I read the first book in this series when Seanan McGuire was the author guest of honor at BayCon quite a few years back, but reading in paper is hard for me so I never read the others my husband and sons collected. This is important because, thanks to the 2018 Hugos, I received eBook copies of the whole series. I didn’t have time to read them before the ceremony, but I’m starting to now. The amazing part is how easy it was to drop back into that world. I recognized the characters, their relationships, and the alternate view of our world.
Seanan McGuire is a talented storyteller, able to bring a world to life. Verity is brash, foolhardy, and abrasive, but at the same time, she makes the hard decisions out of a fanatical belief in personhood. If you’re a person, and don’t endanger the lives of others, she’ll defend you to her last breath. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a dragon, a gorgon, a cuckoo…or a human. She judges people based on their actions, even making room for a disciple of the Covenant of St. George when he shows the ability to recognize people who have little in common with him.
Take a moment to think about that. It shouldn’t be amazing, but it is.
I was looking for a quick, fun read, and I got it. The book took little time to focus on the messages underlying it, leaving them for readers to find. Instead, Midnight Blue-Light Special shares the narrative between Verity, defender of all persons, and Sarah, her cuckoo adopted cousin, for reasons I cannot reveal. They have similar, but different perspectives on events, adding to the layers in the narrative. These two take the reader on a fast-paced, knuckle-biting run through the streets (and rooftops) of New York City with the lives of every cryptid on the line. There are gut-wrenching moments of almost every kind; battles of will, mind, and body; and even a love story or two.
As much as I enjoyed the story, the characters are probably my favorite part. Verity and Sarah, of course, but also the Aeslin mice who can talk…and do…who are the natural documentarians of all things Verity. Then there’s Dominic, the aforementioned Covenant disciple, who is still a bit of a rough diamond, but he’s getting there on the personhood thing. It’s hard to overcome training from birth that anything non-human should be killed on sight. Oh, and Islas, a socialized waheela, who loves to put lace on her goth clothing and is eager for carnage…but only appropriate carnage.
These are but an introduction to the broad, and disparate, cast. How the author makes it work appeals to me. The book touches on cross-cultural communication issues in both spoken and body language cues. Each interaction teaches us something about the various people and shows them to be distinct rather than humans in cryptid clothing, even for those who can pass as human without trying.
It’s a complex world peopled with fascinating characters and a clear understanding of the line between dangerous fanatic and one who’s driven to help those in need. Layer a story on top of that already strong basis that has twists and turns, and a satisfying ending that doesn’t come without its costs. I was hooked enough to delay my review so I could finish this rather than let another book distract me.
Note: There’s a limited encyclopedia in the back along with a suggested playlist to enhance your reading experience. You can also visit the Field Guide to the Cryptids of North America on her website for detailed descriptions and fun illustrations. The Price family takes its job as cryptozoologists seriously.