Midnight Blue-Light Special is the second book in the InCryptid series by Seanan McGuire, following Discount Armageddon. The first two books in this urban fantasy series are set in New York City and follow the adventures of Verity Price, a young woman torn between her family calling of cryptozoology and her lifelong love of dancing. The next two InCryptid books will be about her brother Alex.
While Midnight Blue-Light Special could be read as a stand alone, it is a direct sequel to the first book and there may be spoilers for Discount Armageddon in this review. If you are new to this series, I’d recommend reading my review of Discount Armageddon instead of this one. It’s a better introduction to the series in general, and I also explain why I want to be Verity Price when I grow up (setting aside the fact that she’s technically younger than I am).
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.”
Long ago, Verity Price’s ancestors defected from the Covenant of St. George, an organization dedicated to eliminating cryptids from the world. They began to question whether or not there were cryptids worthy of preservation, and now they remove the destructive ones and protect those that aren’t particularly harmful (such as the enthusiastic, talkative, devoutly religious creatures known as the Aeslin mice). Since then, the Price family has lived in the United States in secret—that is, until the day Verity was captured by Dominic de Luca, a member of the Covenant of St. George. After an understandably rocky beginning, the two end up working together, and they’re kinda-sorta-dating by the beginning of Midnight Blue-Light Special, even if Verity is a bit unsure about just how far she can trust a member of the Covenant.
When Verity is working her shift one day, Dominic interrupts her at work, insisting he needs to speak with her immediately. He informs her that some members of the Covenant will be visiting New York City to check on him and begin purging the city of cryptids, and he warns Verity to leave the city before their imminent arrival. However, it’s impossible for Verity to remove all the cryptids in the city, and she refuses to flee when she may be able to help some of them. Even though she feels betrayed, she agrees to allow Dominic to assist her, but both Verity and Dominic have a choice to make. Neither can serve two masters forever—Dominic must choose to either continue to hold to his lifelong beliefs or embrace a new perspective (and Verity), and Verity’s year in New York City is nearing its end, meaning she must choose between her dedication to cryptozoology and her lifelong dream of professional dancing.
Like the first book in the series, Midnight Blue-Light Special is full of humor and Price family quips, but it is darker than its predecessor (though it hasn’t reached the same dark depths as McGuire’s other urban fantasy series, October Daye, so far). Some difficult decisions need to be made, there’s danger in spades, and some heartbreak. While I generally prefer darker books in which the characters are faced with tough choices, I think I had more fun with the first book since it introduced me to the world of the cryptids and the amazing Price family. I felt a bit like this second book didn’t provide any deeper exploration of the world and premise introduced in the first book. Despite feeling like the second installment didn’t expand on the first book as much as I’d like, I did enjoy it very much.
The one aspect that did seem further developed in this book was the characters. This was a book of choices for Verity, Sarah, and Dominic. For the most part, the choices they made weren’t particularly surprising to me, but I did enjoy getting to read more about Verity’s cousin Sarah, who has a point of view in this book (though I did find the parts containing her from Verity’s perspective more compelling and illuminating than her own viewpoint). I particularly love just how different Verity and Sarah are, and the type of “kickass” character Verity is. She is one of those characters who never leaves home without weapons hidden all over her person and has no qualms about jumping into a fight. Yet she is not all brawn without brains but a combination of both with a side of compassion. She’s a cryptozoologist who enjoys learning about the world and helping those around her. Also, while Verity will get involved in the action, she considers her situation first. When she’s in a tough spot, she doesn’t just fight her way out–she thinks of her best chances for success and she can exercise caution when necessary.
Sarah is a very different character from Verity and it not at all the type to want to be in the middle of the action. She has different strengths with her telepathic abilities and intelligence, and is capable of doing what she feels needs to be done. While she’s really not the main protagonist, in many ways this is Sarah’s book in the end. It’s about her, the strength she finds within, and the difficult choice she makes.
While I loved how Verity and Sarah were depicted as two very different personalities with different strengths, the romance didn’t entirely work for me since I don’t quite understand Verity’s attraction to Dominic. Apparently, he’s handsome and the two obviously have a bit in common since he could compete closely with Verity in a “Who Can Hide the Most Weapons on Their Person” contest. I can admire the fact that he can question his ingrained beliefs about cryptids enough to want to warn Verity to get out of New York City when others from his organization are coming, but it didn’t seem like his character was developed all that much more in the second book than the first. These thoughts may be based on unfair comparisons since Tybalt from McGuire’s October Daye series oozes with charisma and only gets better as a character as the series progresses. I think I found it easier not to compare the two with the first book because I was interested to see where Dominic’s character ended up, but I didn’t learn much more about him in this book than the first, nor was I given any hints to wonder about him. This is perfectly reasonable given the structure of the InCryptid books. After all, the series isn’t all about Dominic and Verity; it would be a bit frustrating to have burning questions only to have the next books focus on a different character!
Despite some misgivings about the romance, I did really enjoy how Verity and Dominic’s relationship was not weighed down by unnecessary drama. Since Dominic is part of an organization that is an enemy of Verity’s family, there’s plenty of opportunity for this, especially when he comes to her at the beginning of the book to warn her about the upcoming visit by other Covenant members. Verity’s first reaction is to tell him to get out since she feels betrayed. She’s upset by this for a little while, but once it’s pointed out to her that Dominic seemed to be concerned about her and might be willing to work with her to minimize the damage to the cryptid population, she actually listens to this advice. Verity decides this is the reasonable thing to do. This could have quite easily turned into a Big Angsty Book where she refused to talk to Dominic to increase the tension, but it did not. I rather liked that there wasn’t a lot of drama between them because of this, and the focus was on Dominic’s choice between the Covenant and Verity rather than a spat between Dominic and Verity over their arrival, which he had no control over.
Like its predecessor, Midnight Blue-Light Special is humorous and highly entertaining without a dull moment. While I wanted to see the premise of the first book built on a little more in the second book, I thought it did a great job with a kickass main protagonist who had strengths beyond her fighting ability as well as a quieter character with inner strength. I also enjoyed that it got a bit darker and the stakes were higher for the characters, and I’m certainly looking forward to reading more in this series.
My Rating: 7.5/10
Where I got my reading copy: ARC from the author.
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