of finding happiness when the vampires drag him down. Charlotte is less well-defined, since she doesn't enter the plot properly until the halfway point -- and without the hundred pages of character development that her brother got. The other characters range from eerie (Augustus Mould) to fairly flat and ordinary (a street urchin -- how very Dickensian!).

If it had been edited and rearranged somewhat, "The Quick" would have been a strong little historical vampire novel. As it is, it's an interesting piece... but it requires a lot of patience to burrow down to the plot.
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on 13 June 2016
This book started very promising. It started in a rambling old house in Yorkshire where brother and sister, James and Charlotte are left to their own devices. James goes to London to become a writer and Charlotte stays to care for a sick aunt. James then disappears. There is also a secret club in London that holds the twist to the story.

The descriptions of victorian London are lovely and the reader does has a sense of place. The story is very wordy and does go on in places. As for the twist, well it is revealed quite early on and if the reader has read other reviews it's no secret that the club is something to do with vampires.

For me the story became a struggle when it switched to the journals of Augustus Mould who has access to the club. I became quite lost at times and didn't quite know what was going on. For me this made up my mind that I wasn't going to read anymore and hate to say that for now I have given up.

A very promising vampire read that seemed to lose its bite !
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on 17 June 2014
I heard a lot about this book before I ever read it I waited for quite some time to read it, so that I would be able to do a better review and include more details when I finally did review. I have to say, part of me understands why this book was touted as such a fabulous and outstanding book, and part of me wonders if this was too much hype and not enough delivery.

This book is not bad. I think most people would enjoy it just for the solid writing and the superb usage of language. Still, I did not get the shocking, absolutely earth-shattering twist that I had heard so much about. The characters are logical in the beginning and the book moves along slowly, but steadily. I found myself quite liking the first portion, actually.

Then everything changes. Literally everything.

New characters are introduced and the book becomes, for a while, all about them. I got confused and then got over it, but after that the story had a different feel and it wasn't as exciting for me.

This is a complex novel, and a lot of thought went into it, so please don't just discount it. Give it a read and see what you think.

One final thought: for a book called "The Quick," this was actually stunningly long. Excellent book for a holiday when you have some free reading time.

Overall, it was not exactly what I had expected, but the writing was brilliant and the story was different.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided by Netgalley. All opinions are my won.
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on 12 March 2017
Arrived filthy dirty. NOT in good condition as advertised.
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The first pages of this novel offer a brief insight into the mysterious Aegolius Club - but as to why, the reader is left in suspense about that for a quite a while. The book is in five Parts. Part One is a narrative of the early years of young James Norbury in Victorian England. His mother dead and his father absent, James lives a quiet life with his sister Charlotte and a few servants. As a young man James attends College and then moves to London to pursue a writing career. Part Two tells of the work of Augustus Mould - who he is and what he is writing about slowly becomes clear, but how it can relate to James remains unclear. Part Three brings several elements together in the story, and the tension builds. But in Part Four it all seems to go a bit awry. There are new characters introduced, but these characters don't ring true - they are too far from an established truth even for a novel which is a gothic Victorian. Part Five brings all the action together into a frenetic search for ultimate truth and salvation; too late for some, maybe in time for others.

This is a book which left me with rather mixed feelings; good in parts (like the curate's egg), but there are elements which let the book down. I really enjoyed most of this book; it was Part Four that I found myself really not happy about, and I read that section feeling rather disappointed that Parts One through Three had led to this point. Part Five redeemed the overall book, but given that the book is a long one (more than 500 pages), I think it would have benefited from a rather more ruthless editor giving some of Part Four a total revision, benefiting the book as a whole.

It is possible, from the way the book ends that there is a sequel in the works. I would look forward immensely to reading this, as I believe the author's work has great merit. One section of this book really needed to be tightened in the narrative and characterisations, and let down the book as a whole somewhat. But it would be nice to think the author could tighten her style for further works, and I would like to read more by her.

3.5 stars.
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on 23 October 2014
To my mind, an excellent start, then a falling off. Atmospheric, yes, but utimately disappointing. Confusion with some names did not help, and to lose two important characters was, in my opinion, a disaster. The fifty year gap points to an inevitable sequel, but I felt that that bit could have been left TO the sequel. More of Charlotte and Arthur as they appeared before that final part would have been more germane. How did they cope in the intervening years? And the last sentences.......I'm afraid I put th book down with a great sense of disappointment, having enjoyed it for the greater part. A pity.
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on 5 September 2015
This is a brilliantly written debut novel by Lauren Owen, and the praise received is highly deserved. The story is mainly told in the third person, except for some diary entries which are told in the first person. Written in a style common in the nineteenth century, this Victorian era story is given a modern, contemporary twist.

The Quick starts of as a coming-of-age novel as a brother and sister’s lives are changed through a death in the family to… well to the rest of the book which if full of adventure and thrills and spills. And… well talking about it will spoil the book. But it is fair to say that this book is pretty split up when it comes to trying to put it in a particular genre. You settle nicely in for one genre only for… the plot to thicken (sorry I couldn’t help it!).

The one major issue I had with The Quick was the vast cast of characters, just as I got into one set of characters, we were introduced to a new set of characters, and once we started to like the new set of characters something happened to them so they either could never appear in the rest of the book or we had a long gap before they reappear. There are times when the reader gets into the story only to go back to the beginning as new characters are introduced and their background told.

The book moved quickly between character plots meaning that (besides James), the reader is unable to fully sympathise with the character’s dilemma and any real feelings are limited. Yes it’s a great story, yes there is suspense, yes there is uncertainty in how the plot will be resolved. But that is as far as my feelings go. Except when I lose a character, then I get pretty upset (What do you expect it is a book about vampires!).

