Discount Armageddon is the first book in a brand new urban fantasy series called InCryptid by Seanan McGuire, New York Times bestselling author of the Toby Daye series. It will be released in both mass market paperback and ebook on March 6. The next book in the series, entitled Midnight Blue-Light Special, is scheduled for release in March 2013.
Discount Armageddon is about Verity Price, ballroom dancer and monster hunter. Dancing has always been Verity’s passion, but monster hunting has been the family trade for a very long time. Verity’s ancestors were members of the Covenant of St. George, an order dedicated to protecting humanity by destroying cryptids. Cryptids range from man-eating dragons to over-enthusiastic but otherwise harmless mice, and Verity’s family is no longer with the Covenant because they began to question whether or not it was really best that all cryptids be destroyed. It seemed to be more detrimental to exterminate some cryptids than it would have been to let them live, and the family decided to go their own way and follow their own rules when it came to dealing with cryptids. For this, they are seen as traitors and must try to remain in hiding from the Covenant as they continue to study cryptids – and keep them in check, at least when they consider it necessary to do so.
Despite her upbringing as a cryptid expert, Verity has always wanted a chance to be a professional ballroom dancer and even moved to New York City to pursue that career. Yet with her own colony of religious mice constantly hailing her as their priestess and steady rumors of monsters disrupting her city, it’s not always easy to dedicate herself to her passion. It’s especially hard once she discovers the unpleasant way – by dangling upside down in a mini skirt in a snare set by him – that a member of the Covenant, Dominic De Luca, is hunting monsters in her city. Verity can’t quite decide whether to be attracted to his good looks and skills with weaponry or be appalled by his righteous attitude and Covenant-held ideas. However, she’s going to have to learn to work with him when they realize cryptids are disappearing and it’s not because of either of them, leading them to believe something far worse than the common cryptid is at work.
Since Toby Daye is one of my favorite urban fantasy series and Seanan McGuire (as Mira Grant) wrote the only piece of zombie fiction I’ve ever actually enjoyed, I was really looking forward to Discount Armageddon. When starting a new series by an author whose other books I’ve enjoyed, I sometimes worry it will either be too much like the earlier books or too wildly different and won’t live up to my expectations. I think Discount Armageddon is just right, though. It manages to have the sense of humor and pacing expected by Toby Daye fans, but the world and characters are different enough that it doesn’t feel like it’s retreading old ground, either. It’s quite a strong start to the series and is much better than the first Toby Daye book. In fact, I think it’s about as good as the later Toby Daye books, and the only reason I don’t quite like it as much as the latter books in that series is that I don’t have the same investment in the characters yet that I do in that series.
There are two things that really make this book great aside from the wonderful sense of humor: the world and the Price family. As evidenced by the numerous pop culture references (and as is often the case with urban fantasy) it could almost be our world. Most of humanity is completely oblivious to the existence of cryptids and the work of the Covenant of St. George in trying to keep them under control. A lot of detail went into the different types of monsters and the various experiences the Price family has had with them. Not all of the cryptids are deadly monsters, though – for example, the Aeslin mice are just very noisy, very devout talking mice that enthusiastically celebrate religious ceremonies for events in the Price family. These observances range from the marriage of the Noisy Priestess to the God of Things That It Is Almost Certainly Better Not To Be Aware Of to the Holy Feast of I Swear, Daddy, I’ll Kiss the Next Man That Walks Through That Door. The Aeslin mice are partially responsible for Verity’s family’s split from the Covenant and its black and white rules regarding the lives of cryptids.
That brings me to the Price family and one of the things I kept thinking as I read this: I want to be Verity Price when I grow up. Here’s why:
1. She’s like a superhero, only better.
Better, only because she is like one but much more plausible. Any skills she has are real skills. She does freerunning on the roofs of New York City and carries knives under her clothes at all times, even if it’s a skimpy ballroom dancing dress she has to have specially made for concealing weapons. She does martial arts and can fight an army of Sleestaks. That’s not to say Verity is invincible by any means, but she certainly is talented.
2. Even with all her fighting prowess, Verity still has to use her brain to survive.
She can certainly hold her own in a fight, but she also has to use her brain and all the knowledge she’s gathered about the different cryptids to survive. Study and research is involved, not just kicking monster butt.
3. Verity doesn’t take herself too seriously.
Whether she’s hanging upside down in a mini-skirt or fighting lizard men in the sewers, she always has a sense of humor. It also comes through in her narrative voice, which is funny and engaging.
4. Being interesting runs in the family.
If the fact that her mother and grandmother go spelunking in hell didn’t convince me of this, the quotes from the various Price women at the beginning of each chapter would have.
In spite of loving all of the above, the book does have a few flaws. There was a lot of infodumping as Verity filled in pieces of her family history and explained the various monsters. However, it wasn’t really annoying infodumping because, while it may not be the smoothest writing, the history that was filled in was interesting and entertaining. There was some slight cheesiness, but it fit in well with the overall tone of the book (Dave’s Fish and Strips, the name of the strip club where Verity waited tables, is one example that springs to mind). The biggest problem I had with it was that I felt Verity and Dominic were a bit quick to come to the conclusion that they must work together considering they were enemies, but I can’t complain too much since I definitely enjoyed how it all played out (even if it was a bit predictable at times).
Discount Armageddon completely lived up to my expectations for a book written by Seanan McGuire. It is about on par with the later Toby Daye books in terms of enjoyment, even without the satisfaction of spending several books getting to know the characters. It’s entertaining, well-paced, and humorous with a memorable main character – and a memorable family, even though we haven’t really met most of them yet. I think I may have discovered my fourth urban fantasy series that I must keep up with.
My Rating: 8.5/10
Where I got my reading copy: ARC from the publisher at the request of the author.
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