Title: Strange Practice
Author: Vivian Shaw
Genre: Supernatural, Urban Fantasy
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
I'm rounding up from 3.75 as I really enjoyed this book; but I think others will possibly disagree with me. There are a number of small annoyances in Strange Practice and some of its oddness distracts from the story itself.
I had to look up multiple words while reading. This is something that can be both good and bad. It can be educational to learn new words, but it can also just be snobbery that has an author including those words. It doesn't help that Vivian Shaw has actually created new words in order to support her variety of medical conditions for the supernatural.
This is probably one of the most unique things in Strange Practice that sets it above other paranormal/supernatural stories. There are different kinds of vampires. For example, some are deathly allergic to garlic, others have sun allergy, some need blood of a virgin (not kidding!) and whatnot. Shaw has set up an elaborate world of supernatural beings (inside our existing world) in order to support her main characters job of doctor to the supernatural. From baby ghouls with ear infections to knife wounds to mummy's that are falling apart, there's no lack of creativity in ailments that are treated.
Shaw has excelled at creating interesting and likeable (while still a little scary) characters. Many of them remind me of the first time I met characters like Jean-Claude and Richard in Laurel K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series. It helps that demons and vampires tend to have interesting back stories but it's still easy to do it wrong. Reveal too much (or too little) about each person/creature and you can collapse the intrigue. I thought there was a good mix and lots to still learn about our main players. I just hope Shaw doesn't get carried away with too much sex like Hamilton did in her series.
Which brings me to plot. There is a very solid, easy to follow plot that brings our characters together and gives valid and easy to recognize reasons for them to do what they do.
That said one of my sticking points in books is when things are too convenient. There were two major moments near the end where I rolled my eyes because things were a bit too convenient. This is definitely part of why this was an enjoyable book but not a five star one for me.
The inevitable topic that needs sorting in any supernatural universe is religion. It's pretty tough to have angels, demons, vampires, etc without touching on the religious basis for your beings.
Shaw takes an interesting approach to this by having some characters be directly from Heaven or Hell; yet others that just exist, no religion needed. She also sets up a world in which it's less of good vs. bad and more about a balanced existence.
This certainly plays well into my own personal beliefs and didn't rub me the wrong way at all (unlike the Supernatural tv show where Dean's quick conversion was a bit too in my face). I think it's a very thin strand to walk the line between not offending anyone and also being a bit neutral. Shaw hit the nail on the head for me and set-up a world and characters I got easily on board with.
I would recommend this book for folks who feel supernatural books are often too 'dumbed down' (ie: smutty romances) as there is a lot here to take away. The ingenious medical set-up of the beings certainly sets it apart from so many others almost like it in the genre.
I will definitely be carrying on with this series as I think it stands out in a genre I love (but often hate because of the style of writing and choice of plot points).
Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.