That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K. Johnston

That Inevitable Victorian Thing

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 descendant of Victoria I, the queen who cha...

Title:That Inevitable Victorian Thing
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That Inevitable Victorian Thing Reviews

  • Katherine Locke

    I suspect this book will get a rabid cult following, and I am 100% here for it. This book deserves such a following. Bring me the fanart and the fanfic. Inevitable Fandom for the win.

    I've always loved Johnston's books. There's something alluring, quirky and inviting about her prose that I don't often see in other books that are lyrical and literary. It's like having a conversation with your best friend from the corner of the room and you're watching and commenting and admiring snickering about

    I suspect this book will get a rabid cult following, and I am 100% here for it. This book deserves such a following. Bring me the fanart and the fanfic. Inevitable Fandom for the win.

    I've always loved Johnston's books. There's something alluring, quirky and inviting about her prose that I don't often see in other books that are lyrical and literary. It's like having a conversation with your best friend from the corner of the room and you're watching and commenting and admiring snickering about everyone else there. How she manages to do this across all genres is beyond me, both as a reader and a writer, but as a fan and a reader, I really love this. And it's all the more apparent and a central part of the book's voice in THAT INEVITABLE VICTORIAN THING.

    I don't want to spoil this early but: female friendships! Queer relationships! SO MANY FEELINGS.

    I don't really have comp titles, because THAT INEVITABLE VICTORIAN THING is that unique. I can name some like-books, but all of them have more paranormal (THE DARK DAYS CLUB, SOULLESS) or are straight up sci-fi, and INEVITABLE VICTORIAN stands on its own.

    It's Victorian (SURPRISE?), but with present day elements (chat) and futuristic elements (uploading DNA to the whole internet for matches/information/access/etc), and there are subtle shifts in Victorian ethos and standards that have changed because of technology. And in other ways, some things have remained the same, despite everything happening around it. It's a world I didn't always understand, but one that I accepted without much effort. It was easy to suspend my disbelief.

    I'll add a long review closer to the pub date but yes, put this on your TBR, because you'll want in on this.

  • Elise (thebookishactress on wordpress)

    In summary:

    And yes,

    but it was fucking

    to think about the world if it had - to wish for a world without the legacy of decades of systematic oppression and scientific racism. This book has

    , a fundamental

    In summary:

    And yes,

    but it was fucking

    to think about the world if it had - to wish for a world without the legacy of decades of systematic oppression and scientific racism. This book has

    , a fundamental

    It's fair to critique the book's fundamental erasure of the history of marginalization and colonialism; after all,

    . But honestly, all my concerns about this were wiped away by the tone of the book itself and the final note. I'd also highly recommend giving the

    at the back of this book a read. Johnston's thoughts on the complexities of writing this book were

    what I wanted. Though I don't come from a colonized country, and the impact of colonialism is something I will never fully understand, this book managed to come off to me as a

    To me, it felt like the

    kind of escapism. Imagine being in Victorian England but not being, you know, despised for your race and sexuality and religion. I am

    about that. It's as if we're putting ourselves into narratives that aren't our own, that never would be, and it made me so unbelievably happy.

    As a disclaimer, I'm a huge fan of E.K. Johnston and have basically enjoyed everything she's published. But I genuinely

    this book. While

    once I got past that initial slow section, the book picked up to the point where

    My initial slow pace might not be the book's fault, though. I honestly think I would've liked this slightly better if not for Edelweiss' major formatting issues. (You know I love you all.)

    What makes this book stand out to me is the

    I like the idea of a world with Victorian culture, but with technology and more modern social ideas. First of all, there's the diversity; character are described as wearing hijabs and kimonos to balls, which was lovely and creative. This world

    in a big way. There are little details everywhere in the book that place it firmly into history. Alan Turing is mentioned at one point getting the recognition he deserved, rather than, y'know, being murdered for his sexuality.

    (As near as I can figure out, after Queen Victoria, Victoria II ruled, and then her son Albert. None of this has to do with my review, I just found everything really intriguing.)

