Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Sealed away through unending centuries in a sarcophagus never meant to be opened, he had patiently waited for the opportunity to live again, for the chance to feed on the unwary and grow strong. Now, at last, the waiting had come to an end. Brought to the Egyptology Department of Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum, the seals and spells that imprisoned him chipped away by his discoverers, he reached forth to claim the minds and souls of the unsuspecting city dwellers, to begin building an empire for himself and his god. And only three people had even a hint that anything was wrong.
For Henry Fitzroy, 450-year-old vampire, it began with a haunting, inescapable image of the sun, a terrifying symbol of death to one such as he. Fearing for his sanity, he called upon his sometime-lover and comrade in supernatural investigations, ex-cop Vicki Nelson, for help. And even as the two struggled to cope with Henry’s obsession, Vicki’s closest friend and former partner, Police Detective Mike Celluci was following up on two mysterious deaths at the museum, certain he was looking at murders not accidents – and equally convinced that the killer was a mummy brought back from the dead!
I used to like vampire fantasy books but, for a reason or two (*cough* Twilight *cough*) I am not a big fan of those anymore. However, when I need some relaxing, fun reading vampires can entertain me like almost no other supernatural creatures. That’s why I read the third part of Vicky Nelson series, released in 2004 so exactly a decade ago – let’s face it, the synopsis pushed some right buttons and made me curious. Not only it features a mummy and fair amount of ancient Egypt lore, it is also set in Canada, Toronto (yay! Finally something different!) but also it features a vampire who is an actual historical figure – Henry Fitzroy, the Duke of Richmond. Henry was the only illegitimate son actually
acknowledged by his crowned daddy, Henry VIII, a king so famous for being keen on siring a male heir and having so little luck with it; for some time Henry the junior was even rumoured to be a very possible candidate for the throne of England, imagine that. Unfortunately the young man died in July 1536 at just 17, allegedly of ‘consumption’ which, in 16th century, could cover any number of lung problems, from severe bronchitis and pneumonia to lung cancer or tuberculosis. Ms. Huff made young Henry (spoiler, highlight to read or skip) fall for a vampiress called Christina who turned him into one handsome, although a bit short, undead guy. I approved completely.
Ok, now the book itself. Its plot starts a bit slowly, with the purchase of an old sarcophagus from an inane British aristocrat who just wants it gone because hey, he has a family mansion to redecorate and all of a sudden the ancient relict doesn’t fit. I liked that bit, even though it was just a tad overlong and quite predictable; still Dr Rax, a curator of the Royal Ontario Museum, and his epic trip back to Toronto with the mumy in tow was somehow endearing. The whole premise reminded me a bit of “The Mummy”, a very stupid movie by Brendan Frasier, but I managed to overlook it.
Then Vicky Nelson, Michael Celluci and Henry have to deal with a freshly revived mummy who (which?) plots to reinstate the cult of an ancient and not especially nice pre-dynastic Egyptian god, Achech, feeding on children and adults and gaining followers among high-rank politicians and policemen.
When it comes to the main leads I found it refreshing that, unlike other urban fantasy heroines such as the infamous Anita Blake or Sookie Stackhouse, Vicki not only doesn’t have superpowers, she’s dealing with a serious handicap that forced her to retire as a police officer–she’s going blind. I liked the grit with which she struggles to stay functioning and independent. However, Vicki can also be stubborn and arrogant to the point of folly, and it was rather psychologically strange how she did the repeated-sex-doesn’t-mean-a-thing dance with both Henry and her old partner and ex-boyfriend (and not so ex part-time lover), Mike Celluci. If you think only guys have commitment issues you should watch our Vicky double dating both gentlemen (Mike by day and Henry by night) and clamming up as soon as any of them was approaching those pesky inconvenient commitment issues. I like independent females in fiction but here it seemed Vicky went one step too far, never taking into account the feelings of others, treating them sometimes as nothing more than walking and talking penises. The situation was saved by Tony, another lover of Henry – at least the old vampire was sensible enough to retain a bit of independency as well.
Overall I’m also tired of the bitch stereotype in fictional female law enforcement. Apparently, if popular thrillers and mysteries are to be believed, all women cops and Pis have to be butch even if they are pretty. Just once, I’d like to read about a detective with some outstanding diplomacy and social skills; a woman who doesn’t feel she has to out-macho all the men in her vicinity.
Tanya Huff’s series is based around well-known clichés, and no, it’s not going to be winning the Booker prize any time soon. It also features an improbable love triangle. Still it managed to entertain me as it was obvious the author never took her characters too seriously. I might continue reading the rest of books just to see whether Vicky grows up and decides who she really wants to be with. Still I warn you: the televised series, based on this story is far, far worse.