Tag Archives: Victorian Era

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (5 Star Review by Ananya B. ’23)

The Picture of Dorian GrayThe Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Picture of Dorian Gray is a philosophical novel featuring main characters Basil Hallward, Lord Henry Wotton, and of course, Dorian Gray. Basil Hallward is an artist who paints a portrait of Dorian Gray, and Lord Henry is a friend of his who has extremely questionable morals and ideals, unlike those that Dorian has been exposed to before. I loved this book, mostly because of the characters themselves.

First, we have Dorian Gray, who starts off the novel as a young, naive, child-like character, but he undergoes many changes and a great deal of character development throughout the novel, mainly under the influence of Lord Henry. I honestly cannot tell if I loved or hated Lord Henry, who brings up numerous witty and intelligent insights and ways of thinking. He corrupts Dorian with his deplorable deeds and persuasive words.

Next, there is Basil, who is the foil to Lord Henry, serving as the angel to his devil. The relationships between the characters, their interactions, and how they influence each other was engrossing, although I would have liked to have seen more of Basil and Dorian.

My one main criticism of the book is that Wilde sometimes goes on long tangents describing furniture, tapestries, and other such things. However, Wilde explores the themes of depravity, corruption, and hedonism in an enthralling and captivating way, forcing the mind to think about different philosophies and their effect on a person such as Dorian. —Review by Ananya B. ‘23

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Timekeeper by Tara Sim (review by Sofie K. ’20)

Timekeeper (Timekeeper, #1)Timekeeper by Tara Sim
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Timekeeper is set in an alternate version of Victorian era England, where clocktowers (like Big Ben) in each city control the passage of time. As long as the clocks are running smoothly, so does everything else. However, if they were to stop working… that would spell trouble for the poor souls who live in that area.

Danny Hart is a clock mechanic: he is in charge of making sure the clock in Enfield is working as it should. Plagued by an event that happened to him in the past (or whenever the past is in this book), he is incredibly wary about his job. But when the mysterious apprentice he was assigned to, Colton, turns out to be the spirit of the clock he is supposed to work on, everything he think he knows about his life, career, and family changes.

With outstanding character development, a compelling diverse romance, and, hey, time travel, this book kept me hooked onto every last sentence. The storyline was incredibly unique, and Tara Sim executed it to near perfection. I look forward to following the story of Danny and Colton through the rest of the trilogy. – Sofie K. ’20

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A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab (review by Angela C. ’21)

A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic, #1)A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are four Londons – Grey London, Red London, White London, and Black London. Kell, a Traveler, is one of the few who can move between the cities. Unfortunately, one of his hobbies lands him into a difficult predicament and he has to jump from city to city to fix the problem. He’s joined on his adventures by Delilah Bard. “Lila” is a great thief – quick on her feet, has fast, light hands, and notorious in Grey London. All of this changes when she accidentally steals the wrong stone from the wrong man.

Add in a charming prince, a towering castle, a handful of kings and queens, an Enthusiast named Neil, and several royal guards and there’s a perfect story for almost anyone!

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about magic and needs some entertainment during the school year! – Angela C. ’21

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Heartless by Marissa Meyer (review by Prameela K. ’19)

HeartlessHeartless by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As a fan of Marissa Meyer and her science fiction fantasy Lunar Chronicles series, I was eager to read her standalone debut. Once I learned that Heartless was a fairy tale origin story with a Victorian setting, my anticipation only heightened. A fantasy period novel based on Alice in Wonderland? Count me in.

Heartless draws upon many aspects of Lewis Carroll’s whimsical world in Meyer’s re-imagination of the Kingdom of Hearts, where Wonderlandesque oddities and the social constructs of Victorian-era England intermingle to create a setting equally strange and captivating.

At the center is Catherine, a teenage girl with big dreams and an even bigger heart. Unlike many young adult protagonists, she is not overbearing or infuriating, and her kindness is admirable. She is a lover of all things sweet, and her aspiration in life is to open up a bakery–but her parents have different plans for her and aim to consolidate her marriage to the foolish, and incredibly annoying, King of Hearts.

Oh, but of course, there is a love interest: Jest, the roguish and devilishly handsome court jester. He has a mysteriously magical past and the obscurity of his identity may be frustrating at times, but he makes up for it with his humor and charm. He and Cath have instant chemistry and their interactions are chock-full of witty repartee. Oh, and do not forget Jest’s equally mysterious raven, who is reminiscent of Edgar Allen Poe’s famous poem and only speaks in, well, poetry. Jest is also a friend of the famed Hatter, who was really quite a hunk back in the day — before he went mad and all.

Because Cath starts out as a well-rounded character with a strong sense of right and wrong, there is little room for moral development. Instead, Meyer focuses on her progression from being an aspiring young baker to being the Queen of Hearts. The plot is filled with twists and turns as Catherine embarks on a journey to fulfill her goals and discover who she truly is. While the novel has its fair share of romance, the action is what truly captivated me–Cath’s bravery shines through when it matters the most.

