Monday, April 7, 2014

The Quick: A Novel by Lauren Owen

The Quick: A Novel
Lauren Owen
3/5 stars

I was given this book by the Amazon Vine program in return for an honest review.

The Quick is an ambitious novel of Gothic and preternatural styles that takes place in Victorian London. It follows the traumatic adventures of James (the rather stereotypical shy poet just down from Oxford trying to find life and excitement in London) and his sister Charlotte (another somewhat stereotypical character from Victorian literature, being the sheltered damsel who bravely takes on the world to help her brother) as they discover a shocking, sinister, secret society.

I think that Ms. Owen did herself a disservice by not hinting enough during Part One of the events that were to come. I had understood this novel to be of the alternate history and preternatural genres, and therefore had to push myself to continue to read the rather generic love story until the first clue surfaced during Part One, thinking perhaps I had been misinformed.

On the other hand, I do feel that the publisher's attempt to keep the topic "secret" by not being upfront about the paranormal topic of The Quick will be a source of frustration to most readers. Called "suspense", with alluded mystery, it will not draw the appropriate audience. Called what it is--a vampire novel--the right readers will flock to it and be able to give it balanced reviews.

Ms. Owen's great strength is her ability to write in different voices, points of view and styles. I particularly enjoyed her use of journals and letters. I will confess, however, that due to the amount of characters telling this story, I did find myself overwhelmed by frequent changes of narration style and voice. Instead of being an asset, the varied points of view/style began to create interruptions, cause a jumpy narrative, and keep the novel from flowing smoothly.

I was also overwhelmed by the detail and amount of the plot. The Quick contains an extremely interesting story, but I found myself bogged down again and again by the vast amount of information I needed to retain to keep up with the action. This amount of detail often led to a slow, laboriously paced story.

I was also, sadly, unable to feel a connection to any of the important characters. None were strong enough to be the "hero" of the novel, and some were not convincing in action or motive.

The Quick is certainly an ambitious novel, showing that Ms. Owen is talented as a writer and has a highly gifted imagination. Her prose is generally polished and often elegant. She also did a wonderful job evoking the atmosphere with historically accurate details.

As this is a genre for which I have a particular fondness, I expected to be enraptured over The Quick and am disappointed to have to give it only three stars.

Note: This is my opinion; on Amazon, 24% of the reviews were 5 stars.

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