Magic For Nothing by Seanan McGuire

Magic For Nothing by Seanan McGuireOkay, I’ll admit it. Antimony’s “poor me” act grated in the beginning of the book. She believes everything happens specifically to inconvenience her, deliberate acts against her when others were just doing their jobs. This wasn’t helped by the repetition of concepts, sometimes almost word for word, that was so prevalent in the beginning even Antimony reacts to it.

Well, all I can say without spoilers is she matures big time in this book. She is twenty-two. A little old to get over “the world revolves around me” phase, but then she’s been sheltered as the baby of the family. Sheltered, that is, and trained to kill in many deadly ways…but she is a Price after all. Oh, and there’s the little detail of the potentially dangerous pyro talent she’s developed. She hides her uncontrolled flame hands from her family even when it makes an already suicidal mission even more dangerous. I wonder whether reader acceptance of Antimony depends on what role they held in their families, which is another way of saying she’s drawn realistically, I suppose. But she does grow up.

On the repetition, either it cleared up, too, or once I gave into the story, I stopped noticing it. I realized something else, though. The voice–cadence, word choice, etc.–is very much the author’s voice. It stays consistent regardless of the narrator. This is not necessarily a bad thing because it helps with the transition between main characters. Though the cadence doesn’t change, the characters’ thought processes are consistent with their personalities and perspectives, so it’s like an actor performing multiple roles. If you like the actor, you’re inclined to like the movie, but if the actor becomes someone new, it’s stellar.

Back to the book, I didn’t walk into the read with preconceptions beyond who the narrator was. If I read the blurb, it was long enough ago that I don’t remember. Everything unfolded as a surprise, something I think made the book stronger as I didn’t walk in waiting for her mission to begin.

I couldn’t help comparing Antimony to Verity (since Antimony did). I saw similarities where Antimony saw examples of how she was better than her sister. For example, Verity does ballroom dance competitions on TV heavily disguised. Antimony skates for a roller derby team as herself or close to it. Both are in the public eye, even if the derby audience is smaller, but then Antimony doesn’t disguise herself either.

Yes, I’m talking about severe sibling rivalry. It forms an underlying thread throughout the novel, but remember what I said about growing up? I’ll say no more for fear of spoilers, but I enjoyed this arc when I thought it would be the most annoying part of the book.

In keeping with the rest of the series, personhood is an important theme as well, but it takes some interesting twists in this one thanks to the Covenant involvement. Oh, and the glimpse under the Big Top and into the carnie life was wonderful. I say this as someone who has read a lot of carnival/circus books because part of me always wanted to run away and join the circus.

There’s even a complicated love story in the mix with Sam, who may have become my favorite character, though Mindy (an Aeslin mouse) might have that title. I went from finding Antimony annoying to enjoying the book enough to read Antimony’s next book (in paper even as that’s what we have).

The book offers many wonderful characters to love, hate, and even get red herringed by, but maybe the last is just the ever-hopeful me. The story puts Antimony through her paces not only physically but by challenging her to decide her own truths rather than blindly following what she’s been taught. It’s also fun and has feats of marksmanship, trampoline, and trapeze…not as separate as you might presume…so provides well-rounded entertainment on many levels.

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