Monday, February 19, 2018

And Now For Something Completely Different

Alternative History

That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K. Johnston is a quiet book in a very unique setting. Basically, it's a romance with your classic YA torn-between- two-lovers scenario. It begins with young upper class women (and, if I recall correctly, men) doing the debutante thing in the city of Toronto and then moves to an idyllic Canadian lake. The relationships are worked out without a lot of passion and drama. What raises the interest level here is the kinds of relationships we're talking about and the world the whole story is set in.

What we have here is a well-developed universe with computers...DNA issues...a superficially twenty-first century-type setting. But we also have a British Empire that the sun hasn't set on with a powerful queen, as well as a United States from which pirates set out to pillage Canadian/British ships on the Great Lakes. What's more, this is a particularly diverse world, in large part because the historic Queen Victoria from whom the present queen is descended married off her children to leaders all over the world, not just to European (and, of course, white) royalty. So the royal family is diverse and that makes it acceptable and normal for every other segment of society.

One of the many nice things about this book is that it doesn't preach or hit readers over the head with any Hey, look how we have characters from all over the world here! Look what we do with sexuality! Everything is just there, as if it's just totally run-of-the-mill life. Which, in a book, it should be.

A Regency/Spy/Fantasy Mash-up

Murder, Magic, and What We Wore by Kelly Jones is a gem, especially for readers who, like myself, spent many hours of their youth reading regency novels. Sixteen-year-old Annis Whitworth and her intellectual aunt have been left destitute by the sudden death of Annis's father. But Annis, whose big skill up to that point appears to have been advising her friends on how they should dress, is no classic damsel in distress, facing a sad future as a governess or companion. She discovers she has the ability to sew glamours into clothing, creating magical outfits in this world where glamours for this and that are a fact of life.

Oh, and also, she wants to follow her father into the spy business.

Regency novels often involve romance. This is more of an Austen-type social commentary with the strongest feminist tone I can recall ever seeing in a book of this type. There's even a #metoo type thing going on at one point. And, like That Inevitable Victorian Thing, there's no metaphorical neon sign here to make sure readers get it. This is merely the world of this book.

No comments: