Well this was a surprise! And the problem is I can’t tell you what the surprise is without giving you a couple of spoilers about the plot… Nothing that will actually ruin the story you understand. But if you really don’t like knowing ANYTHING about the story you’re embarking on beforehand, STOP reading now.
The blurb says:
You are about to discover the secrets of The Quick –
But first, reader, you must travel to Victorian England, and there, in the wilds of Yorkshire, meet a brother and sister alone in the world, a pair bound by tragedy. You will, in time, enter the rooms of London’s mysterious Aegolius Club – a society of the richest, most powerful men in England. And at some point – we cannot say when – these worlds will collide.
It is then, and only then, that a new world emerges, a world of romance, adventure and the most delicious of horrors – and the secrets of The Quick are revealed.
In the first part of the book we meet James Norbury and Charlotte his sister as children. They are motherless and their father spends a lot of time away. They are essentially raised by a nurse in a huge, rambling house in the wilds of Yorkshire (with a library and a priest hole!). I loved this part of the book and was actually quite disorientated for a time when that section of the story switched.
James, a would-be writer/poet, then travels to Oxford to study and from there on to London to ‘experience life’. Here he meets up with Christopher Paige and the two of them decide to share rooms. At this point I very quickly became immersed me in the sights and sounds of Victorian London – a time and place I am particularly fond of.
Before long, their friendship develops into something more and I found the exploration of homosexuality in Victorian times particularly interesting (and frustrating!). This was a layer to the story I really didn’t see coming and it added extra intensity and depth to the much bigger surprise!
Charlotte is, at the beginning, quite annoyingly feminine and passive and I had to constantly remind myself that this was a perfectly accurate reflection of the time. ‘Would James want her in London? She dreaded being a hindrance… but surely he would not let her remain in East Lodge alone!’
Anyway, cue BIG reveal… Before long we are introduced to the Aegolius Club which essentially is a Club for Vampires. The ‘V’ word isn’t mentioned until about p.400 but the idea is actually introduced quite early on. From this point on, several of the characters become involved in the club to varying degrees and a rescue mission is required.
The multiple viewpoint story becomes interspersed with notebook entries from Augustus Mould who it becomes clear is in the employ of the Aegolius Club as a sort of scientist/researcher into Vampirism but who is one of ‘The Quick’ (i.e. not a Vampire). These are really useful in showing what experiments the Club is conducting and the results…
Throughout the remainder of the book we meet an intriguing cast of characters including Adeline and Shadwell – who have their own very personal reasons for becoming essentially Victorian Vampire Hunters: ‘that class of persons who pit themselves against the undead out of some misguided sense of moral outrage’; Burke – whose own personal penance for becoming ‘one of them’ actually made me feel slightly ill; Porlock – the large, frighteningly maternal, slightly dim woman who looks after Burke and completely infantilizes him in the process (there is a particularly gruesome scene towards the end involving these two that very masterfully illustrates how devoted she is to her master); Mrs Price – the ancient leader of the opposing group of undead, the much more downtrodden ‘Alia’; and Liza – Mrs Price’s young protégée who for the vast majority of the story is convinced that she is ‘undid’ rather than ‘undead’. Perhaps she is right…
The novel reminded me of Deborah Harknesses All Souls Trilogy – both are dense and supernatural and I think anyone that enjoyed those would enjoy this. It’s a novel about loss and love but also about hope and the lengths we will go to, to rescue those we love. The ending was poignant and sad, but set things up perfectly for a sequel. I enjoyed the novel and will definitely read part 2. My only criticism is that it was just a tad too long.
Only £2.99 on Kindle at the moment: The Quick
Paperback: The Quick