    I also really enjoyed our ensemble cast of characters.

    is narrated by three characters: Helena, Margaret, and August. Helena is a middle-class citizen staying in Toronto with her Aunt Teresa and her vivacious cousin Elizabeth. Margaret is a princess disguised as a more lower-class citizen for her debut. August Callaghan is Helena's fiancé, who has problems of his own.

    ; they're all complex and dimensional leads to this book.

    I especially liked

    . It's cute and feels very true to the characters. Again, I can't really spoil, but it's totally not what you expect in the

    way. 

    VERDICT: This is one of the most

    scifi books I've ever read, and I can't recommend it enough. Definitely check this out for the less-terrible-yet-still-historical worldbuilding.

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  • Cait • A Page with a View

    Ok so this book had some truly awesome rep, which I'll fangirl over in a bit! And I feel like I'm probably being obnoxiously fussy with the parts that didn't work for me, so let me first say that I think a lot of people will like the book. This is just my own personal take...

    History is rewritten so that Queen Victoria made her eldest daughter her heir and then married all of her children into families from around the British Empire instead of other European families. Her subjects followed her ex

    Ok so this book had some truly awesome rep, which I'll fangirl over in a bit! And I feel like I'm probably being obnoxiously fussy with the parts that didn't work for me, so let me first say that I think a lot of people will like the book. This is just my own personal take...

    History is rewritten so that Queen Victoria made her eldest daughter her heir and then married all of her children into families from around the British Empire instead of other European families. Her subjects followed her example,

    so the Empire became

    The Church of the Empire also has a Computer that reads your DNA and determines who your best match is.

    There are a lot of characters and POVs, but the main one I cared about was Victoria-Margaret. She's the Crown Princess who crosses the ocean to Canada at the start of the story and assumes the identity of Margaret Sandwich for a short time during debut season. She's unsure of herself and grows a lot throughout the story. Because she always wore a wig for appearances, she's able to disguise herself by going out in public with her natural hair.

    The basic idea of the worldbuilding was kind of neat with the mix of identi-chips to scan into the -gnet and debut balls with DJs where English-style dresses were decorated with Chinese iconography or First Nation styles.

    I do understand it would be a pretty daunting task to try and rewrite history and consider everything that would be impacted. However, putting Victorian times in the future is going to need a LOT better worldbuilding than what we're left with. I mean, the Queen is seen as an extension of God on Earth and a lot of the theology (complete with computer programming monks) and political theory paradigms that the author takes for granted in her worldbuilding are tied to an old system of economics that's inherently incompatible with the globalized world this story portrays. I know it's just supposed to be a fun fictional story, but it reallllly didn't work for me and the lack of clarity was confusing/disorienting at best.

    Another aspect that I had problems with was how a colonial power was supposedly pushing for equality:

    That just... no. And does the Church of the Empire somehow cover all of those diverse faiths? And there was this slightly condescending tone to the idea of collecting genes from around the world for their bloodlines that irked me as well... like people are now Pokémon or something.

    The huge emphasis on genes and a lot of the wording also got awkward at times... like is that really the wording/idea we're going with?

    Also, the Computer stuff got really odd with debates on whether or not it

    God and then a long-winded, thinly veiled rant against the bigotry and radical ideas of certain sections of pro-life America. Maybe things felt awkward to me because they were touched on so briefly. But I was obviously getting distracted with a lot of these side things, so maybe that's a sign of the extent of how engaging the first half of the story was. There really wasn't much conflict and the narration was a jumble of various characters who mostly sounded the same.

    Basically, a lot of parts in the first half were just

    and I almost called it a DNF. I liked the idea of the current Queen Victoria having freckled brown skin and the diversity, but still wasn't very into the actual story.

    I'm not sure how I felt about the ending in a modern world, though. The author did include a note at the end about how she tried not to paint over Victorian England with a glossy sheen and that the more you pull at history's threads, the more things you have to change as they unravel.

