Monday, July 14, 2014

The Quick by Lauren Owen

What is it about vampires?  Seriously.  They're everywhere - in books, on t.v., in the movies, and it seems like they've always been there.  But the roots of the modern vampire story (or at least its popularization) lie pretty squarely in Victorian England.  There's something particularly creepy about Victorian vampires.

Lauren Owen's The Quick is a sprawling novel focusing on the vampires of London, but does it this primarily through the eyes of the living - the Quick - to use the term that Oliver's vampires employ.  I think The Quick is what you'd have if Charles Dickens had written a vampire novel.  The style is reminiscent of 19th century novels, it's got a good bit of subtle social commentary and a large (though not overly large) cast of characters - heroes and villains.

The story opens with two children, Charlotte and James Norbury as they become orphaned, and then follows James as he goes to London to make his fortune as a writer.  Instead, he runs straight into disaster.  In related plotlines, we meet members of the patrician (but not particularly pleasant) Aegolius Club, their rivals - the streetwise vampire group known as the Alia, and a pair of intrepid vampire hunters who endeavor to assist Charlotte as she fights for her brother's survival.

There's no angst here, and the vampires are far from romantic, and they certainly don't sparkle.  But they do keep you turning pages.  If you like books that unfold slowly, teasing out the story as you're drawn into a complex world of dark and light, give The Quick a try.  Another book that take the vampire story back to its roots is Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian.

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