That Ain’t Witchcraft by Seanan McGuire

That Ain't Witchcraft by Seanan McGuireAnnie (Antimony) is now officially my favorite Price of this generation and That Ain’t Witchcraft is officially my favorite of the series. Now you understand why I kept up the binge read, though it wasn’t why I started it and I wouldn’t have continued if the books showed the type of writing patterns that get too obvious. This is a five star book, something I use rarely, because it hit all my sweet spots. Please forgive me if this review has a little too much gush.

To get them out of the way, I’ll mention a few things to know.

This is an immediate follower to the previous one (Tricks for Free), though not in the time passes sense. However, there are quite a few quick catch-up passages in the first two chapters, allowing this to be an entry point into the series as well. If you’ve read the previous books recently, as I have, this is unnecessary recap. It’s flush with the tone of the series so wasn’t a problem except in that I was waiting to see what this story would be. Turns out it’s about getting a break, relaxing in hiding, and washing the dust of many roads off their feet… I bet you can guess how well that turns out.

I do think Cylia was cheated in the last. She burned a ton of good luck to get them to where they are in the middle of a nightmarish confrontation. Seems she deserves a refund.

In case you didn’t notice, especially when reading in eBook, there is a bonus novella at the end. It’s a beautiful story and well worth the read, but it was a little startling to have the main book end at around 80% because I didn’t realize the novella was there. It’s going to be a long year because while the book has a satisfying ending with a lovely epilogue, it didn’t go as far into what comes next as I thought it would (probably influenced by the amount remaining), and I want to know more.

Oh, and not really important or surprising, but I loved the pop (nerd?) culture references, and even better how they blended into the story and became relevant. Sam’s nature makes me love him, but he’s been a bit isolated so didn’t bring out this side of Annie. This is why a community is better than isolation. She’s able to express all sides of her, and that’s her true strength. She brings people together into a chosen family, each with their own strengths and weaknesses so they work better together than in isolation.

This book takes a sideways look at the whole personhood theme I read the series for. The emphasis is more on working against evil, but the underlying theme is still present with an interesting development that may bear fruit sometime in the future. There is one jarring note when Annie sets the first human she killed (two books ago) as somehow more significant than the non-humans despite being equally dangerous to all sapient beings that aren’t human…and any humans related to a Price. It’s a passing comment so might not mean what it seems to say. The novella squashes that as a theme quite thoroughly, BTW. Thank you, Shelby.

Annie has become everything I click with beyond the one stumble on personhood trumps species. I don’t know how much was her growing on me, or just her growing, but that’s how she became my favorite. She’s determined to give people a chance, to love them and accept them into her chosen family as long as they’re willing to do the same. Those who are not willing she’ll defend her family against to the end of time, all the while trying to show the willful doubters the errors of their ways.

I love how Annie understands Fern and why friends are so important to the sylph. Her relationship struggles with Sam are poignant and true to the kinds of adaptations necessary to become a couple, though they face more challenges than most because of Annie’s self-appointed position as savior of the world. It’s a family tradition, sure, but she owns it. She always tries to give her friends an out, to let them choose not to follow her down the path to almost certain destruction. But when they disagree, as you have to know they will, she accepts their help and is happy for it. Her ability to recognize not just the magic/cryptid situation, but the life conflicts is definitely one of her strengths.

I hope this gives you some sense of why I loved this story, though it’s hard to talk around all the potential spoilers. Not even counting the fun geek references and word play, this is a wonderful book with harsh moments as well as lighter ones. It’s the kind of tale that seeps into your bones and makes you face the hard questions while entertaining you enough that you don’t want it to end…even for the treat of a bonus novella.

P.S. I received this book from the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review…though our copy is on its way because not talking about those fun moments with my husband is killing me.

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