Thursday, March 15, 2012

Review: Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire

I can't remember how I first discovered Seanan McGuire.  Sure, she's a female author who writes about kickass female protagonists in fantastical worlds and, sure, that's the kind of story that gives me a big ol' book boner, but that also describes the majority of urban fantasies and there are plenty of those I haven't gotten around to reading yet, as evidenced by my (way too large), TBR pile.  Somehow I found her though, and I became an immediate fan, reading not only every book in her October Daye series but also the Newsflesh series written under the name Mira Grant.  One of the things that stands out for me with McGuire's books is how inventive they are. She often starts with a familiar mythology that quickly turns into something unique and special, whether it's due to the complex and uncommon details she brings to her stories or the fact that the stakes are always high.  Both series are super and when the prolific McGuire announced the beginning of a third series, I knew I had to get my hands on it as soon as it came out.


Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire
Incryptid, #1
ISBN: 0756407133
ISBN13:  9780756407131
Published March 6, 2012 by DAW Books
Grade: A
Blurb: Ghoulies. Ghosties. Long-legged beasties. Things that go bump in the night... The Price family has spent generations studying the monsters of the world, working to protect them from humanity-and humanity from them. Enter Verity Price. Despite being trained from birth as a cryptozoologist, she'd rather dance a tango than tangle with a demon, and is spending a year in Manhattan while she pursues her career in professional ballroom dance. Sounds pretty simple, right? It would be, if it weren't for the talking mice, the telepathic mathematicians, the asbestos supermodels, and the trained monster-hunter sent by the Price family's old enemies, the Covenant of St. George. When a Price girl meets a Covenant boy, high stakes, high heels, and a lot of collateral damage are almost guaranteed. To complicate matters further, local cryptids are disappearing, strange lizard-men are appearing in the sewers, and someone's spreading rumors about a dragon sleeping underneath the city...

This story has a lot going for it but what makes it truly stand out is how friggiin' fun it is.  Heroine Verity Price is a modern day That Girl, setting out on her own in glamorous NYC, looking to make her mark as a ballroom dancer, all the while treating the city as her own private jungle gym.  She never walks when she can leap - literally - from building to building, rooftop to fire escape, swinging through the city as she patrols her beat.  Because Verity is not only an aspiring dancer, she is also a cryptozoologist from a long line of cryptozoologists - and she takes the family tradition very seriously.  Once valued members of the Covenant of St. George, a group of monster hunters, Verity's ancestors long ago realized that not all monsters are monsters - some are just misunderstood.  They have segued from killers of the things-that-go-bump-in-the-night into sorta monster anthropologists, defending , protecting, policing, and studying the cryptic community.


This means the story is populated with unusual characters.  You can have your vampires, your shape shifters, your witchy types; in Discount Armageddon, McGuire gives us bogeymen, ahools, and dragon princesses, just to name a few, as well as talking mice.  The mice may sound a little Disney-ish, leading to images of helpful little rodents who brighten up the heroine's day but instead, we get the Aeslin mice, rodent cryptids that crave religion and will select individuals at random to worship.  Which in this case is the family of Verity Price.  The mice can and will make just about anything into a religious observation and they celebrate such events as the month of Do Not Put That in Your Mouth and the Holy Feast of I Swear, Daddy, I'll Kiss the Next Man That Walks Through That Door.  They are weird and wonderful and ridiculously funny.


The plot is solid and, though, I figured out fairly early on who the bad guy was (well, one of them, anyway), I was having way too much fun to let that bother me.  Following Verity's adventures as she tries to discover what or who is making the local cryptids disappear, all the  while trying to further her dance career, which is further complicated by the arrival of Dominic, a Covenant member looking to make his mark, kept me on a fun house ride of delight.  There are some nice twists to the story and the pace breezes along.  Verity is a very likable character - smart and quick-witted, without ever taking herself to seriously - and her nemesis, Dominic,  turns out to not be so bad after all.  There are some great lines in this book and some sharp banter that, at times, had me laughing out loud.  McGuire keeps the story moving with creative action scenes, snappy dialogue, and original characters.  It's obvious that she has a large breadth of knowledge when it comes to folklore and a tremendous imagination she is not afraid to use.  


The ending satisfies while leaving enough open for the continuation of Verity's adventures.  Perhaps we'll even get to see more of Verity's delightfully oddball family down the line. (Did I mention Verity's cousin, the telepathic Cuckoo?  No?  Well, you'll have to read the book to find out more about her.)  This is a story that solidly entertains, is freaky funny and left me wanting more.   The can't-wait-to-read second book in the series is due out in March 2013 -a year away! - but that's ok.  The next book in the October Daye series is out in September and hopefully, that will keep my book boner from turning into blue balls.
Grade: A


EXTRAS: The Price Family Field Guide

Where'd I Get It:  Purchased 





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