The Quick by Lauren Owen

For the lovely Tome Topple I read The Quick by Lauren Owen, it was great.  

The book
The Quick is about a young man named James Norbury who moves to London after university in the late 1800s. He moves in with a friend, Christopher Paige, and tries to make it as a poet. They become closer and they basically lives life in London. Then James stops writing home to his sister Charlotte, doesn’t show up to their aunt’s funeral, and she has no idea where he is, so she goes to London to find him. She does find him and finds that something awful happened to him. Meanwhile there are these monsters roaming around London, who have their own gentleman’s club, and who seem to be sort of ruling London.

I really liked this. It’s good. It’s basically a historical fantasy story about privileged private school boys who grew up to become politicians and then were made into vampires and now rule the world. It was beautiful and weird.

I really liked James. He is sort of waifish and an upper class kid who was always full of imagination and fun and ideas. He has this very idealistic idea of the world and his sister had to be the adult when their parents died. And he is so soulful and beautiful and wants to be a poet and wants to be with the person he loves. And he’s so sweet. I love his relationship with Christopher and how it developed, and how different they were. It was so nice to see how they affected each other and they grew together. It was interesting to see how the times they lived in affected how James could talk about Christopher and how he censored himself. And his relationship with his sister changed. It also changed for Charlotte. She also started censoring herself to James because of the distance between them, which was really poignant.

It was fascinating to see how Charlotte was trapped by her gender. She is expected to care for their aunt just because she’s a woman. She carries around this guilt for something that she did to James when they were kids so she seems content to live like she does to make up for that. It seems a bit extreme, but I feel like I understand where she’s coming from, but it’s a bit intense. I like that even though she is a woman, and she’s sort of a traditional woman she has no qualms about going to London from her Yorkshire home, to find her brother and she is very tough and badass. She also has a lot of good growth which is good.

I really liked the vampire element. The monsters in this book are vampires and I think they’re done really well. I don’t like the trend of vampires being all sexy and glittery. I like vampires that are disgusting and scary, Dracula style. These vampires are cruel, and gross, and violent, and very other. They live sort of carefully in an attempt to stay concealed, but they kill without compunction and they seem to think they are doing humans (“the quick”) a favor by turning them. This is also shown when you see the world from a vampire’s perspective. They are physically repulsed by humans, how they smell and the sounds they make, which I thought was a great device. It’s also rooted strongly in gender stereotypes. There are two main factions of vampires in London in this story, one is this very strict gentleman’s club, only for men, the other is in a poor part of town and it’s led by a woman. And I thought that was interesting. The Club are not happy about her, they don’t like her, and seem to almost be disgusted by her, by her being a woman in control. And when they are confronted with the choice of bringing women into the club they’re repulsed by it, because they’re rich white dudes. I thought that was cool.

It was cool to see the story from a vampire’s perspective now and then. It is a multiple perspective story and it’s told from James and Charlotte’s perspectives and also from the perspectives of a lot of sort of ancillary characters, some of which are vampires. One of those are kind of broody, but still has the blood lust, and one is just great. She just relishes in eating people and it’s great to hear what the vampirism actually does to them, how it changes them. I thought that was interesting. I also found it interesting that these vampires were ambitious. In most vampire fiction it seems like they either want to fly under the radar, or kill and eat to survive. In the Quick they actually have like a plan of domination and how they’re going to take over the English government. I don’t know how sound the plan is, but they are sort of angling for upward mobility, which I like. It also includes this really creepy character who is a human with connections to the club. He basically researches the vampires, figures out what makes them tic, how they work. And I found his character really interesting. He has like morals, presumably, but he has no qualms about operating on an alive and awake vampire. I realize they’re bloodsucking fiends, but I imagine being operated on when you’re awake is horrifying no matter who you are. So I thought he was really creepy, and his justification and his motivation is also really suspect, which I liked.

My only criticism really is that I feel like it was really slow for a while, and then a lot of stuff was crammed into in the last 50-ish pages, which was a bit jarring.

I really liked it. I liked the characters and the vampire lore. I liked the creepy world. I think 1800s London is great for creepy vampire novels with the pea soup fog and everything. It was very enjoyable and I hope Lauren Owen writes another book.