ARC REVIEW: That Inevitable Victorian Thing, by E.K. Johnston, Published by Dutton Books, NY


Set in a near-future world where the British Empire was preserved, not by the cost of blood and theft but by effort of repatriation and promises kept, That Inevitable Victorian Thing is a novel of love, duty, and the small moments that can change people and the world.

Victoria-Margaret is the crown princess of the empire, a direct descendent of Victoria I, the queen who changed the course of history two centuries earlier. The imperial practice of genetically arranged matchmaking will soon guide Margaret into a politically advantageous marriage like her mother before her, but before she does her duty, she’ll have one summer incognito in a far corner of empire. In Toronto, she meets Helena Marcus, daughter of one of the empire’s greatest placement geneticists, and August Callaghan, the heir apparent to a powerful shipping firm currently besieged by American pirates. In a summer of high-society debutante balls, politically charged tea parties, and romantic country dances, Margaret, Helena, and August discover they share an unusual bond and maybe a one in a million chance to have what they want and to change the world in the process —just like the first Queen Victoria.


First and foremost, the cover art is spectacular!  I absolutely couldn’t wait to read this book ARC because of it and the premise. The illustration is done by Elizabeth Traynor.

I know E.K Johnston fans may have mixed feelings about this novel, and I highly recommend that you read the Author’s Notes at the back of the book where she explains a few parts that she struggled with throughout her writing process. I feel for her. The idea of rebuilding the entire world as we know it, into something based on what ifs and how woulds, is quite the extraordinary undertaking.

Did I enjoy the new Victorian world she created. Not so much. Because of its complexities, I felt this novel deserved a lot more thought and structure put into creating the setting, just to avoid losing the reader to confusion. I think the beginning of the book would have been a perfect place to start since it dragged and left me struggling to keep reading. The fact that the world was the way it was in the novel, did not explain how it became that way. This was not enough for me. I needed more.

As a Canadian, I found it kinda cool to have places mentioned in the story that I identified with, but when I tried to envision all the changes Johnston placed on them, it was hard to swallow.

That being said, this novel is a fictional piece of work and humans in general are not willing to give up those things they find comfortable without a fight. So out of fairness to the author, I kept reading, struggling with the first 40% of the book to stay interested and hung in there until the end  When I started to get into the character development I  found those portions intriguing and well-written.

If I were to judge the book on premise, I would say it was truly intriguing. And if I also claimed it would entertain all readers out there, that statement would be false. Those readers who have a large knowledge base of the Victorian era will be absolutely thrilled. This book is for them. Those out there that don’t, may find this book boring or struggle to keep reading.

I found it interesting to see what an alternative world would be like if certain historical events had not quite happened. In the perfect alternate reality, it would be wonderful for all races of religious beliefs to get along. I’m all for it! However, writing about something so significant as that and not really showing the hows or whys, leaves a bit lacking in the plot for me.

The added computer element to the story that selects the perfect match seems to contradict the idea that all are equal and I’m not so sure it should be included.

The multiple POVs used can be a bit daunting too. I for one, don’t mind them since I use this writing aspect sometimes in my own work. However, it felt like I was just getting to know a character and suddenly someone else was speaking. Soon I was getting confused as to who was speaking and struggled to sort it all out.

There are positive elements to this novel. The author’s voice is smooth and compelling. The character Victoria-Margaret was written splendidly, and the bits of humor and quirkiness was done well and at the right times. Although this wasn’t my most favorite book to review, I still think people will enjoy it. It’s biggest downfall, in my opinion, is the lack of world-building.

I give this book:



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