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Literature / Dr. Greta Helsing

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The Dr. Greta Helsing novels are an Urban Fantasy series by Vivian Shaw (otherwise known as the fanfic author coldhope). They take place in an alternate contemporary London in which vampires, mummies, demons, and other supernatural beings secretly live alongside normal humans. The protagonist, Dr. Greta Helsing (yes, of those Helsings) is a human physician who specializes in monster medicine. While there is nothing whatsoever supernatural about Greta herself, her family's extensive history with the supernatural and the nature of her job puts her in the path of a lot of supernatural weirdness.


The series consists of:

  • Strange Practice
  • Dreadful Company
  • Grave Importance

Tropes present in the series include:

  • Alien Catnip: Absinthe may be a mere low-level Gargle Blaster for humans, but to vampires it's actively hallucinogenic.
  • Ascended Demon: Fastitocalon, sort of.
  • Balance Between Good and Evil: Heaven and Hell both have necessary roles in the universe's cosmology, and it isn't good for anybody if things get out of balance between them.
  • Bedsheet Ghost: Whistlers are not technically undead, but otherwise play the trope very straight. The bedsheet (or another large piece of fabric) is, in fact, essential for whistlers to manifest properly and interact with the physical world.
  • Black and Nerdy: Downplayed: August Cranswell is half-Nigerian and a professional history geek, but neither his race nor his nerdiness are dwelt on at length.
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  • Cavalry of the Dead: Invoked in the Paris Catacombs when the fight against the Big Bad Corvin and his vampire coven turns against the protagonists. Unfortunately for Corvin, the coven desecrated a lot of bodies to make their lair, and Greta's allies include two Psychopomps who offer the affronted spirits a chance to vent their displeasure.
  • Celestial Bureaucracy: Inverted, a major character used to work for the infernal bureaucracy (as an accountant).
  • Church Militant: Invoked by the Order of the Holy Sword.
  • Daywalking Vampire: Downplayed. Direct sunlight and strong artificial UV rays aren't good for vampires, but they can go outdoors in London in November without injury.
  • Friendly Neighborhood Vampire: In-universe, this is considered the sensible way for blood-drinkers to conduct themselves. Draining people dry and leaving corpses around attracts all the wrong kinds of attention.
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  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: The "monks" in Strange Practice have these, courtesy of the Light burning out their eyes and bonding with their souls.
  • Heel Realization: Leonora Van Dorne goes through one late in Grave Importance.
  • Historical Domain Character: The ghosts of few famous dead people (including Oscar Wilde) make cameo appearances in Dreadful Company.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Subverted with the "monks" in Strange Practice. At first, they are described in these terms, they are certainly disturbing to look at, and within the supernatural milieu the characters inhabit, they are an Outside-Context Problem, which makes them even creepier. It turns out that they are no less human than many members of the main cast, although their true origin is still very disturbing.
  • Hypnotic Eyes: All vampires are capable of "thralling" people through, which leaves them sedate and susceptible to suggestion. Varney stands out for having a thrall like getting hit by a very fluffy train, and Grisaille is able to thrall Greta into insensibility in a heartbeat without any passers-by noticing.
  • Hypothetical Casting: According to the author's tumblr, Ruthven looks like Andy Warhol-era Udo Kier.
  • I Do Not Drink Wine: Zigzagged. Vampires can and do drink wine, other alcoholic beverages (although they'd be advised to stay away from absinthe), coffee, and tea. But they can't tolerate solid food.
  • Mayfly–December Friendship: Greta with Ruthven and Fass.
  • Mountaintop Healthcare: Oasis Natrun is a private medical facility high in the mountains outside Marseilles. Literally "in"; the patients are all mummies, rooms carved into a mountain are close enough to their original tombs to make them feel comfortable.
  • Mundane Fantastic: Zig-zagged. As a doctor to London's supernatural population, Greta thinks nothing of treating vampires' Seasonal Affective Disorder, examining fretful ghoul babies, or having her clinic door warded with a Perception Filter to protect the Masquerade. On the other hand, hearing stories about the Devil from an old friend of his does throw her — and everyone else in the room — off a bit.
  • Our Ghouls Are Creepier: They appear to be Monstrous Humanoids rather than undead, since they reproduce in the usual biological way and are subject to some human ailments. (Presumably food poisoning is not one of them.) Greta treats a baby ghoul for an ear infection at one point.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: There are at least two subspecies - draculine (like Ruthven, and presumably Dracula), who are closest to Classical Movie Vampires with a few tweaks, and lunar sensitives, or vampyres, (like Varney), who need to subsist on the blood of virgins and have a form of Resurrective Immortality.
  • Post-Modern Magik: In this universe, sufficiently intense ultraviolet light (such as the light from a mercury arc rectifier) is dangerous to vampires.
  • Public Domain Character: Lord Ruthven and Francis Varney are major characters.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: The hair monsters in Dreadful Company.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Downplayed when Ruthven gives Greta a professional-grade makeover before attending an opera at the Palais Garnier. Although she's impressed with his work — especially the things he can do with contouring — she's ill at ease in the makeup and "Madame X dress" and is relieved to have her regular face back afterwards.
  • Spot of Tea: Constantly, in Strange Practice. Justified since a., the characters are British, and b., it's November in London, and probably rather chilly out.
  • Squishy Wizard: Fastitocalon has the most powerful and versatile set of magical powers in the main cast — and chronic bronchitis. He's recovered by the second book, courtesy of some time in Hell.
  • Supernatural Angst: Varney, to a slightly comedic degree. Ruthven's issues are more like Supernatural Boredom And Mild Seasonal Depression.
  • Vampires Are Rich: Money tends to accumulate over the centuries.
  • Vampires Hate Garlic: They're allergic to it — literally, physically allergic, instead of some supernatural effect. This still puts Varney at a distinct disadvantage when he enters a garlic-sprayed room and has an acute reaction.
  • Vampire Variety Pack: Strains of "sanguivore" include the standard Draculine vampire and the vampyre, who is rejuvenated by the full moon and is allergic to the blood of non-virgins.
  • Van Helsing Hate Crimes: The main conflict in Strange Practice.
  • When She Smiles:
    • Varney struggles with Supernatural Angst and bouts of I Hate Past Me, but when he's reminded that his friends sincerely care about him, Greta observes that his smile is absolutely radiant:
      "...that odd, uncharacteristic, brilliant smile, like the sun rising over a fieldful of mist, turning it from blank impenetrable barrier to opalescence."
    • When the newbie teenage vampire Emily is able to get away from the Paris catacombs and settle down as a trainee monster vet, Greta offers her full support, which elicits a smile that "seemed to light up the warm dimness of the stall like a candle flame."
  • Your Vampires Suck: The Public Domain Character vampires point out that Polidori and Rymer got a lot wrong.


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