THAT INEVITABLE VICTORIAN THING, by E.K. Johnston, Dutton Books for Young Readers, Oct. 3, 2017, Hardcover, $17.99 (young adult)
Have you ever finished a book where the ending frustrated you so much that you wished you had never read the book in the first place? That was the case for me with E.K. Johnston’s That Inevitable Victorian Thing.
That Inevitable Victorian Thing takes us to a world where Victoria still rules the British Empire, a multiracial empire that has grown stronger with time.
Victoria-Margaret is the crown princess. As a direct descendent of Victoria I and daughter of the current queen, she will soon take advantage of genetically arranged matchmaking as she moves forward in marriage. Before the very public and political match is made, though, she gets a summer off — a summer free of cameras and guards and responsibility.
Margaret travels to Toronto, posing as a distant family member of a high-ranking admiral. Traveling incognito allows Margaret to relax and she becomes friends with Helena Marcus, the daughter of one of the empire’s greatest placement geneticists. Helena is practically engaged to August Callaghan who is heir to a powerful shipping firm. Both appear to be open books, but appearances can be wrong.
Helena and August are both harboring deep secrets that threaten to destroy everything they’ve ever dreamed of. Despite everything, the two befriend Margaret and welcome into their seemingly simple lives. As the summer comes to a close, the three friends discover something that could change the world as they know it.
At first glance That Inevitable Victorian Thing is everything I wanted it to be. From the beautiful cover to the concept to E.K. Johnston’s writing style, it seemed like the stars were aligning.
I appreciated Johnston’s ability to delve into race and gender (one character turns out to be intersex) with ease. Johnston’s world building is superb and her character development is strong — at least for most of the book.
Honestly, the last fifth of the book was very disappointing. It feels rushed and everything is tied up into neat little bows. I’m having a hard time deciding whether it was quickly changed and tacked on at the end or if the author just gave up. Perhaps there’s another book in the works. I don’t know.
So would I recommend That Inevitable Victorian Thing? That depends. I tend to become invested in what I read. I care about the characters and want sound endings. Sometimes that means not everything is perfect, but there’s something compelling to chew on. That said, Johnston is a strong writer. If you enjoy speculative fiction, this might be a good choice for you.
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