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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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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.
Imagine there's a new world order. A not so distant, futuristic one where the U.S. is much different than it is today. In-fact nothing is what it is today, because the British Empire never fell. Imagine a world where there's no racism, and diversity is strongly encouraged, and widely accepted. Much of how the world is today, is different, and in many instances more unified. That's the world that makes up Johnston's newest release. It's such a fun, imaginative world that often times had me wondering, "what if", as I read it.
The technology advancement plays well into this futuristic world. It's a mix of traditional and advanced technology. It plays a huge role in this story, especially when it comes to the romance and relationships. This society is all about genetic match making, as much as it is about falling in love with who you choose. At 16 you can have a chip that will find your perfect genetic match. If you don't want a match, than no worries, you're free to choose to fall in love with whomever you'd like. Having this option definitely poses some interesting questions, especially for Helena, and puts a twist in a complex, yet sensible romance. I won't spoil it for you, but what transpires makes sense.
When it comes to the Royal Family, they of course want the best genetic matches for their family. Naturally this not only allows them to continue to grow in political strength and power, it allows for the best in continuing their family lineage. For Margaret, Princess and heir, it means she has some tough choices to make when it comes to following this tradition, or following her heart.
Character wise, I really liked getting to know Helena, August and Margaret, though this story felt like it was much more Helena's story. I loved the relationship between August and Helena, and their rich history together. Their families go way back, and they definitely have plans for their future together.... I loved getting the glimpses of their past history together, as well as what their future could be like, together. I also liked their family ties, and seeing the two of them not only figure things out together, but on their own as well. What transpires between them is natural. I'll admit, I love that they have spent so many summers together on the lake in northern Ontario.
The world building is one of my favorite things about this book. To match it, is a vivid setting in Ontario, Canada. It completely captured my love for the outdoors. I'll be honest, the setting stole my heart. What's not to love about a northern lake setting, or any northern setting for that matter. You don't even need to visit Ontario in person, because Johnston's detailed descriptions will make you feel as though you're there. I absolutely love the way she visually brought this book's setting to life. Now I really do want to go spend a summer there.
The twist in this book is Margaret's role in Helena and August's life. I like that she wanted to break away from the Royal Family life, and just have a chance to be herself. Hence her trip to Ontario for the summer. What transpires between these three is interesting, and made sense. It was a natural progression with how their relationships grew. It was very easy for me to like Margaret as much as I did Helena and August.
While I enjoyed the storytelling, and loved the bits of history that the chapter breaks added to the story, I wasn't a fan of the ending. It felt incomplete, rushed, and wrapped up a bit too smoothly. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for happy endings, but this felt a bit odd. The twist with the genetic matching / following ones heart definitely plays a role in this. While I did like the book, and didn't want to leave this book's setting, the ending left me feeling like there needed to be a bit more before the book just ends. Hopefully this means there will be a sequel.
Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for an honest review from Netgalley
Most recent customer reviews
4.5 Stars, rounded to five because my heart cannot take in how beautiful this book...Read more