    Soooo I guess my overall response to this book is that I was pretty iffy on how the worldbuilding played out but did appreciate the attempt to make a more diverse royal family. I loved seeing the POC main character, the f/f relationship, the intersex character, and CANADA. I feel like I don't find a ton of YA stories set in Canada and I just really liked that too?

    Thank you to the publisher for sending me an ARC.

  • Ashley Brooks

    3.75*

    Really interesting world building in this book. I like the futuristic Victorian feel of it. Made for an interesting blend of old and new customs. There was a huge amount of diversity in this book, both in race, gender and sexuality which also made the Victorian aspect of it more interesting.

    My only complaint was really the pacing. It started out kinda slow, and then once it picked up it kinda just..ended. The resolution at the end happened so fast I went to turn the page to read more and

    3.75*

    Really interesting world building in this book. I like the futuristic Victorian feel of it. Made for an interesting blend of old and new customs. There was a huge amount of diversity in this book, both in race, gender and sexuality which also made the Victorian aspect of it more interesting.

    My only complaint was really the pacing. It started out kinda slow, and then once it picked up it kinda just..ended. The resolution at the end happened so fast I went to turn the page to read more and it was just the acknowledgements. It definitely left me wanting more.

    Overall highly recommend. Fun and fresh historical fiction full of diversity.

    *Thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss for providing me a copy for review*

  • Joshua Gabriel (Ever Bookish Josh)

    Dear Penguin Random House, thank you so much for giving me pre-approved access to this book on Edelweiss! The cover alone is making me hyperventilate! <3 Gonna start this ASAP!

  • Danielle (Life of a Literary Nerd)

    I wanted to like this book - it's so pretty and the premise sounded really cool. But this is just is one of those situations where the book just isn't for me. Victorian London is my least favorite time period for historical books, but I wanted to give this one a try because I've liked E.K. Johnston's previous books and thought the premise of an alternate Victorian  setting would hook me enough to get me into the time period. But I was just so bored and didn't really

    I wanted to like this book - it's so pretty and the premise sounded really cool. But this is just is one of those situations where the book just isn't for me. Victorian London is my least favorite time period for historical books, but I wanted to give this one a try because I've liked E.K. Johnston's previous books and thought the premise of an alternate Victorian  setting would hook me enough to get me into the time period. But I was just so bored and didn't really connect with the characters at all. I like the friendship we see start to develop but  do not feel compelled to read this at all, it's not grabbing me. I think many people will like this, it's just not for me.

  • brooklynnnne

    I have so many thoughts and feelings regarding this book yet at the same time, I'm unable to wrap my brain around everything. Here's hoping that some semblance of this review makes sense.

    First off, I have to mention my love of the settings within this novel. Rarely do I ever get to read a book where I have visited or have knowledge regarding the setting. With this novel, the majority of the story is placed in locations that I regularly visit! I now understand how much more that adds to the read

    I have so many thoughts and feelings regarding this book yet at the same time, I'm unable to wrap my brain around everything. Here's hoping that some semblance of this review makes sense.

    First off, I have to mention my love of the settings within this novel. Rarely do I ever get to read a book where I have visited or have knowledge regarding the setting. With this novel, the majority of the story is placed in locations that I regularly visit! I now understand how much more that adds to the reading experience because I can actually visualize the real setting. This seems like such a minor thing but in all actuality, I cannot even tell you how exciting it was to have places you regularly visit mentioned within a story you're enjoying.

    Now, to get to the nitty gritty: the story. This novel started and had me hooked from the beginning. I couldn't get enough and was reading ferociously. I was loving the characters, all of the Canadian aspects, the style of writing, Royalty, and the integration of technology. I have to say that eventually the story did seem to slow down, but it was still enjoyable.

    As for the major plot twist, I did not see that coming AT ALL. I'm not going to mention really anything about it because I want others to experience that surprise. I am going to say that I'm glad that the author included this element because it's an important topic that needs to be discussed more. That's all I'm saying.

    I have to say that I'm conflicted about the ending because I don't know how supportive the ending is in reinforcing the importance of this topic. It almost belittled the inclusion of the idea at all as more than one character has to continue acting like someone that they are not for the purpose of abiding to the standards of society.

