The Quick by Lauren Owen
Or, we’re not talking about Vampires here, okay?!
The Quick by Lauren Owen has to be the only vampire novel, that I have read, that doesn’t mention the word vampire. For that and many other reasons, this novel is pretty unique and awesome.
Being a vampire purist, I like novels that build off of the lore but don’t take too much creative license and thereby remove what it essentially means to be a vampire. Owen has taken a time frame (Victorian London) and a very secretive club (The Aegolius Club) and managed to weave a tail that is full of romance, heroics, suspense, and twists and turns.
It’s hard to explain this novel simply because, like the club, the synopsis is kept so secretive. The back of the novel doesn’t give much away; stating that a young man moves to London to start his life and suddenly disappears. This draws his country-secluded sister to the city in order to look for him. If some of the reviews didn’t mention that it was a vampire novel, you wouldn’t know right away. Characters actually refuse to state the term, and are often seen pausing and trying to think of something more PC (?) to say. A few novels have previously used the tactic of suspense to build up the fear of these creatures, although they are more blatant that readers are dealing with a vampire novel. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova and Anno Dracula by Kim Newman (highly recommended) both come to mind; each of whom did it absolutely brilliantly. Vampires are kind of ‘lurk in the night’ creatures and novels that mimic their story line after that key characteristic manage to create a more enjoyable and terrifying read.
So really, without talking about the story line, which is quite good, the other part of Owen’s novel that draws a reader in, is her writing. It’s mostly told in first person from the point of view of a number of individuals, both vampire and human (which, btw, is totally cool how she approaches a vampire’s perspective; it totally makes the novel). It also switches, at some points, into the diary of one of the characters. Her writing is quite beautiful and charming. It grabs your attention and hangs on to it as the story and suspense slowly build and escalate.
The New Republic states it best when they said: ‘the first quarter of this debut novel is a lovely, poetic tale … The last half is entirely bonkers and totally unexpected. Read it with the lights on.’ – The Quick, Owen.
This is true. Everything about this story line is shocking and completely unexpected. A lot of readers expect twists to occur at the end of the novel, thereby leaving the reader with a satisfied yet shocked state of mind; keeps us thinking about the novel long after we’ve read the last page. With The Quick there are a lot of twists throughout the story.
That being said, I think the above review by The New Republic made me expect a little too much when it comes to the definition of ‘entirely bonkers’. This is partially my fault because when somebody says ‘entirely bonkers’, I begin to imagine a Die Hard-like scenario happening, like flying a police car into a helicopter. This does not happen in The Quick, figuratively and literally (sorry). With Owen’s writing style, the build-up was almost calming, if that makes any sense (which it probably doesn’t, but I’m still going with it). It was almost like the reader was so relaxed in reading the story that by the time something ‘crazy’ or ‘action-packed’ was happening, it was too hard to get riled up; you were so relaxed! At points in the novel, I sort of felt like I should be chewing my nails, but her writing style sort of took away from the action sequences in the story. A plus and a minus to her skill.
That one complaint aside, I did quite enjoy The Quick by Owen. I think it was a worthy addition to the vampire literature and I sort of hope that she continues on with the genre. Her writing style, which was quite beautiful, may have been too calming for the suspense that she wanted to garner, but Owen did manage to get a gasp out of me at the end. For that, Owen, I tip my hat off to you.