Monday, March 18, 2013

Review: Midnight Blue-Light Special by Seanan McGuire

Midnight Blue-Light Special
Cryptid, noun:
1. Any creature whose existence has been suggested but not proven scientifically. Term officially coined by cryptozoologist John E. Wall in 1983.
2. That thing that's getting ready to eat your head.
3. See also: "monster."

The Price family has spent generations studying the monsters of the world, working to protect them from humanity--and humanity from them. Enter Verity Price. Despite being trained from birth as a cryptozoologist, she'd rather dance a tango than tangle with a demon, and when her work with the cryptid community took her to Manhattan, she thought she would finally be free to pursue competition-level dance in earnest. It didn't quite work out that way...

But now, with the snake cult that was killing virgins all over Manhattan finally taken care of, Verity is ready to settle down for some serious ballroom dancing—until her on-again, off-again, semi-boyfriend Dominic De Luca, a member of the monster-hunting Covenant of St. George, informs her that the Covenant is on their way to assess the city's readiness for a cryptid purge. With everything and everyone she loves on the line, there's no way Verity can take that lying down.

Alliances will be tested, allies will be questioned, lives will be lost, and the talking mice in Verity's apartment will immortalize everything as holy writ--assuming there's anyone left standing when all is said and done. It's a midnight blue-light special, and the sale of the day is on betrayal, deceit...and carnage.
I loved the world that Seanan McGuire created as a setting for her InCryptid urban fantasy series. Verity as the central figure of the first book Discount Armageddon was a refreshing delight and her adoring colony of Aeslin mice, particularly memorable. I couldn't wait to get my hands on the second book of the series Midnight Blue-Light Special, and read it as soon as it released.

This adventure begins when Verity's Covenant sort-of-enemy with benefits Dominic De Luca warns her that the Covenant of St. George is sending agents to evaluate how ready New York City may be for a cryptid purge. He wants her to run, but she's not about to leave people she has come to love behind! She's a Price girl and Price girls don't run. Instead, Verity, Sarah, her cryptid friends and Uncle Mike who travels from Chicago as backup get ready for war and probable death. In the process Verity discovers who her friends are, that monsters are not always cryptids, and that family can sometimes be a real pain the neck!

In Midnight Blue-Light Special, Verity continues to be the kick-ass heroine of the piece with the delightful narrative voice that I loved in the first book even when the situation gets really hairy. She is young, fun, and bright. Verity is smart but there is a lightness about her character and the narration from her point of view that makes me smile. The same can be said for the much of the dialog that takes place between her and some of the secondary characters in the story. For example, we have Kitty, a bogeyman(woman) who owns the club where Verity works. She is a tough, scary negotiator, but wears fuzzy slippers and cartoon pajamas, and Istas, a waheela who loves to wear frilly clothes from top to bottom and talks of nothing but her love of carnage. And of course we have the Aeslin mice whose dialog consists of coming up with the best of Hails!
HAIL THE VISITATION OF THE GOD OF QUESTIONABLE MOTIVATIONS!
"Since Dominic's been sleeping with me, the mice have been trying various labels on him, looking for the one that fits. My personal favorite was the week they spent calling him "the God of Absolutely Never Smiling, No, Not Ever." 
Ahh, Dominic. In my review of Discount Armageddon, one of my niggles was the lack of in-depth information about Dominic's character and the speed with which Verity trusted him, particularly since he is a member of the Price's nemesis organization, the Covenant of St. George. In Midnight Blue-Light Special, Dominic's character plays a major role in what happens to Verity and in the outcome of the story. However, his page time is limited and I'm afraid that for me his character just never took off! There is growth to Dominic's character that the readers experience from Verity's and Sarah's perspectives. Unfortunately, I only connected with him on a superficial level.

That might have something to do with the fact that Verity shares much of this adventure with her cousin Sarah, the cuckoo. So, instead of focusing on Dominic, insight and characterization are focused on her. The story shifts to Sarah's point of view at about 60% of the book for a few chapters and then returns to Verity. Frankly I was not enamored of Sarah's narrative voice (probably due to the fact that for much of that time Sarah is panicked and unsure of herself), and feel that this shift interrupted the flow of the story. Don't get me wrong Sarah is nice, but she's no Verity.

The war between Verity, her crew, and the agents from the Covenant of St. George is well done and not over-the-top. McGuire's Covenant agents as villains are an interesting bunch. They believe they are doing the right thing in the name of God, while in reality their beliefs are a combination of bigotry and religious zealotry. They are willing to commit genocide (kill the 'monsters') to rid humanity of all those who are different, and 'monster-lovers' like the Price family become traitors to humanity. This straight forward us against them type of human conflict works well with this light series. It also provides the action and necessary, contrasting dark moments to make this urban fantasy piece work.

Regardless of my niggles, I enjoyed Midnight Blue-Light Special. Verity and her amazing cast of cryptid and human secondary characters are a joy and yes, I finished the book with a smile on my face. If you are ready to enjoy a fun, angst and emo free urban fantasy series, then this is it. The next two books of the series will focus on Alex, Verity's brother. I can't wait to meet him!

Category: Urban Fantasy
Series: InCryptids
Publisher/Release Date: DAW/March 5, 2013 - Kindle ed.
Grade: B

Visit Seanan McGuire here.

Series:
Discount Armageddon, #1
Midnight Blue-Light Special, #2

2 comments:

  1. Nice review, Hils! I just started this book and I'm curious :) I actually like Sarah, so perhaps I'll find her POV more interesting? But it's kind of weird to have a sudden change of POV. We'll see :)

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    1. Nath, Sarah is an interesting character and very nice too. For me it was a bit of a shock because I didn't expect it at all! And, her narrative voice is different from Verity's. Plus, I really would have preferred to know more about Dominic, so his POV would have been welcomed (my preference, though). :)

      I hope you enjoy this book. I was a bit torn on the grade BTW... I look forward to reading your thoughts on this second book.

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