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The Quick: A Novel Hardcover – June 17, 2014

3.4 out of 5 stars 266 customer reviews

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Julian Fellowes's Belgravia by Julian Fellowes
"Julian Fellowes's Belgravia" by Julian Fellowes
From the creator and writer of Downton Abbey comes a grand historical novel, with hugely exciting twists and dramatic chapter endings. Learn more | See author page
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Owen’s strong debut infuses the classic Victorian-set horror novel with many original, bloody twists. It begins at a decaying Yorkshire mansion, the childhood home of James Norbury and his sister, Charlotte, and later moves over to London. Here James, a new Oxford grad, plans to hone his poetry-writing skills. Then, suddenly, what seems to be a gothic saga transforms into an intricate, sinister epic involving many unique personalities, immense personal danger, unexpected love, and an unusual pursuit of scientific advancement—all centering on the exclusive Aegolius Club. Revealing any more would be a spoiler. With her startling plot, Owen proves a master at anticipating readers’ thoughts about future happenings and then crumbling them into dust. Her world building is exceptional, and readers will simultaneously embrace and shrink from the atmosphere’s elegant ghastliness, but the novel’s structure is uneven—it feels overlong in places—and she devotes regrettably little time to her most intriguing characters. It’s an impressive feat, nonetheless, one with the potential to attract a cult (and occult) following this summer. --Sarah Johnson


“A suspenseful, gloriously atmospheric first novel, and a feast of gothic storytelling that is impossible to resist.”—Kate Atkinson, bestselling author of Life After Life and Case Histories
“A cracking good read . . . Owen takes the gothic conventions of the vampire novel in a refreshing new direction.”—Deborah Harkness, author of A Discovery of Witches and The Book of Life

“Reading the blurbs on the dust jacket of Lauren Owen’s first novel—from such luminaries as Kate Atkinson, Hilary Mantel, and Tana French—readers might think they’re about to embark on a high-handed version of the Gothic novel, full of metafictions and literary allusions. These do appear, along with some beautiful language, but by Page 100, when the first neck is about to be bitten, The Quick drops its cloak and becomes a good old-fashioned vampire novel. . . . [It’s full of] wonderful inventions, while still providing the torn collars and hungry looks the genre demands. . . . What fun.”The New York Times Book Review (Editor’s Choice)
The Quick is that rare book that reviewers and readers live for: both plot- and character-driven, a stay-up-all-night-reading romp of more than 500 pages that you’ll desperately wish was double that. This is elegant, witty, force-of-nature writing, and Lauren Owen should have a long and illustrious career ahead of her.”The Dallas Morning News
“The book’s energy, its wide reach and rich detail make it a confident example of the ‘unputdownable’ novel.”The Economist

“Ambitious, elegant, atmospheric, and often deeply poignant, The Quick is a seamless blend of Victorian London and rich imagination. This is a book to savor.”—Tana French, bestselling author of In the Woods and Broken Harbor
“[A] creepy debut . . . a thrilling tale . . . This book will give you chills even on a hot day.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Forget Jack the Ripper—it’s the curiously pale aristocratic types you need to beware of in this supernatural Gothic nightmare. . . . Owen’s stylishly sinister world of betrayal and Lovecraftian monsters will have you sleeping with the lights on.”O: The Oprah Magazine
“A sly and glittering addition to the literature of the macabre . . . As soon as you have breathed with relief, much worse horrors begin. It’s a skilled, assured performance, and it’s hard to believe it is a first novel.”—Hilary Mantel, bestselling author of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies
“A big, sly bucketful of the most tremendous fun . . . At first, The Quick seems like a really terrific, plain old tale of yesteryear—à la John Banville or Peter Carey or Eleanor Catton. . . . [But then] things begin to really rollick. . . . [Owen] weaves what’s here with what’s beyond as easily as J.K. Rowling does, and as with Rowling, she seems to feel particularly at home with the beyond.”Slate

“[An author of] prodigious gifts . . . Owen captures Dickens’s London with glee and produces a number of characters Dickens would be happy to call his own.”Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Quick is ambitious in both scope and structure. . . . Her London is exquisitely detailed. . . . [Owen] inhabits the breadth and panorama of the Victorian tale.”The Washington Post

“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 New Republic
“Make no mistake, The Quick is good reading. . . . Adventure of the first order, firmly rooted in both the tropes of the genre and the skilfully rendered texture of the period . . . driven by sharp storytelling, thought-provoking ideas, and strong characters.”The Globe and Mail

“Like the best gothic fiction, this dark tale of manners and morals closely guards its secrets; over hundreds of pages, one unspoken word lurks in the corners of every character’s and reader’s mind. By the end of Owen’s precocious first novel, set in the narrow streets and cavernous interiors of Victorian England, you will understand viscerally how monsters are made and what it means to be human.”More magazine

“Lauren Owen is an impressive storyteller and with this ambitious debut, the literary world will soon take notice. Part gothic mystery, part Victorian romance, The Quick is a novel where the glamorous and the macabre collide. . . . With suspenseful rhythm and illustrious prose, Owen succeeds at crafting a fresh, enchanting portrait of Victorian London wrapped around an irresistible mystery that is at once beautiful and terrifying.”Bustle
“[The Quick] hits the mark in terms of suspense and gothic literature. . . . Reminiscent of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and [Elizabeth] Kostova’s The Historian.”The Times-News

