Review

Magic for Nothing by Seanan McGuire

“As the youngest of the three Price children, Antimony is used to people not expecting much from her. She’s been happy playing roller derby and hanging out with her cousins, leaving the globe-trotting to her older siblings while she stays at home and tries to decide what she wants to do with her life. She always knew that one day, things would have to change. She didn’t think they’d change so fast.

Annie’s expectations keep getting shattered. She didn’t expect Verity to declare war on the Covenant of St. George on live television. She didn’t expect the Covenant to take her sister’s threat seriously. And she definitely didn’t expect to be packed off to London to infiltrate the Covenant from the inside…but as the only Price in her generation without a strong resemblance to the rest of the family, she’s the perfect choice to play spy. They need to know what’s coming. Their lives may depend on it.

But Annie has some secrets of her own, like the fact that she’s started setting things on fire when she touches them, and has no idea how to control it. Now she’s headed halfway around the world, into the den of the enemy, where blowing her cover could get her killed. She’s pretty sure things can’t get much worse.

Antimony Price is about to learn just how wrong it’s possible for one cryptozoologist to be.”

This is my least favorite of the Incryptid books so far.  Now, that’s not saying anything too bad, because I did still like this book and enjoy it.  It is not, however, one that I found completely un-put-downable.  My standards have gotten pretty high when I see that Seanan McGuire has authored a book, so maybe I’m being too picky, but again, I expect a lot from one of her books.

One of the things I like the most about McGuire’s prose is her ability to create memorable characters.  In this series, the main characters have consistently been not only well-fleshed out in their own right, but they’ve also been meticulously fitted to the family they come from.  Let me give you an example: Verity, star of the first book, is encountered mostly on her own in New York, but her status as a member of the Price family is solid.  She may not live with them—or even near them—but she’s in close enough communication with them and references them enough that you get the sense of a cohesive group.  The same goes for Alex, who takes the stage in book three.  His love of herpetology fits with the main plot but also hearkens back to his family’s love of (and protection of) cryptids.

Antimony just didn’t live up to that standard, in my opinion.  Being in an “undercover” role, she has almost no communication with her family beyond a couple of contacts with one of the family’s ghosts.  Her memories are mostly focused on her time spent with the Campbell family carnival, during which time she was away from the rest of the Price clan.  Maybe this wouldn’t have stood out to me so much if this story had been written earlier in the series, but after five previous novels with strong family connections, I felt that the lack was noticeable.

I also had a bit of an issue with Antimony’s self-identifying as a “derby girl”—she’s into roller derby in a big way.  Although we do see a short scene of her at a derby practice at the start of the story, her actual participation in a derby never comes up again.  We see her doing all kinds of acrobatics, but no skating.  This is in stark contrast to Verity’s ballroom dancing, which is always significantly present, or Alex’s love of all things reptilian.  Again, in many ways this departure from previous form is dictated by the plot, but it wasn’t something I was as fond of.

Beyond that, as an entry into this series, I liked it well enough.  The pacing is good, the setting is unique, and the rest of the cast gets just enough fleshing out to work well with the main character.  We get to encounter a few more kinds of cryptids and have some encounters with the Covenant of St. George up close and personal.  And as usual, the Aeslin mice are adorable.

The Price family tale gets more and more complicated as the novels unfold, and I’m eager to see where things go in the next book, Tricks for Free.  Honestly, your mileage may vary on the character issues that I grumbled about, but I doubt you’ll take issue with the plot or storytelling.

This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

(Description nicked from Goodreads.com.)

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