Book Review: Grave Secrets by Alice James
I haven’t seen anyone mention Anita Blake as a comparison in the reviews for this book yet, and I’m really quite surprised, because it seems so obvious. Anita, like Toni, is a ‘natural’ necromancer who has a romance with a vampire (among others). Yes, there’s definitely things that make me think of True Blood as well - largely that the ‘boss vampire’ Benedict has much more chemistry with Toni than her supposed love interest Oscar. What makes this intriguingly unique is the very British settings in country Staffordshire and Toni herself, an unabashed, straightforward, straight-talking girl.
There are some problematic elements with the Anita Blake books, not least with the heroine’s inability to see any other woman as anything but a rival, homophobia and racial insensitivity. This author hasn’t fallen into any of those traps; Toni has female friends, a gay brother whose boyfriend is Black, and more. And while this book doesn’t quite get there with polyamorous relationships - Toni’s description of herself as serially monogamous made me laugh - there’s enough there to make me think that Toni might get there in the future, and there’s no judgement from her towards those already living that lifestyle.
I think this probably needs some trigger warnings: while the sex isn’t quite nonconsensual, it does get unexpectedly violent and graphic for a ‘mystery’... I think this definitely tends more towards the urban fantasy genre. And there are at least two episodes of graphic and terminal violence to children which hit pretty hard. Nevertheless, this is an absolutely great read, and I would love to read more in the series (but dump Oscar… he’s a bore. I’m Team Benedict all the way). Five stars for a very English answer to True Blood.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.