Discount Armageddon, Midnight Blue-Light Special, and Half-Off Ragnarok, by Seanan McGuire

The third book in Seanan McGuire's InCryptid series hit bookstores last week, making it officially Way Past Time for me to feature this fantastic (in all senses of the word) urban fantasy series on the site. Do your best to ignore the cover art—I promise this isn't a R-rated story about an anime schoolgirl gone rogue—and believe me when I say this series is wildly fun.

The first two installments, Discount Armageddon and Midnight Blue-Light Special, center around Verity Price, a professional ballroom dancer with a dangerous secret: she comes from a long line of cryptozoologists hell-bent on protecting the world's supernatural population from humanity (and vice versa). Verity specializes in urban monsters, and spends her time encouraging New York's “cryptids” to stay out of trouble, working as a cocktail waitress in a bogeyman-owned strip club, and squeezing in a little ballroom dancing on the side. In Half-Off Ragnarok, the story shifts to Verity's older brother Alex, who studies reptilian cryptids in the Midwest: giant snakes, monster worms, basilisks. He's already having trouble balancing his secret career with his official one (as a reptile specialist at an Ohio zoo), and things get considerably more complicated when dead bodies start turning up in the zoo's flower beds.

Discount Armageddon and Midnight Blue-Light Special are first-rate fantasy/action stories, with marvelously weird supporting characters, a richly developed world, and a heroine who's smart, brave, and funny. Seriously, I would happily read a dozen more Verity adventures. They don't even have to be sequels; McGuire makes it clear that Verity's life as a ballroom-dancing cryptozoologist was pretty damn exciting long before the events of the first book, and will undoubtedly continue to be just as thrilling long after the series is over.

Alex's story, while still pretty great, slips a few rungs down the entertainment ladder. Half-Off Ragnarok is dogged by one exceptionally weak ongoing plot point—that a pair of bizarre murders committed using an “unknown chemical agent” (read: the work of a rampaging cockatrice) at a popular zoo wouldn't attract national media attention. Riiiight. I was also annoyed by the fact that while both of Verity's adventures ended with her being knocked out, kidnapped, stripped naked, and rescued by her allies, Alex's story concluded with his girlfriend being kidnapped, while he got to do the rescuing. Considering how awesomely girl-friendly the series had been up to that point, the contrast was jarring.

Happily, this second problem is totally fixable. Alex is going to anchor the next book in the series, so all McGuire has to do is make sure the poor man ends up nude, knocked out, and/or tied up, and I'm happy again. (Ideally, he would appear on the cover in a ridiculous outfit, to match his love interest's cleavage-bearing jumpsuit, but I'll take what I can get.) Again, I want to emphasize that the female characters in these books are total badasses, and all I'm asking is that their male counterparts end up in equally sticky situations. It seems only fair.
Posted by: Julianka


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