Book Review: Grave Importance by Vivian Shaw


gi-coverA charmingly witty fantasy adventure in the world of Strange Practice, starring Dr. Greta Helsing, doctor to the undead, who must solve a dangerous medical mystery at a secret French spa for mummies.

Oasis Natrun: a private, exclusive, highly secret luxury health spa for mummies, high in the hills above Marseille, equipped with the very latest in therapeutic innovations both magical and medical. To Dr. Greta Helsing, London’s de facto mummy specialist, it sounds like paradise. But when Greta is invited to spend four months there as the interim clinical director, it isn’t long before she finds herself faced with a medical mystery that will take all her diagnostic skill to solve.

A peculiar complaint is spreading among her mummy patients, one she’s never seen before. With help from her friends and colleagues — including Dr. Faust (yes, that Dr. Faust), remedial psychopomps, a sleepy scribe-god, witches, demons, a British Museum curator, and the inimitable vampyre Sir Francis Varney — Greta must put a stop to this mysterious illness before anybody else crumbles to irreparable dust…

…and before the fabric of reality itself can undergo any more structural damage.



And here we have the conclusion to what has become one of my favorite series. Was I prepared to say good-bye to these characters? Yes. Or, at least I thought so. But then they had to go being all sweet and lovely and nice and saving the world and stuff…and I think I’m a little heartbroken that this is the end. Still, I’ll be able to revisit them in these books whenever I want–that’s the good thing about books, right? Alright, enough of that now, on to the review.

In this third and final volume of the Greta Helsing series we find Greta back at her clinic in London longing for a break in the weather. When a colleague contacts her asking her to take charge of his own specialized clinic in the south of France, she’s more than happy to help him out, even if it means she’ll be missing her boyfriend.

As far as the plot, I thought it was engaging in the way it was told. There are a few things going on here, layered on top of one another. While Greta’s storyline is the main one, we’re also following along with Ruthven and his new boyfriend as POV’s as well as some brand new characters unique to this story. The characters in each of these threads has problems they’re working on solving. What is causing the mummies to keep having sudden, and seemingly random, loss of consciousness? What’s the deal with those mysterious and beautiful twin beings who are most certainly not human? What’s their story and why do they seem to hate vampires so much? What’s with this rich lady in New York who is clearly up to know good? What is this sudden illness Ruthven’s come down with? Eventually all of these threads converge to paint a bigger picture of what’s been going on.

I appreciated, since this is the final story, that the stakes in this one were about as high as you can get. Yeah, one of the baddies is a typical baddie and it’s even remarked upon in the book by at least one of the characters how they’re kind of a cliche, which is hilarious, but they’re also not the main problem that needs to be solved, rather a symptom of a larger problem. Also, speaking of meta-ish things, I think, if I’m not reading it wrong, there’s a line near the end where the, well, the plot resolution is very much remarked upon in a not really but maybe sort of almost fourth wall breakage. Kinda sorta? If I read that right anyway, maybe I’m wrong and I just got way too much enjoyment out of a throwaway line that didn’t mean much. 🙂

These are books, at the end of the day, that really hinge on the characters. All of the main characters are just so damn likable. They’re monsters, but they’re the most human of monsters. And the humans are sometimes more monstrous than the monsters. Because that’s also sort of the point. Greta is amazing–she loves her work, her friends, and Sir Francis Varney. She’s dedicated her life to helping others, but also she just really loves the science behind medicine–even if that science is sometimes magic. She’s kind of a no-nonsense type, extremely practical, but she also has a big heart. Varney, on the other hand, is very physically strong, but always seems to be on the verge of not being able to keep it together. It was great seeing his character growth from the first book to this one. We get much of it here in this final book because Greta was off on her own for most of book two. If you missed Varney in that one then rejoice–this is the one you’ve been waiting for.  I also love that we get to see Ruthven out on his own, also growing in new ways because of his relationship. I really can not express enough how much of a delight these characters have been to spend time with.

Overall, I feel like this was a great conclusion to the series and it ended on just the right note. Everyone kind of got exactly what they deserved! These will definitely be books I’ll revisit in the future, probably time and again. Highly recommend this series to anyone wanting to spend time with lovely monsters who will manage to restore your faith in humanity. 5/5 stars.

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