Seanan McGuire does an excellent job of bringing in new elements with each book to keep the InCryptid series fresh while still providing a mix of humor and tense, even terrifying, moments. This is all wrapped up in a clear assessment of people as sapient beings who do not go out of their way to spread murder and mayhem. Monsters, on the other hand, are those that do. For example, fanatical Covenant members who can’t be taught. They don’t show up in this book but the message of sapients is very strong.
I hadn’t realized Shelby’s distrust stretched further than cuckoos, but then, she proved very teachable in the previous book. The Thirty Sixers, however, are another story. Meaning they faced a werewolf invasion with no non-mammalian assistance and so no one immune to the virus. This is something Alex has to work around, but there are other parts of how the organization works he feels could strengthen his own family’s approaches. That’s good, because in some ways, Alex came across as an arrogant know-it-all, and sometimes that was deliberate. Whether he deserved to do so, you’ll have to decide for yourself.
The story is a nice blend of cryptozoology and people stuff. Turns out one of the many, though perhaps the most pressing, dangers on the Australian continent is Shelby’s not so welcoming family. Beyond her two sisters and parents, though, the cast includes Aeslin mice, Thirty Sixers of many generations and ethnic backgrounds, and a few extras thrown in, mostly by Alex. I absolutely loved Helen, but you’ll have to read the book to understand who she is and why I say that.
This book has excellent conflict escalation. Just when you think you’ve found the “big bad” situation, something new comes up to change things around. This is where Alex’s nature shines as he struggles between “have to deal with this crisis” usually violently and “I really want to learn all about it/you.” His assessments did get a little repetitive in one situation toward the end, but such a small hiccup didn’t tarnish my enjoyment one bit. More a distracting feeling of deja vu. I do wonder whether Australians will applaud or scorn the portrayal of their country. It could go either way.
There’s no question I’m hooked. I’m committed to this series, and finally get what my husband and son were going on about. I enjoyed the first book and the second, but Alex clicks with me as a narrator more than Verity did. Even without his personality, though, the stories are compelling. Along with the grand and harrowing adventure, there’s an underlying philosophy I can stand behind and a wry understanding of humanity that could be used as a manual for our improvement as a species. Especially with regards to the other creatures, sapient or not, we have and will encounter.
There isn’t much more I can say without spoiling, so I’ll leave you with a firm endorsement and a quote from Pocket Apocalypse that says volumes about humanity without revealing a thing:
…if there’s one thing people are good at, it’s projecting their own distorted desires onto the animal kingdom.