    Overall, I did enjoy this book and thought that it included some important elements. I do think there may be some negative feedback surrounding the ending but maybe there's a sequel in the works to change that? I hope to read more from this author in the future as I really enjoyed her writing style and the overall themes of this novel.

    **Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review**

  • Jane

    The only thing I enjoyed about this book was the representation.

  • Puck

    This book had so much going for it, but delivered so little. The fascinating world and the great representation just didn’t weigh up against the lack of plot and the weak characters. *sad trombone sound*

    This is my third book by author E.K. Johnston, and in a way this novel is similar to the ones I read before: “The Thousand Nights” duology. Those novels neither have a exciting plot or a fast pace, but are great to read because the author brings such enchanting wor

    This book had so much going for it, but delivered so little. The fascinating world and the great representation just didn’t weigh up against the lack of plot and the weak characters. *sad trombone sound*

    This is my third book by author E.K. Johnston, and in a way this novel is similar to the ones I read before: “The Thousand Nights” duology. Those novels neither have a exciting plot or a fast pace, but are great to read because the author brings such enchanting worlds to life with her lyrical writing.

    also has an amazing feminist moral, which the story carries out well.

    No one is judged for his or her race, sexuality or gender, and science and all kinds of religion exist peacefully side by side. An ideal world, and a world fascinating to read about to see how it changes from ours. Such a scene as this one is already something to think about:

    Sadly, even such an inspiring world can’t charm me for too long when

    The author often switches perspectives in the middle of a chapter, which makes the story hard to follow if you don’t know all the characters yet. The short inserts of maps, newspaper-articles and chat-histories didn’t clear up much of my confusion, and they didn’t add a lot to the story either.

    Which leads to another main problem that I had with this book: it had too much wool, and not enough shape.

    We get the basics of what every main character wants, but more than the 5 basic W’s* is never explained. Margaret wants to travel, Helena wants to get married, August wants to protect his family’s lumber business…and that’s it.(?)

    The same goes for the (female/female) romance and the intersex-identity. I’m a big supporter of more LGBTQIA-representation in fiction, but when the f/f romance is a complete insta-love and the intersex-identity simply mentioned and never delved in deeper, I’m left torn: should I be happy with this rep or not? :S

    But I was certainly unhappy about the

    important decisions were quickly made and “I love you’s” shared by people who barely knew each other. It was ridiculous: it felt like the story offered me a romance-cake, and before I could decide if I wanted a slice, the whole cake was shoved down my throat.

    Yeah, I’m not a big fan of that. :-\

    I hate that my discovery of E.K. Johnston’s work in this year ends on such a disappointing note, but that’s what this book was:

    Not even its beautiful cover can change that.

    * = The 5 basic W's are the Who, What, When, Where and Why of a character ('s goal or description).

  • Veronique

    3.75*

    Johnston puts together something quite intriguing, an alternate world where colonisation didn’t take the same form and resulted in a place where multi-ethnicity is valued, not curbed. The mixture of old fashioned traditions from the Victorian time, such as entering society through debutante balls, with modern technology (DNA matching) was unusual but compelling.

    The plot focuses on three main characters discovering who they are, their sexuality, place and role in this society, but also on h

    3.75*

    Johnston puts together something quite intriguing, an alternate world where colonisation didn’t take the same form and resulted in a place where multi-ethnicity is valued, not curbed. The mixture of old fashioned traditions from the Victorian time, such as entering society through debutante balls, with modern technology (DNA matching) was unusual but compelling.

    The plot focuses on three main characters discovering who they are, their sexuality, place and role in this society, but also on how friendships and responsibility affects them. The narrative is slow to start with, but I personally didn’t mind this as it gave me time to learn about these protagonists and the world they live in. If anything, I would have liked even more details. Additionally, I really liked watching Margaret, Helena and August and their different points of view and reactions. It did feel a little like a fairy tale, which might not be to everyone’s taste, but this aspect worked with the compassionate and thoughtful tone.


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