October 18, 2017 • Cee • Reviews

That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K. Johnston• October 3, 2017 • Dutton Books for Young Readers (Penguin)
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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 changed the course of history two centuries earlier. The imperial practice of genetically arranged matchmaking will soon guide Margaret into a politically advantageous marriage like her mother before her, but before she does her duty, she’ll have one summer incognito in a far corner of empire. In Toronto, she meets Helena Marcus, daughter of one of the empire’s greatest placement geneticists, and August Callaghan, the heir apparent to a powerful shipping firm currently besieged by American pirates. In a summer of high-society debutante balls, politically charged tea parties, and romantic country dances, Margaret, Helena, and August discover they share an unusual bond and maybe a one in a million chance to have what they want and to change the world in the process —just like the first Queen Victoria.


I received this book for free from Penguin for review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

First sentence: “Helena Marcus had not given much thought to her marriage.”

History has been rewritten. The British Empire is as strong as ever. This Inevitable Victorian Thing explores a world where everybody in the British Royal family—after Queen Victoria that is—married outside the European Royal family, creating diverse, multi-racial people that you see in the characters, and where old traditions like debutante balls and arranged marriages meet the new like genetic technology.

Welcome to the new, semi sci-fi British Empire.


  • History isn’t as we know it.

It’s not the one we grew up with. Forget about the British Royal Family only marrying within the European continents, the British Empire collapsing, genetic technology being limited. This world is a future we cannot fathom. The British Royal family married outwards of Europe, creating people of mixed race instead of what we know—white. (Their Queen of England is brown-skinned with epicanthal fold and curly dark hair.) This world has a Computer that can matchmake people by taking a look at their genetics. In fact, their genetics technology is far advanced than what we know.

I was very fascinated by this alternate history. It’s a quite idyllic world that gives us a “what if” the world was wonderfully diverse—in race, sexuality, and so on. I wanted to see more of this alternate history because it wasn’t as in-depth as I’d like it to be. I wanted more of the history of the British Empire, what how important events shaped what it became, and the political alliances and rivalries between the countries. I know that would be an entirely different story, but I want it!

  • It’s set in Canada!

I love that it’s set in Canada! Toronto is the place where one of the biggest debutante balls will be attended by the Queen of England. It’s refreshing to see Canada as a location where the main story takes place in. You get born and bred Canadians showing visitors their lovely home. You get to read about the beauty of Ontario through Crown Princess Elizabeth-Margaret’s eyes. I can’t even name a book that’s set in Canada (other than Margaret Atwood’s works).

  • It’s queer and diverse.

This Inevitable Victorian Thing embraces it all! Everybody you encounter has mixed ancestry like the Queen herself and August Callaghan, who has Hong Kong Chinese-Irish blood. We are introduced to a person who

Spoilers galore!
is intersex
, and we get to see how that affects their world. A cute romantic relationship develops between two girls as they navigate the Toronto scene. I would’ve liked to see more of this and the worldbuilding on how this world has embraced and thrived from the diversity.

  • Each chapter has headings that helps you understand this world. 

You get text messages of prospective matches on the genetic matchmaking site, maps of Ontario, correspondences between important Royal figures that tells you how this world came to be and how the Computer plays into their world, and so much more.

  • You get a quiet story. 

By quiet, I mean nothing exciting really happens? At least, for me it didn’t. This Inevitable Victorian Thing focuses on the characters navigating this new world they’re thrust into as adults, where they have to figure out their future and who they want to be with. That’s fine and all, but my emotions weren’t stirred. I didn’t care about any of these characters because well, I didn’t feel like I really understood what they were going through. They never grew. The story dragged on, and I was just tired by how uninterested I was in these characters.

Should you read This Inevitable Victorian Thing? If you want to see what this alternate world where the British Empire didn’t collapse and this world embraced diversity and genetic technology, go for it. 

Have you read That Inevitable Victorian Thing? What do you think of this alternate history? Do you want to read this? 


One Response to “(ARC) REVIEW • God Save the Queen! (That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K. Johnston)”

  1. This sounds really fascinating! I love alternate history! I don’t mind quiet stories either but it definitely depends on whether I can connect with the characters or not. Excellent review, you have my interest piqued!

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