Thursday, April 11, 2013

Midnight Blue-Light Special by Seanan McGuire

Last year when I read and reviewed Discount Armageddon the first of Seanan McGuire's InCryptid series I said that it was urban fantasy in it's purest form, and it is. Midnight Blue-Light Special continues that. When I hear the words urban fantasy from now on I will think of InCryptid.

It's been three months since professional ball room dancer and cryptozoologist Verity Price hooked up with former Convenant of St George member Dominic DeLuca and saved New York's one and only dragon in residence (this is male dragon, there are many females). Life isn't too bad and Verity's nearing the end of her year long sabbatical and is facing the fact that she soon needs to make a life choice: dancing or cryptozoology. One is a life long dream, the other means that she makes a significant and life saving difference for others.

It's about then that Dominic tells her that the Covenant of St George are coming to town and to borrow from a well known Western movie: 'Hell is coming with them!'

Once the Covenant arrive, even though their team is only three strong, every cryptid in New York is in danger. Verity tells the dragons to bunker down and warns the Indian Madhura siblings to get out of town. She tells her cousin the 'cuckoo' (other dimensional race of telepaths, Sarah is adopted and it's really complicated) to lay low and prepares to move herself and her colony of talking mice to somewhere safer than her semi legal sublet apartment.

We get to see some of the other Price family allies, like Verity's Uncle Mike, who is revered by the Aeslin mice as the High Priest of Godammit Eat Something Already. Verity's co-worker the waheela Istas also comes along in the hope of there being some significant carnage.

This was the first real good look readers got at the Covenant of St George and they well and truly lived up to their reputation. They are capital N Nasty.

The book is tight and action packed. I give kudoes to Seanan McGuire for not shying away from the fact that when you're playing this game people will get hurt and killed. McGuire has shown in both the Toby Daye and Newsflesh books (written under the pen name Mira Grant) that she can do tension and make you fearful for the fates of her characters and that happens again here. She has a way of keeping one riveted to the page and I had to finish half of Midnight Blue-Light Special in one sitting, because I just had to find out what happened next! This is rare for me. I'm not one of those people who generally get so involved with a book that the outside world ceases to exist.

This one finishes off Verity's story arc for now and the third book (Half Off Ragnarok, seriously I adore the titles) will follow the misadventures of another member of the Price family and in a different setting.

I liked something that was done later in the book and that's the switching of perspective. Writing a book in first person can limit you a little to the narrators view of things. McGuire got around it in Newsflesh by having the second book narrated by a different character and here she takes the perspective of Sarah for a while. I love Sarah as a character, she's just so quirky, so I really enjoyed seeing things through her eyes. A couple of times the voice slipped and she became Verity, but mostly she was believable as Sarah. In terms of presentations, Tara O'Shea's little dingbats at the top of each new chapter altered slightly to reflect the narrator's passion. Verity is a dancer and Sarah is obsessed by mathematics.

One negative thing that carried over from Discount Armageddon was the relationship between Verity and Dominic. I can buy them as partners working together, but I just cannot buy them being in a romantic, hot sex kind of relationship. I don't know why, it just doesn't work for me.

Back to the positives I completely adore the Aeslin mice and want a colony of my own, they started to develop some more distinct personalities in this and while I can see the problems inherent in overusing them I will be most disappointed if Alex Price doesn't have a colony helping/hindering him in some way in Half Off Ragnarok.

Something else that McGuire has done very successfully and you don't often see it in urban fantasy is create an entire world, history and very believable back story, not just for the cryptids, but their human allies and enemies.

I also really like that while she does mention well known cryptids such as bogeymen and dragons, she also finds more obscure ones like madhuras and waheelas, and then there's the ones she's invented herself such as the cuckoos and the Aeslin mice, this all adds depth to the books and the series in general.

I'm on board with this for wherever it takes me.

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