RogerBW's Blog

Grave Importance, Vivian Shaw 24 February 2023

2019 urban fantasy, third and to date last of its series. Dr Greta Helsing is invited to step in as clinical resident at a spa for mummies. But something very strange is going on…

And as before I find myself more taken with the setup than with the execution – though this time we do at least get a bit more of Greta doing the thing she does, being a doctor to weird supernatural creatures, and by gum it's glorious. This is what I'd have happily read a whole book about.

But instead the "main" plot is yet more decay in the fabric separating realities just as in the last two books, and just like last time it was all part of a bigger plot, and the literal end of the world might be involved, and do you watch new Doctor Who or something? Escalation alone is dull; a thousand deaths or a million are still a bad thing, but I don't feel a thousand times worse about the latter. I'm much more interested in Greta and her friends and allies facing new problems and trying to work out how to solve them.

I like these people and I'm happy to see them doing their thing, even if some of them are really rather stupid when the plot needs them to be (Grisaille in New York I'm looking at you). The various romances worked for me. I'm less convinced when it comes to Heaven and Hell if only because I've never found the structures one gets from The Divine Comedy and Paradise Lost particularly engaging (and I strongly suspect that angels and demons really shouldn't be talking and acting like normal people who just happen to have some special powers), and less convinced again when it comes to yet another deus ex machina resolution. Yeah, I get it, you want to show us the good guys having done all they can and making their peace with themselves in the face of the end of everything… but you also want a happy ending. That would have spoiled the effect in On the Beach, and it spoils it here.

Ah well. It's not terrible, and I'd lightly recommend the whole series, particularly for Shaw's writing style, but go in with low expectations and get a pleasant surprise rather than expecting something amazing and being let down.

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