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Review: Dreadful Company

Dreadful Company audiobook cover. A blonde woman holds up a skull. Behind them the Paris skyline is visible on a turquoise backdrop. Dreadful Company by Vivian Shaw.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Duration: 11 hrs 22 mins.

Dreadful Company is the delightful sequel to Strange Practice, the first book in the Greta Helsing series by Vivian Shaw. Greta is a fairly ordinary doctor, but her patients are far more unusual. Treating London's most magical and monstrous creatures is an everyday affair for Greta, but this book sees her head to Paris, where she discovers that trouble will indeed find her anywhere. Accompanied by old friends and new foes, Dreadful Company is a superb addition to a series that I hope will have a long run ahead of it. Battling the Parisian darkness alongside Dr Helsing are the trio of her trustiest companions from the previous book; the dapper, fabulous, vampire Lord Ruthven, introverted vampyre-with-a-y Sir Francis Varney, and loyal, dependable demon Fastitocalon - fresh from a spa break in Hell.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, though as it had been a year since I listened to the previous one I do wish I had gone back to refresh my memory. Although the events of this book are mainly stand-alone, I wouldn't recommend anyone start with this book without first listening to Strange Practice, as a great deal of the character development and grounding of the relationships occurs in the introduction to the series.

There were several moments in the book that made me laugh, but a memorable one was when Greta first encounters the little monsters someone is releasing around Paris, and Ruthven exclaims, "If this keeps up you're going to be the most absurd Disney princess, ever."

I also chuckled at the plight of a very young, very new vampire who smothered herself in body glitter because she believed that vampires were supposed to sparkle and thought she just wasn't any good at it. Not an overt jab at the sparkly vampires of another popular fantasy series, but one which very much hit its mark.

Another thing that I really enjoyed about this book was the benevolence with which it treats the outcasts, and even the villains. Even the ugliest creatures - inside and out - can find some redemption if they seek it. This is particularly charming in Varney. Vampires (and vampyres) are so often painted as arrogant seducers, and even Ruthven has the more stereotypical charm and elegance normally associated with 'sanguivores'. Varney is different, and the awkwardness and doubt he experiences as he tries to make sense of his growing feelings for Greta have a charming tenderness and humanity to them.

Suzannah Hampton's voice is pleasant and easy to listen to, but she's sometimes a little hesitant in her delivery, pausing inappropriately in a sentence which takes a while to get used to. I do enjoy the formal language with which this series is written, as it lends the book an almost timeless quality which suits the eternals and immortals who populate its world. The series has a strong voice, and despite being set in contemporary time, could almost be set in the Victorian era just as easily as our own.

If you like action-packed fantasy then this may not be the book for you, as it is much more a book about this disparate group of characters than it is about saving the world, which they just happen to do along the way in between cups of tea and pain-au-chocolat. Overall, the message of this book - as in the last - is about the importance of friendship, of justice, and of redemption.

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