Okay, let's start this with a confession. I had never read anything by this author before, and starting with the last book in this series was probably not the wisest thing to do. And that may be perhaps why I didn't feel as engaged as I might have liked to. I didn't have any emotional baggage to bring to this book, and as the culmination of a series, I suspect it may depend on that.
So yeah. This is going to be an unfair review, to anyone who has been reading this series from the beginning. I just have not, so from my perspective, I found it hard to connect with many of the characters, and even to really figure out what a greywalker was. (Yes, I get it that the main character, Harper, connected in some way with the supernatural, that she can see past traumas, that she's died. But is it something beyond that?)
That was my first quibble. While I truly do appreciate Richardson's choice to make this battle hard fought, and leading to many many injuries, at times, I was reading skeptically wondering what a Greywalker actually could do? It seemed to be more debilitating than offering any power or resources. I don't remember her doing very much that was helpful that was specifically related to greywalking, except for escaping a few times. And there were far more when her abilities caused her injury or mental trauma.
I am all for superpowers with drawbacks. But not having read the other books, or possibly missing something, it didn't seem like there were many superpowers here. The Houdini stuff, sure. And talking to ghosts is great. But when you run into combat as often as Harper does in this book, is there really absolutely nothing she can do there?
Right, plot. This takes place in Portugal, where Harper's boyfriend has been tracking his crazy father who is trying to plunge the world into a morass of something, for some nefarious purpose. I know there were hints he thought it was a grand one, but it wasn't very clearly explained. (This might be because I was reading electronically, so lost the ability to flip back and reread bits when I was confused.)
Harper and Quentin and vampire Carlos have to stop them, and the book is a lot of times where they get beaten up badly on the way to doing so. I phrase it like that, because it didn't feel like a build. It felt like an event, a recuperation, a lull, another event. That gradual increase of tension was never really there. Possibly because Richardson was trying to make the tension just as high at the start of the book, but that isn't a great way to go for overall structure. (Also, if you want to do that, be Mira Grant and write about zombies and do it incredibly well.)
My other main quibble was actually borne out by the afterword. When reading the sections when Harper arrived in Portugal, my exact reaction was that it read like someone went into a town using Google Streetview, and was describing it from that perspective. Then, in the afterword, the author mentions how much she used Google Streetview in her Portugal bits, and that's a problem. Not that she used it, but that she then reported it in the story, instead of integrating it. It's devoid of other sensory cues - all visual, and all visual at a remove, in that they're often reported like Harper is moving the camera around as the author must have. No sounds. No smells. None of those things that move beyond the visual into the tactile.
Doing your research is so good and so necessary. But it's a hard skill to then use all that information at the service of the story and not just try to get it all on the page to prove you did the work.
I'm being so critical, but this book wasn't terrible. It was just...disappointing. It feels like this is so close to being something really good, but better plotting and development and tension, and mastering how to use research to enrich your story instead of replace it, would make it so much better.