- Age Range: 12 and up
- Grade Level: 7 - 9
- Lexile Measure: 0980 (What's this?)
- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers (October 3, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1101994975
- ISBN-13: 978-1101994979
- Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 34 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #76,769 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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That Inevitable Victorian Thing Hardcover – October 3, 2017
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From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Years from now, Victoria-Margaret will be the next Queen and continue the work her ancestor Victoria I started two centuries earlier: to strengthen the British Empire for all of its people, and promote genetic diversity and inter-Empire politics with an advantageous marriage. First, the crown princess will have a summer of freedom for her debut season in Toronto. Although her brown skin, epicanthic fold, and freckles make her easily recognizable as the current Queen's daughter, Margaret is able to disguise herself with the help of her natural hair and a civilian alias. Helena Marcus is looking forward to a quiet debut in New London and making her unspoken understanding with August Callaghan official. August wants nothing more, but hopes to delay their official engagement until he can see himself clear of the American pirates plaguing his Canadian and Hong Kong Chinese family's lumber business. When her mother's position as a placement geneticist brings Helena to the far more prestigious Toronto debut scene, she and Margaret strike up an immediate and easy friendship with a hint of flirtation. Spending the summer up north at the Marcus cottage near Lake Muskoka allows Margaret to see more of the Empire and to find her own place among the raucous Callaghan family. Helena's chemistry with both Margaret and August crackles despite being couched in Victorian manners and conventions. As Margaret, Helena, and August grow closer and learn more of one another's secrets, they realize they may be poised to help get everything they've long wanted. Johnston's standalone novel blends light science fiction elements in a near-future setting with the tone and style of a Victorian novel. Chapter headers including maps, society gossip pages, and correspondence serve to expand the detailed world-building and highlight the Empire's deliberate and thoughtful inclusivity (despite realistically damaging colonialism in the Empire's distant past). VERDICT A clever and self-aware novel set in a fascinating world, this witty and romantic story is a must-read.—Emma Carbone, Brooklyn Public Library
"This book, by alternate-history wizard and all-around word genius E. K. Johnston, is both an enchanting modern fairy tale and an un-put-downable, utterly captivating, thoroughly surprising work of speculative fiction. I would be delighted to brush up on my curtsy and join these characters for a tea party or coming-out ball."—Robin Talley, New York Times bestselling author
“That Inevitable Victorian Thing is alternate history at its most intricate—woven with Victorian airs and a deeply optimistic vision of the future. I fell in love with E. K. Johnston’s world, along with the bright, beautiful characters who call it home.” - Ryan Graudin, award-winning author of Wolf By Wolf
“E. K. Johnston's British Empire offers adventure and intrigue balanced with delight and whimsy. Her tale uplifts and entertains, all the while meditating on the legacies of history and a better society that might have been. Joyfully immerse yourself in this gorgeously-wrought world with characters you yearn to have as companions and confidantes, and themes of hope that linger long after you've read the final pages.”—New York Times bestselling author Andrea Cremer
"Johnston is a literary chameleon and staggeringly versatile. ... [A]n alternate history that plunges present-day Muskoka into the Victorian era, while still incorporating some breathtaking modern twists."—The Globe & Mail
"[T]he world-building is so compelling you'll be drawn right in."—Bustle
★ "Compelling and unique—there's nothing else like it."—Booklist, starred review.
★ “A clever and self-aware novel set in a fascinating world, this witty and romantic story is a must-read.”—SLJ, starred review
★"[A] powerful and resonant story of compassion, love, and finding a way to fulfill obligations while maintaining one’s identity. As with the dragon-infested modern world of Johnston’s The Story of Owen, the thoughtfulness, attention to detail, and humor in this alternative Earth are rewarding on multiple levels."—PW, starred review
"A thoughtful exploration of class consciousness, genetics, and politics that doesn't lose track of the human story."—Kirkus
"The world building is strong and imaginative and the plot cannily reeled out, but Johnston’s masterstroke lies in the conclusion, which avoids the usual YA tendency to squash love triangles... It’s a bold move well played." —BCCB
"This is one of those books you throw at people with no explanation, because you know that they’ve never read anything like it, and you want to share the beauty."—Rachel Strolle, Anderson's Bookshop, Naperville, IL.
