Book Review: Grave Importance by Vivian Shaw
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Book 3 of Dr. Greta Helsing
Publisher: Orbit (September 24, 2019)
Length: 448 pages
I realize the Dr. Greta Helsing series might be a bit of an acquired taste, but if you’ve stayed with it for this long, then you’ll know the kind of strange and wonderful treat you’re in for in Grave Importance. A mix of the new and old, the modern and the classic, the funny and the dark, this novel delivered everything I loved about the first two books and featured an ending that capped the trilogy off nicely.
Once more, readers return to the world of Greta Helsing, doctor of the supernatural specializing in providing healthcare to London’s population of undead creatures. When the story begins, Greta has just received an offer to serve as interim medical director at Oasis Natrun, one of the world’s most exclusive health spas catering to pampered and wealthy mummies. Nestled in the picturesque hills above Marseille, the opportunity is a dream come true—until reports of a strange illness ravaging through the mummy community becomes her problem. Baffled by the cause of this unknown malady, which causes weaknesses and fainting spells, Greta is determined to get to the bottom of this mystery.
Meanwhile, Ruthven and Grisaille are vacationing in Italy when the former is suddenly struck down by a malicious curse. In fact, it is a curse so destructive that Ruthven must receive specialized treatment in order to get any relief. And together with Samael, Fastitocalon is trying to figure out what the angels are up to and the reason for the curious instability recently observed between the planes of Heaven, Earth, and Hell. As if that wasn’t enough, while all this is going on, the story also takes Greta’s ongoing romance with the vampyre Sir Francis Varney to a whole new level.
As you can probably tell, it falls to Grave Importance to tie up all the loose ends and bring this trilogy to its finale, so it is no surprise so much takes place within its pages. We have a mainly a mystery, spiced up with a fair bit of romantic tension. Greta is charged with putting out multiple fires, inundated as she is with medical conundrums. I really liked how we got to really see her in her element here—more so than in either of the previous books. The story highlights both her superb talents as a doctor as well as her intense passion for her work; this is a woman who truly cares about saving un-lives, and, in spite of herself, can’t help but perceive losing a patient as a personal failure.
And that’s what I love most about Vivian Shaw’s characters. Despite more than half the cast being undead or demons, they all just feel so damn human. Every character is an interesting individual with genuine personalities, backgrounds, and motivations. Even those taken from literary classics are given their own dispositions, so while they remain recognizable from the sources they’re drawn from, they have their own unique qualities and quirks.
In terms of the story, admittedly it felt a bit scattered, what with so much going on. The focus jumps from mummies and Egyptology to mysterious curses and special intensive care units in Hell. Everything culminates in a spectacular climax of epic proportions involving the fabric of reality and the fate of our mortal realm itself. And somehow, Shaw still manages to work in several romantic arcs. But of course, it’s Greta and Varney’s that I was most interested in following, and it was a little insane how so much of the progress on that front was crammed into the last quarter or the book so, competing with the major events of the ending. That said, while it’s true that the action could have been better balanced, there was no negative impact on overall pacing, and I can live with feeling a bit flustered here and there, if it means having no lulls.
And at the end of the day, all that matters is that I am very satisfied with the ending. From the beginning, this series has captured my attention with its irresistible charms and mighty big heart. Over time, I’ve come to know and love so many things about these books, including Greta and her enthusiasm for her work, the fascinating company she keeps, as well as the magical and imaginative world they inhabit. It must have been no easy feat pulling everything together for this finale volume, but Vivian Shaw managed it well, and most importantly, she struck the perfect note for the conclusion.