cover image That Inevitable Victorian Thing

That Inevitable Victorian Thing

E.K. Johnston. Dutton, $17.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-101-99497-9

What if the British Empire never fell, and its traditions of debutante balls and royal matchmaking survived into the 21st century? In this vividly imagined alternate history, set in the near future, the Church of the Empire runs a DNA-matching service to ensure that mates are biologically compatible, both for commoners and for royals such as Crown Princess Victoria-Margaret. When the heir spends a summer living under an assumed name in Canada, an unexpected love triangle with newfound friends Helena and August illuminates the limitations of the system and of these young adults’ self-conceptions. The introduction of an intersex character shines a spotlight on the individual’s fear and confusion, and on the necessity of finding a safety net of understanding. The characters all have secrets, and the politeness inherent in Victorian attitudes will only conceal them for so long. It’s a powerful and resonant story of compassion, love, and finding a way to fulfill obligations while maintaining one’s identity. As with the dragon-infested modern world of Johnston’s The Story of Owen, the thoughtfulness, attention to detail, and humor in this alternative Earth are rewarding on multiple levels. Ages 12–up. Agent: Josh Adams, Adams Literary. (Oct.)