Calculated Risks by Seanan McGuire

Note: Calculated Risks releases on February 23, 2021, but is available for preorder.

Calculated Risks by Seanan McGuire

The book has a prologue of when Sarah first met Artie, a cute scene, but also one that grounds us in Sarah’s loss. The first chapter starts right where Imaginary Numbers ends, as though a year hadn’t fallen between the two releases. Imaginary Numbers and Calculated Risks form a duet, or perhaps more accurately, a two-part episode in the style of television shows. There are reminders of what happened before, but where the InCryptid series can be read as individual, if related, stories, these two cannot.

Oddly, Calculated Risks can also serve as an introduction to the series as a whole. Sarah realizes in those first moments that the adopted cousins she’d grown up alongside, trained, and even fell in love with, no longer remember her existence. She’s gone from family and more to irredeemable cryptid that should be killed on the spot, cutting the emotional ground from beneath her feet.

She spends the first three chapters tied to a chair, desperate to make her case without manipulating them further. Explaining their memory loss is all her fault doesn’t help them trust her, but it does offer the opportunity to remind readers what happened in the first book. Sarah didn’t mean to change their memories. Instinct drove her to save them from the pain of realizing the equation had killed her…only it didn’t.

The book is not lacking in action. They encounter the various species native to this dimension, along with more troubles Sarah brought with the campus. The indigenous sapiens are similar to Earth hominids, while other species bear some commonalities and significant differences. Also, natural forces in this dimension, including those governing magic, are not the same as on Earth. There’s a lot to explore. However, like the previous book, this is more of a personal story, but remains in Sarah’s perspective throughout.

Sarah learns more about her species, including how many assumptions the Price family has been basing their actions on, but it’s not cryptozoology like how Alex details a discovery. This is her life, even more so with all family members in the new dimension having no memory of her. Worse, their recent connection with Mark, another cuckoo, is unaffected. They remember Mark survived puberty without losing his feelings for the human family that raised him. He’s safe and comfortable while she’s the enemy.

Nor did Sarah’s protective instincts spare Artie or their brand-new status as a couple.

She’s not used to being isolated. The Prices are forever finding new people in need of family, always growing. But in her case, it shrank with Sarah on the other side. This is the heart of the story. Her trying to convince them she’s their beloved cousin while taking responsibility for the fact that they can’t remember her…or having consented to her using them for the equation.

Without specifics, I’ll say the relationships form the foundation of this book. Not only those destroyed and built in these pages, but also those that came before. The biggest plot thread is how Sarah functions with her family, and the love of her life, having forgotten she exists while they still depend on her, as a cuckoo stranger, to get them home.

Imaginary Numbers ended in a cliffhanger, but this one has a satisfactory conclusion. There are still consequences to be dealt with, but the big questions, the urgent questions, are all resolved one way or another. Still, this book opens the possibility for many more stories, whether novels or novellas, meaning the series still has room to grow. One such novella appears in the back of this book, even.

P.S. I received this Advanced Reader Copy from the publisher through NetGalley in hopes of an honest review.

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