At points, the plot progresses slowly, but as the page count dwindled I found myself more and more enthralled in the characters’ fates. Whopping revelations, nail-biting action sequences, and heart-wrenching plot twists combine to form a stress-inducing final 100 pages that culminate in an ending that is, at first, shocking. But after a few days of deep thinking, I realized that the plot had really been going in that direction all along, and one of the main reasons why Heartless made such a strong impression. – Prameela K. ’19

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To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis (review by Connie M. ’17

To Say Nothing of the Dog (Oxford Time Travel, #2)To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

To Say Nothing of the Dog is perhaps Connie Willis’s most humorous Oxford Time Travel book, set mainly on the outskirts of Victorian Oxford. The novel features two main characters: Verity/Kindle, who is sent back in time by the frustratingly persistent Lady Schrapnell to help figure out the location of the Bishop’s Bird Stump, and Ned Henry, who is sent back to help right a supposed discrepancy caused by Verity. Willis often pokes fun at aspects of Victorian life through Ned’s nonchalant humor (he is the narrator). The story reads much like a mystery novel as Ned and Verity attempt to understand the nature of their first time discrepancy while simultaneously trying to prevent more time-travel disasters. The final solution is amusingly explained but leaves some unanswered questions. To Say Nothing of the Dog is certainly worth reading for its humorous, science fiction, and historical fiction aspects, but those who are not interested in the Victorian era will be disappointed.

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The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (review by Andrew R. ’17)

The Haunting of Hill House The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

No one who’s read Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery” is likely to forget it anytime soon: even sixty-five years after its explosive debut, the narrative of sinister small-town ritualism retains an impressive staying power that makes it as jarring to modern readers as it was to its original audiences. Shirley Jackson draws on the same arsenal of subtly suspenseful plot devices in her 1959 novel The Haunting of Hill House, in which the scarred and unstable Eleanor Vance joins a research party to live in a crumbling Victorian mansion for the summer. Part Edgar Allen Poe and part Henry James, this psychological ghost story isn’t quite a horror novel, at least not in the Stephen King sense; its terror, as in “The Lottery,” is so understated that the full force of the book’s scariest scenes isn’t likely to manifest itself until days after you’ve read them. (From what I’ve heard, Jackson’s last novel, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, ramps up this creepiness to an even more intense and chilling pitch.) For a haunted-house story, this novel is very strong, and rates only one notch below “The Lottery” in its quality and spine-tingling effect.

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Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare (review by Kacey F. ’15)

Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices, #1)Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Clockwork Angel breaks little new ground beyond Clare’s equally unimpressive first series, The Mortal Instruments. Flung into the realm of Shadowhunters and Downworlders after failing to reunite with her brother, Tessa Gray discovers she harbors unusually powerful magical abilities. From there, Clare has her heroine set off on a path long beaten into the ground by more proficient fantasy fiction authors, where Tessa must use her talents to outwit a mysterious villain known as the Magister. Convoluted love triangles, overused plot devices, and character inconsistencies bog down what otherwise might be considered crisp and fast-paced writing. Although the characters are witty, dangerous, and endearing at all the right moments, they only revolve in tedious circles around their respective personality stereotypes. Half-hearted background details injected into the storyline fail to convince or immerse the reader in the book’s Victorian steampunk setting. While the dialogue and plot twists make for a fun read and obvious movie fodder, Clockwork Angel ultimately never experiments enough beyond the tropes of commercial teen fantasy to leave a worthwhile impression. – Kacey F. ‘15

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Dracula by Bram Stoker (review by Evani R. ’17)

DraculaDracula by Bram Stoker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Stefanie Meyer’s Twilight series does not come close to Stoker’s classic vampire tale Dracula. Narrated through a collection of diary entries and letters, the book starts with the journey of Jonathan Harker, an English lawyer, on his way to Dracula’s remote castle. The vampire’s hospitable manner to Harker is suspicious, and the young man soon realizes that he is imprisoned in the castle. Harker himself begins to see Dracula’s supernatural powers and becomes even more frightened. The novel takes off from there involving three wanton female vampires known as “the Sisters,” Harker’s fiancée, Mina Murray, and her strangely ill friend, Lucy Westenra. The literature will take every reader on an adventure with twists and turns and will appeal especially to those who enjoy mystery and horror. – Evani R. ‘17

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The Luxe by Anna Godbersen (review by Samyu Y. ’15)

The Luxe (Luxe, #1)The Luxe by Anna Godbersen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The year is 1899, and the place is New York City. A glimpse of satin, silk, taffeta, or lace is visible around every corner of each gilded mansion, and fine carriages dominate the roads where the wealthy live. Gossip follows every eligible young person like a cloud – a cloud that others are only too delighted to darken. Illicit affairs, social impropriety, and scandal are the entertainment of the day. In this world, the Holland family works to elevate two daughters to perfection: Elizabeth, seemingly pious but secretly defiant, and Diana, an outward rebel but romantic at heart. Godbersen’s language weaves its way elegantly around thwarted romances, atrocious rumors, and secret abhorrence to reveal the unhappily tangled lives of the 1900 New York elite. A light read, this first novel of the Luxe series is expressed in pretty but unremarkable writing — though the description of the dresses and the parties is extravagant. Readers of Gossip Girl and The Clique series or watchers of Pretty Little Liars will be swept away in this bracingly different version of catty cliques and damsels in distress. – Samyu Y. ‘15

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