Overall this is a well written book, and the story is a different take on vampires, but it is the cast of characters and the lenght of book that other readers may find daunting. However you should try it, after all this novel is very similar to Marmite – you’ll either love it or hate it – but you won’t know until you try!
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on 30 August 2015
Thank you to the author, publisher and Netgalley for the ARC. Much appreciated.

Now that I've read this I've now read some reviews too. I came to this one initially not knowing about the 'twist' or had any preconceived ideas other than that it's meant to be really good. Unfortunately, before reading, I inadvertently clicked onto a review and a big spoiler was given away with literally one word. I was not happy. I still don't know why readers feel the need to talk about spoilers, give key plot points away, it staggers belief and frankly is quite selfish in my opinion. I don't know if I would have guessed the twist of the plot or not but as I knew what was coming, the subtle clues were there. I would liked to have had that opportunity though.

The book starts out really well. Though much of the book is set in Victorian London it begins by entering the world of brother and sister James and Charlotte up in a village in Yorkshire. Here I found myself really hooked and loved the setting, feel and language of it all. Then the point of view is changed and this is where the book really changes too. The big twist is revealed fairly early on and I was expecting more, but none came. Narratives do change throughout and that didn't really bother me but the plodding of the pace did. Don't get me wrong, it is beautifully written for the most part, in a gothic almost Dickensian style I really enjoyed. It was easy to feel submerged and lost in the streets of London getting the full Victorian experience. And a few times I had to click on a word to look up its meaning. Can I just say here I for one haven't swallowed whole a huge tome of a dictionary nor am I a walking thesaurus. I hate literary snobbery with a passion (which I have come across in some reviews) and have no shame in admitting I haven't devoured every word in the English language!! I don't expect books to be an expansion of my vocabulary, (bonus if it happens) more an appreciation of good words put beautifully together.

Anyway I digress, back to the book. Now here's the odd thing, though the book is not perfect, too plodding in places, lots of peripheral characters that I'm not convinced brought much to the story, tedious moments dotted here and there, I never really sped read! Nope, I devoured every word, read at every conceivable opportunity and wrapped the whole thing up after 4 in the morning!!

I would liked to have seen more expansion of some characters and if I'm honest I'm not really sure where the story was heading at times. It was like once the twist was revealed where is this supposed to go. That said, I found the whole thing strangely compelling and I know it's a book I won't forget in a long time. It's a bold debut with much to like about it. It isn't perfect by any means but it captured me in ways I truly didn't expect it to and no one is more surprised than I am.

If you do go on to read this book, my advice is not to read many reviews, but enter this Victorian gothic world for yourself. Let it be a journey that's yours and yours alone.

Happy reading.
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on 8 October 2015
Predicted to be a smash hit, this gothic thriller is a mystery tale about a brother and sister from Yorkshire. The story moves between Aiskew Hall - where we first meet Charlotte and James as children - and London; both settings atmospheric, both drawn so clearly you can smell the air. This book will reward re-reading: only after I had finished the last page did I go back to the beginning and appreciate the menace of the first sentence, “There were owls in the nursery when James was a boy.”
Aiskew is ever-present. When they are older and far from home, Charlotte reminds James “... how the air smelled green in spring, and smoke-grey in autumn, how on April mornings the mists would lift slowly, leaving a blue haze behind.”
This book has a really slow build. It starts with a prologue, an excerpt from 1890, which I read and then immediately forgot. I enjoyed Part One about the childhood of James and Charlotte at Aiskew, their mother dead, their father absent, Charlotte teaching James his alphabet by chalking the letters onto flagstones, playing games in the secrets of the big house. When the siblings are parted as James goes to university and then to London, the story starts to move a little quicker. I started to feel expectant, waiting for something to happen. Which of course, it does, and it is creepy and not what I was expecting. For me the story really gets going when Charlotte comes to London. After that, the action comes thick and fast. The tension in the second half is more like a film, making the first part of the book feel as if the author was feeling her way into the story. Definitely one to read again. And I can see it on television.
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This was a promising debut novel, set in Victorian England. It begins with two children, Charlotte and James, who grow up in a rambling house in the country. Although this part of the book is quite slow, it does set the scene and establish the relationship between the siblings and show how much James means to his sister. After their father dies, Charlotte is left in the care of her aunt, while James goes off to school. While he is at Oxford he meets a young man in the library, although he doesn’t find out his identity. James is keen to become a poet and moves to London to attempt to try his hand at writing. While there, he again meets up with the young aristocrat that he first met at Oxford and ends up sharing rooms with him.

The storyline then switches to James and his new friend, Christopher Paige. Christopher has a distant relationship with his family and there is a disastrous dinner party, at which we begin to realise that all is not well. This then becomes somewhat standard fare, with a tale of vampires holed up in the mysterious Aegolius club. I have to admit that I felt somewhat cheated when I began to fall in with what was happening. James becomes embroiled with the Aegolius club, while Charlotte comes to London to try to rescue him, along with a cast of characters who have their own agenda to try to help her in her quest. What begins as an atmospheric and interesting novel somehow turns into something which is really quite mundane and the fact that we lose contact with Charlotte in the middle of the novel makes it harder to care for her – or her relationship with her brother – when we meet up with her again in the novel.

Overall, this is well written and atmospheric , but the storyline and point of view jumped around too much for my personal liking. It begins with such promise, but became a fairly standard novel – about vampires, again.... If, however, you are interested in vampire novels, there is much that will be of interest, including the notebooks of Augustus Mould, who is allowed to enter the club in order to carry out research on the un-dead and discover their powers and limitations. Lastly, I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review.
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