I don’t binge read series. I don’t. The craft behind the writing becomes too apparent to me, making even well-written books predictable. So why did I pick up the next InCryptid? Well, I was in a specific mood that the InCryptid series fills. The way the main character and locations change, there is more a shared experience than a fixed series feel. It’s an interesting way to run with a concept.
I stated before that Alex is my favorite of the Price family so far because I identify with his approach the most. What I’d forgotten is the way Verity’s determination and enthusiasm whether performing Latin dance or hunting down strange beings in the reservoir draws me in. I might not be inclined to dance professionally, but I can empathize with how she’s pulled in two directions and how the dance calls to her.
As you probably guessed, main character shifts back to Verity for this novel. She collects an ensemble cast of Dominic (ex-Covenant and now her husband), Malena (a chupacabra), Pax (a Ukupani), Brenna (a dragon princess), and the infamous Grandmother Alice. That isn’t going into the main characters for the dance competition except where they cross over just as Verity becomes Valerie. It’s a lot of characters to keep track of, but each is distinct enough I didn’t mix them up at all. Oh, and of course, the mice made their presence known, as how could they not.
Seanan McGuire has a way with characters that makes you want to see them succeed. It’s the right blend of empathy, determination, and sheer idiocy that allows the Prices to leap into danger again and again. They risk life and limb to protect the world, the cryptids, and even humans who aren’t trying to tear everything apart.
This novel is no different.
Sure, it’s supposed to be Valerie (Verity’s alter ego) who holds center stage, but where Verity goes disaster sure seems to follow, if it wasn’t there already waiting to be uncovered. She goes about things the way she always does, making friends, making enemies, and all the while planning to play loose with the rules. It works because she usually has more than her self-interest at stake.
That’s what draws me back to the series when I need a break. It’s the blend of humor with serious situations and an underlying understanding that being evil is a choice, not a species. Besides, I got to meet Grandmother Alice, who was not what I’d expected at all, though maybe I should have guessed some of it.
There were some perfect notes like when Verity realizes her Valerie disguise couldn’t have fooled most of the staff. The persistent statement that the dragons trying to purchase a young male to raise as a husband for their daughters is something so alien humans struggle to understand it jarred though. (This is well within the dragon culture and would preserve their future when only one surviving male is known to exist.) Human history is littered with mostly female, but some male, children being bartered in marriage. The period where this is less common in Western cultures is both short and very recent.
Ultimately, the issues were small and the strengths huge. I enjoyed the actual differences in various cryptid mentalities compared to human and the way Verity takes on the world to protect those she considers friends. Though she’d do it for anyone in need. As to the mystery, I pinpointed some of those involved, but not with confidence, so the need to identify the true enemies carried me through to the end where some were eliminated from my list through surprising twists.
It’s a fun read with some beautiful cultural moments and characters you feel for.