Queen Victoria, Demon Hunter
by A.E. Moorat
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Queen Victoria, Demon Hunter / 978-0-06-197601-8
This book was recommended to me, I think, because I enjoyed "Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters" so very much. For whatever reason, however, I just couldn't really immerse myself into "Queen Victoria, Demon Hunter" in the same way that SSSM grabbed me.
SSSM starts out plainly and clearly explaining the fantastical elements of the plot immediately and helping the reader to acclimate to this strange world. "The family of Dashwood had been settled in Sussex since before the Alteration, when the waters of the world grew cold and hateful to the sons of man, and darkness moved on the face of the deep." This first sentence of the novel clues the reader in to the fact that something momentous in the semi-near past has occurred to cause the sea creatures to turn hostile to mankind, and the residents of Austen's novel have learned to cope with their new world.
QVDH, on the other hand, eschews this straight-forward approach, and the new reader is apt to be lost from the lack of initial explanation. The characters react with boredom and ennui at the various demons and zombies that invade the initial chapters, but where these demons came from, and how long they've been invading is left out and without that information, it is difficult to initially immerse oneself because it's unclear what we're supposed to be immersing into.
Another thing that seems to have been lost in translation is the sardonic tone that made SSSM such a masterpiece. QVDH seems to think that same detached gallows humor can be recreated by, say, having a pampered court member react with detachment to a horrific scene of death before him (in the opening pages, a mob of rats lead by a two-headed rat monster devours a man alive). The hilarity of SSSM, though, was rarely highlighted by a complete failure to react to disastrous events (ho-hum, the zombies are eating the prostitutes), but rather by the Austenian approach to these horrific events (not only is a horrific sea monster horrifically eating a servant, but he's breaching protocol by calling everyone's attention to it - how scandalous).
Other things I disliked about QVDH: The author frequently employs fast cutaways to prevent having to actually follow through on implausible (yet surely interesting) scenes. Classically, when a hunter is cornered by three demons, and death seems inescapably imminent, we cut away to another chapter - at the end of which, the hunter shows up alive and mostly unscathed. These sorts of cuts are common and irritating, and delay and prevent tension rather than heightening it. Rather too much time is spent developing the character of Victoria, but she's almost been carbon-copied from real life (or, at least, the Dear America version of real life), without the necessary character changes that her unusual world would produce (contrast SSSM's Elinore and Marianne who adore pirate chanties and whittling driftwood). Also, for my own tastes, I prefer authors who feel not the need to include prostitutes who can accommodate pineapples in their bodily orifices. But that's a personal preference.
For all this, you may enjoy this book even though I did not. As an amusing "demons in weird settings" book, it's not particularly bad, it's just doesn't share much in common with the "Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters" phenomena, in my opinion. I guess I would say that this is a fantasy novel, not a clever satire novel.
NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through Amazon Vine.
~ Ana Mardoll
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