In reviewing Victorian Lost I will describe merits based upon what it is and relate to you what it is not so you can make an informed decision or perhaps assuage buyer's remorse if it was not as expected. I am very pleased to have this eleventh book in what was to be a five book series and I hope this is not the end all of Changeling: the Lost.
I skimmed through my copies of the wonderful Victorian Age Vampire and its supplement London by Night as I was reaching the end of this book. I do not have the Victorian Age Vampire Companion but it is in my wishlist. These are both excellent sourcebooks in that they not only provide an evocative setting in which to game but do a good job in setting the themes and moods, historical setting and a solid front-loaded metaplot and non-player characters; there is grand Guy Davis artwork, too. You will not find any front-loading in Victorian Lost because the latter subscribes more to the New World of Darkness design philosophy than that of a decade ago. This is not to say Victorian Lost is not a wonderful resource for telling stories of gas-lit fairytales in a similar setting as Victorian Age Vampire. It is just that you are not handed a setting as if an elder sibling had completed most of the world-building for you and passed on some good advice.
Victorian Lost provides guidance for creating your own campaign setting, some of which was covered ten years ago but here put in a more cohesive and easy-to-use manner. I have reviewed or have read New Wave Requiem and Mage Noir so I expected about a 90-page count and toolkit format. The writing is excellent, the advice is practical and there are plenty of story seeds. I very much enjoyed the idea of presenting sessions in chapters like a serial novel of the time with form imitating the fiction upon which it is based. Also included are two campaign outlines with two freehold examples at the tail end of each and one complete Storyteller Adventure System arc which is fast-paced enough for a one-shot or convention game. All the stories fit well into period themes and the SAS in particular does a fine job incorporating a Victorian invention becoming a possible weapon of mass destruction to the Gentry.
It is rather sparse on historical information and setting but is more concerned with the tropes of Victorian literature and important themes of the culture. Information is also solidly centered on London and the peripheral pastoral environs beyond so if you wish to game in the British Raj, Cairo, Bucharest, or Poe's Baltimore you will have to do your homework. There are no maps on London so again you will need to do research. Luckily, Brits at the time were entranced by maps and there are plenty in the public domain to download at no-cost. Public health epidemiology even got its start in London of the time. You can find detailed maps of East London correlated with both disease and socio-economic status on building-level basis (a fine prop for your game). Copyright expiration means you can download dozens of ebooks for free.
If that is a deal breaker, having to do your homework after buying a guide and toolkit on how to craft your setting rather than the setting yourself, do not buy this book and instead adapt Victorian Age Vampire to your needs. You could even creatively port over the NPCs to Changeling. If you subscribe to the New World of Darkness way of doing things, however Victorian Lost is a fine resource. Some may complain over the lack of crunch over fluff. I feel using a derogatory sounding term like fluff means you are missing the point. Take the two Seemings in the book; both fit in well with the setting but there are merely two (and a couple of Contracts and just one Entitlement). But Seemings are designed to be just two paragraphs long. I want to create my own for a rat-catcher gnome-like Wizened I want to play. Seemings were designed to be house-ruled so don’t feel constrained into using an "official" White Wolf sanctioned character. So were Contracts for that matter. I saw years ago on the White Wolf forums a fan was writing Contracts named and themed after every Shakespeare play. If you don’t have the time or are offended that you paid your money and expect more my condolences to you but this is not a sourcebook. Toolkits grant you the freedom to make your campaign setting your own. You can make it as steampunk as you want, or a Holmesian mystery or science adventure in the Verne or Edgar Rice Burroughs vein, maybe a Wilde-like clash of wit amongst upper crust society or a squalid Dickensian tragedy. There are points where you feel the lack of information sorely. The largest and most powerful freeholds of London and another of all England (near Stonehenge of course) are mentioned in brief but not elucidated on and never named. You will have to create them as well as the Lords who rule the Courts there.
Now if you feel the lack of crunch and don’t want to buy and adapt the Vampire books, here is what you can do: pick up Chuck Wendig's wonderful and affordable Block by Bloody Block for Hunter: the Vigil and download and print some period maps as I mentioned earlier. Treat each neighborhood in as a freehold fiefdom with some changeling or other supernatural or mortal faction in charge and a boon and cost associated with holding that title. For example, imagine a Winter Court motley of Lost pushing out local vampires and laying claim to the London Underground of 1887, ensorcelling the transit workers and charging a toll of Goblin Fruit or Pledges for the privilege of safe transport. This could be the player’s own motley, their allies or antagonists. What if they were Loyalists of Freebooters and ensnared any Lost who dared to venture into the Tubes? Bam, you've got a solid story seed right there.
There are only two places where lack of content seemed rather insulting. There is a section of Victorian LARPing covering costumes, customs and props as well as a sidebar explaining delicately that White Wolf never intends to put out Changeling: the Lost LARP rules so you’re on your own, kid. I happen to know that the local Camarilla holds Lost games so the rules do exist. It was just a rather bald-faced dismissal but one I can understand. Also there was a sore lack of a character sheet at the back of the book as was provided with New Wave Requiem and Mage Noir. That is what is holding back a five-star rating.
[4 of 5 Stars!]