The Tuesday List: Our Fanged Foes (or Friends)

Wee, it’s another edition of The Tuesday List, this time featuring books about vampires.  They’re not all spooky, or literary, or alt-worldy, but they’re all enjoyable.  Maybe you’ll find your next Halloween read, or maybe just your next obsession.

  1. The Quick, by Lauren Owen

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This novel had a serious Dickensian feel, a cramped, dark, dirty London inhabited by criminals, urchins, and the occasional mysterious other.  The quick refer to the living, fodder for the undead, who occupy a much greater circle of society than the uninitiated could ever imagine.

2. The Historian

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A Dracula story for the modern age?  Perhaps.  But the quest, the obsession of the historian predates modernity, and it is one woman’s harrowing journey into the past through old letters and documents, that brings this story to light.  A good tale, for those used to the smell of dust and old books.

3. Certain Dark Things

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A post-apocalyptic vampire novel, you ask?  Well, yes, in a matter of speaking.  But the apocalypse has happened to the vampires, not because of them, and this is the tale of one particular Aztec vampire just trying to make her way in a Mexico City hostile to her kind, avoid being murdered by a rival vampire species, and maybe meet a nice boy who can be her food source and companion for a while.

4. Prudence

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Irreverence leads in the fashion-conscious and nibbly bits-obsessed novels of Gail Carriger, and Prudence, her latest foray into the alternate steampunk universe of dirigibles, vampires, and shapeshifters, is no different.  This is a romp if there ever was one, this time through Bombay and the forests of India, on a quest for tea and justice for all the supernaturals in Queen Victoria’s empire.

5. Sunshine

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I needed one more book to make a nice round five, and thought to myself, self, you could pick one by a dude that you’ve read, or you could take a heartfelt recommendation from people you trust.  So I went with Sunshine, which was loved by both Ana and Renay at Fangirl Happy Hour.  You can listen to their discussion of it here.

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The Quick, by Lauren Owen

Though the streets of London are dark, dismal, and
threatening, Owen has created a vividly illustrated cast of characters in The Quick, a novel that traces its grim
roots to Stoker, Wilde, and other authors of the now-famous Victorian
period.  In a city where the undead
stalk the streets and prey on the unawares, Owen’s creations burn brightly to
the bitter end.  And beyond. 

The
Quick
begins modestly as the story of
Charlotte and James Norbury, young children growing up in a great empty house
in Yorkshire with a rotating cast of governesses and servants to raise them
while their father is in London on business.  He returns to Askew Hall only in time to pass away, and for
his sister to take over management of the estate.  The Quick is a
novel in three parts, and for some readers it may feel a bit too disjointed,
but is worth the effort to meet the many compelling personalities in and about
London.  Many years pass and
readers are introduced to James as a young man, finishing at Oxford, going to
live in London to be a writer, and taking an apartment with another young man,
Christopher Page.  And things
spiral deeper and deeper into the dark side of London.

 Owen
spins her tale of undead existing among the living with care, hiding away her
secrets like the painting hung behind a door at the top of the stairs,
parceling out information in hints that will keep the reader interested even
over the course of the novel’s 500-plus pages.  In revelation after revelation, Owen builds her case for the
undead like Sherlock Holmes himself—when you have eliminated the impossible,
whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.  When, after the death of their aunt, Charlotte
can’t get in touch with James, she travels to London and instead finds quite a
different situation than she’d expected, and must make decisions she’d never
thought possible. 

The Quick is not just another novel
about vampires, but is a long exploration of the nature of desire: how it can
influence people in ways they could never have anticipated.  Readers of classic English literature
will enjoy the deft touch Owen shows when developing the mood and atmosphere of
her novel and its homage to Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker.  Those who enjoy seeing an idea
developed from multiple points of view, with care paid to how the same
situation can be viewed differently depending one’s relation to it, will be
attracted to the individuals of the story and how they move through the
plot.  Even though she hides Charlotte
away for nearly a third of the novel, Owen builds out her cast of characters
with strongly developed and interesting women, refreshing in a type of story
generally dominated by men. Both the women and men are drawn to the center of
the plot, forced to rely on their wits and talents to survive.  The final third of the novel is perhaps
drawn out more than necessary, but The
Quick
is still an engrossing and compelling read.