“If you are a fan of literary Gothic—think Susanna Clarke or John Harwood—buy this book. You won’t regret it. . . . A long gallery of beautifully drawn characters makes the many pages of The Quick turn as swiftly as those of a Wilkie Collins novel.”BookPage

“Seductive . . . extraordinarily polished . . . a book for readers to lose themselves in.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Lauren Owen—a brand-new author with an M.A. in Victorian Literature—has produced her own mind-bending tour de force.”Locus
“Owen has created an intricate world in which the reader feels a part. Take the trip, if you dare, into a luscious Victorian London rendered by a gifted young British writer who seems weaned on equal parts Sherlock Holmes, Buffy Summers and Harry Potter.”Shelf Awareness
“An intricate, sinister epic . . . an impressive feat . . . Owen proves a master at anticipating readers’ thoughts about future happenings and then crumbling them into dust. Her world building is exceptional, and readers will simultaneously embrace and shrink from the atmosphere’s elegant ghastliness.”Booklist
“An elegantly written gothic epic . . . Owen’s soaring imagination and her light-handed take on magic save this story from being either obvious or boring. . . . The journey from one genre to another is satisfying and surprisingly fresh.”Kirkus Reviews
“An intriguing blend of historical, gothic, and supernatural fiction . . . [The Quick features] wonderful atmospheric writing.”Library Journal

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 523 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (June 17, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812993276
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812993271
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.7 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (266 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #310,712 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By OLT TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I love to read Victorian gothics and count works by the Bronte sisters, Wilkie Collins, etc., in that group, but also recently-written works by authors such as John Harwood, Charles Palliser, Michael Cox and Diane Setterfield, to name a few.

I thought that this debut novel by Lauren was going to fit nicely into that category but the addition of a paranormal element that I wasn't expecting turned it into the type of Victorian gothic I usually shun. So I'm glad I didn't know about that aspect of Owen's novel or I would have missed out on a good read.

There's a great cast of characters from all walks of life, from the English peerage to the London slums. I suppose the Norbury siblings James and Charlotte could be identified as the main characters, but, quite frankly, I didn't care more for them than I did for anyone else in the novel. Many of the secondaries are far more compelling.

At the beginning of the story brother James leaves the crumbling country estate where he was living with his sister to go to London, with aspirations of becoming a poet or playwright. But he vanishes mysteriously and Charlotte, worried about him, goes to London to find out what has happened. There you go. That's all you need to know, except that you must be prepared for all the out-of-the-ordinary people, some of them totally creepy-scary, some of them quite admirable, that Charlotte meets up with while looking for James.

One other thing: Prepare yourself for a bit of an unsettling read and a far from perfect ending. I'm a lover of Happy Endings and also a non-reader of horror/paranormal, yet I found myself enjoying this. It's a fairly long book at more than 500 pages but the pages flew by. I was entertained and horrified and couldn't stop reading.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
James and Charlotte are a pair of orphaned siblings who struggled a bit growing up, but seem to be doing well enough, until James mysteriously disappears. Charlotte follows him to London, and discovers many terrifying plot twists.

Other people have criticized the writing, but I think the writing style of this author is very impressive. This is a huge book full of carefully crafted sentences. Paragraphs, chapters and sections are sensibly organized. The only chaotic part is the diary of Augustus Mould, which was intentionally vague (pages missing), and told out of time. I thought that a was a creative and interesting way to introduce the character. It's like a back flash without the cliche. The diary covers 20 years of back story. You need the back story to make the rest of the book work. So I reject the criticism of the diary, because I thought it was really cool.

Augustus Mould is REALLY CREEPY. You don't notice that at first. At first he is just a clerk, but as you read his diary you become more and more shocked by his ruthless approach to his experiments. He is so creepy, you just dread when shows up at the door. He's worse than a vampire. The vampires are sympathetic characters, compared to Augustus Mould.

This isn't light reading. It's a big fat novel that takes a while to read. It is totally worth the effort. Excellent book, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I was hesitant to read The Quick. This hesitancy was based on several early reviews from folk who were expecting something else (less?). I'm happy to report I ignored those reviews (kind of) and plowed through this easily and quickly. Owen's writing had my imagination fully engaged - inflamed almost, at times. I'm a sucker for the era (and the super/preternatural worlds) and the vivid descriptions, the compelling plot lines, language Ms. Owen reveals this world through are scintillating and gripping. If this is her first novel, she has begun a career that I can't wait to read my way through!
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
THE QUICK is a gothic novel set in a well rendered Victorian Great Britain. The book begins slowly and is much in the style of its mid 1800's time setting. The protagonist of these early pages who will remain an important character throughout the entire text is James Norbury. James and his sister Charlotte were raised as semi-neglected orphans in a crumbling estate in the North of England. James left his childhood home to attend college and afterwards took rooms in London. There he fell in love with his roommate a much more outgoing young man named Christopher. A strange misfortune befell the two young men that left Christopher dead and James one of the "undead" (slang term is "undid"). After James is transformed his concerned sister Charlotte comes to London to search for him and enters the world of vampires, their hunters and protectors.

There are a lot of characters introduced in THE QUICK and some are not fully developed and difficult to distinguish between without very careful rereading. The book's shifts of time, place and viewpoint are not handled as smoothly as one would hope. To her credit young author Lauren Owen has created a fully realized world for her supernatural beings to inhabit with its own lore, rules and physical realities. The first and last sections of the book are the most engaging with some less intriguing and even tedious reading in between. Clearly defined characters and more straight forward storytelling could have transformed THE QUICK in to an excellent book but as is it is only average.
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