The Quick by Lauren Owen

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The Quick by Lauren Owen

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Luke Marlowe
Reviewed by Luke Marlowe
Summary: In Victorian Yorkshire, a young brother and sister grow up together, left alone by the world and surrounded by darkness. The boy then moves to London, where a life full of light, fun and love is swiftly crushed - horror follows, and the reader is swept up into this debut novel, that whilst predictable and unevenly paced, is still a fun ride
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 544 Date: September 2014
Publisher: Vintage Books
ISBN: 9780099569978

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The Quick is the debut of author Lauren Owen, and set in the gothic world of Victorian London. Owen guides us through the lives of several characters, but specifically James and Charlotte, siblings living in a Yorkshire mansion. Left to fend for themselves due to a dead mother and an absent father, the two grow up close, playing dark games to pass the time. It is only when James, the younger child, moves to London, that the games become very real indeed, and both brother and sister must fight to save not just themselves, but their humanity.

Lauren Owen has written a confident debut - she holds an MA in Victorian Literature and is currently studying for a PHD on Gothic Writing and Fan Culture, and so is clearly well qualified to write this novel. The love and respect she has for the Gothic genre shows through - this book is unrelentingly dark, but the hectic pace the book takes on in later chapters gives it a faster, more enjoyable feel.

James and Charlotte are strong characters - at first, I was upset that the story had moved on from the unsettlingly lonely childhood of the siblings, and was again upset when the story (incredibly and shockingly abruptly), moved on from James and his relatively happy life in London. From that point onwards, things take a turn for the supernatural, and whilst the creatures featured in this book have had something of a renaissance of late, Owen thankfully puts a new twist on things.

The novel switches viewpoints on a regular basis, something which I found slowed the pace somewhat, and all of the characters could have done with some more development. Differentiating between the different characters could be tricky at times, and a little more personality would have made this easier. In addition, the pace drops a third of the way through the book, and takes a while to pick back up again. I feel that all the ingredients for a great book are here - it could just do with a little more fine tuning.

If you're a fan of Gothic novels, this is definitely worth a read. Lauren Owen has created and captured a chilling, cruel world, and the reader is easily sucked in. Problems with characterization and plot mean that this can't be called a must read, but as the nights begin to draw in and the weather gets colder, I won't hesitate to recommend this book to those who want a creepy read to curl up in front of the fire with.

Many thanks to Vintage Books for the copy

For those wanting to read some more Gothic literature, My Swordhand is Singing by Marcus Sedgwick is the first part of a trilogy that uses the folklore of eastern Europe as basis for an unsettling tale. Whilst marketed for teenagers, this is an enjoyable read for adults too.

For those wanting more of a scare, I would recommend The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson, a story with basis in fact. It left me leaving the lights on long after I had finished it...

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Buy The Quick by Lauren Owen at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Quick by Lauren Owen at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
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