I just took my dog for a walk in the fall mist listening to the end of a Halloween read among the changing leaves. I’m grateful for the chances in my life I have had to slow down.
Today’s post involves books that are a little more fun, even if they involve nefarious creatures. I have done a lot of benevolent witches in these posts so I’m figuring that magical creatures that are not all bad is too out of the seasonal reads purview. And some nefarious creatures but tucked into plots that are lighter.
I like how we can all make our interpretations of magical creatures as writers and project our human needs and desires onto them. We can make them good or bad and then powers that complicate their relationships with humans.
The Stoker and Holmes series are about the female relatives of Sherlock Holmes and Bram Stoker fighting secret nefarious plots within the aristocracy and right under the noses of respectable 1800s Londoners. Mina Holmes is bright, planful and socially awkward and Evaline Stoker is strong, daring, impulsive and charming. Any reader of crime books can see where these two personalities complement each other to fighting crime, but of course, they would need time to actually get along with one another. The mysteries and intrigues in these books have a touch of the supernatural to them, with vampires being real and the threat of vampires “coming back” to London, but they were not entirely supernatural. Especially since Mina is a skeptic and Evaline is not which is another delicious source of tension between these ladies. And there is really one main villain that drives Mina Holmes crazy who is very much a real, flesh and blood person.
I bought all three of these audiobooks before I read a single one of them and then binged all three back to back. Yup. Such fun stories told from two different points of view to keep it interesting by two women who were already pushing the boundaries of their lives before they were asked to go in secret service to the crown. They already were trying to work around the confines of their clothing and roles. The confines of the traditional female dress have been emphasized in all these fictionalized historical tales featuring teenaged girls lately. Both Mina and Evaleen complain that it is hard to run and sit and participate in their lives in the clothes they are forced to wear, and I like that detail to be added and discussed in the books. It’s not like Mina can wear yoga pants while she kills vampires. And even though they are pushing boundaries, there are still men interested in them. They are not unattractive to men or damaged goods when they show their true selves to them, and I like that, too.
Out of these three I don’t think I have a clear favorite. All the plots were complex and kept me guessing and used the strengths of each girl. And the context of London at that time in history is another level of consideration and interest.
Strange Practice, Vivian Shaw
Greta Helsing is a doctor to the undead in modern London. Supernatural creatures are secret from the regular population in this book as with the Stoker and Holmes books, but an evil cult emerges that is killing both the supernatural creatures and humans. Dr Helsing needs to band up with her supernatural friends to defeat the evil at its source.
I thought from the cover of this that it was not set in modern times, but it was. Modern conveniences abound. Dr Helsing seems to be at the fringes of human society by dint of her profession, taken over from her father, but her supernatural friends care for her, and even though she doesn’t seem to have a traditional husband and kids, she’s still loved by friends. Good worldbuilding with the supernatural creatures and their usual medical ailments. You wouldn’t think about how they would need medical help and it was an intriguing way to talk about all the different underground creatures living in London.
This felt Harry Potterish to me in the way that the characters argue among themselves over whether she should deal with the threat herself and take all the danger alone but her friends insist that they will be going with her and sharing the threat as well. I remember feeling like a lot of Harry Potter was Hermoine and Ron arguing with Harry not to go it alone, even after years into the books when Harry full well knew they wouldn’t let him go off alone. This was reminiscent. Strong theme of friendship for a woman who is used to her independence. They do save the day, and I thought the villain was creative in the way it was done. But I won’t give more detail than that because this is not a spoiler blog!
Stay tuned next week for ghosts chilling out in high schools!