"This delightful light sci-fi novel is just the thing for anyone and everyone who might enjoy Anne of Green Gables if only it were more inclusive and updated for the 21st century."—Angela Whited, The Red Balloon Bookshop, St. Paul, MN.
"Everyone knows (or should know) Johnston is a master of every genre she puts her hand to, and That Inevitable Victorian Thing is no different. Original, warm, humorous, and with real depth. Love it."—Allison Senecal, Old Firehouse Books, Fort Collins, CO.
"This is the best kind of love story: complicated and thoughtful, with an entirely satisfying ending."—Cecelia Cackley, East City Bookshop, Washington DC
Praise for Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E. K. Johnston
"E.K. Johnston has a seemingly limitless range."—The Globe & Mail
"Soberly triumphant."—Toronto Star
Top customer reviews
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I did have some problems with the world-building.
Victoria is shown as using expressions like "backfire" for a plan going wrong in the 1840's -- a term which derives (as a metaphor) from the internal-combustion engine, and dates from around 1912. There are some other anachronisms.
More broadly, the author doesn't seem to understand the constitutional position of a British monarch in the early 19th century. Britain was already a constitutional monarchy, and the King (or Queen) was already essentially a non-political figure who had to do what the ministry with a majority in Parliament said. A monarch could have opinions and preferences, but they had to toe the line in public and had little effective power -- Victoria detested Gladstone, for instance, and his habit of lecturing her and keeping her in the dark about things, but she just had to put up with it.
She couldn't even chose her own ladies-in-waiting, though she thought she could: there was a scandal about that early in her reign.
Marrying off her children to people outside Europe? That's about as likely as a sudden conversion to Buddhism or a public profession of atheism. It just wasn't within her -power- to do anything of that nature, regardless of her attitudes. And while Victoria was enlightened for her day (see her relationship with her godson Daleep Singh, for instance) let's not get unrealistic.
As Karl Marx put it, human beings make history -- but they don't make it "just as they please". You're handed a context within which you're born, and that sets the limits on what you can chose to do; in fact, the historical-cultural context of your time sets the parameters of what you can -want- to do.
Things might have been different, but not that different and not in that way.
This story had a few twists here and there, but otherwise it's a very low-stress story where two girls grow from acquaintances to friends to lovers. I went to camp in northern Minnesota and the lake that made up much of the book's setting reminded me of being up north. And the characters are all genuinely nice people, so you root for them.
My one somewhat negative comment is I felt the genetic match via a Computer to be a bit arbitrary of a plot point, but it makes more sense when you read the author's notes at the back of the book and discover this story has its seeds in a Pacific Rim fanfiction. The Computer is likely a holdover from the "drift compatible" idea in that movie franchise. You should read the authors notes! Lately, they've been revealing things I didn't even notice on my read through of the book itself.
This concept is all just background for the introduction of Helena, from the northern lakes of Ontario, her almost-fiancé August, and a visiting English noblewoman, who wants to have a taste of Canadian society (spoiler: she’s really the crown princess and future Queen.) What happens next is a lot of feelings and talking and tentative relationships, all served up on a techno-Victorian plate, complete with corsets and computers and genetic testing. There’s little or no drama, except the soul-searching of young people trying to figure out who they are and therefore who and what they want. Even the pirates (pirates!) that terrorize the St. Lawrence Seaway (apparently the USA is a disaster zone. Seemed legit to me) only appear off the page.
That Inevitable Victorian Thing was lovely and quiet, the high concept premise served mostly as background to bring the characters together. My only real quibble was the structure of the interstitial additions preceding chapters that were done in such a way that I had to flip back to them from time to fully understand how they fit into the story timeline. If there was a reason for their awkward placement, it completely went over my head. Otherwise, this was a lovely, inclusive story with a satisfying ending that seemed explicitly constructed to thumb its nose at convention, something it seems that this universe’s Queen Victoria would quite have approved of.
Most recent customer reviews
There was nothing in the description to prepare me for this book. The writing was mediocre.Read more
4.5 Stars, rounded to five because my heart cannot take in how beautiful this book...Read more