Magic For Nothing (InCrypid book 6) by Seanan McGuire (book review)

June 21, 2017 | By | Reply More

There are two ways of tackling a series of books involving the same group of characters. One method is to stick with one or two individuals and weave every story around them, following them as their lives are changed by events. This is the approach taken by Charlaine Harris in the ‘Sookie Stackhouse’ books and Laurel K. Hamilton in the ‘Anita Blake’ novels. The danger is that as the characters develop, the reader may lose touch with what has gone before and someone new to the series could have a problem relating to the set-up, even if each story is a relatively discrete adventure.

The other approach, favoured by Lynsay Sands with her ‘Argeneau’ books and Nalini Singh with her Psi-Changeling’ books, is to have a different character from a familiar community take centre stage in each novel. This way, the reader is discovering the main participants for the first time, even though they may have been mentioned in passing in earlier volumes. A newcomer can pick up any of the series and not feel totally lost. This is also the approach Seanan McGuire takes in her ‘InCryptid’ series of novels.

In the world of this series, there are a range of supernatural creatures, some familiar such as dragons, ghouls and basilisks, others with much stranger abilities. All of them, whether benign or not, are branded monsters by the Covenant of St George, which has its headquarters in England. Their raison d’être is to search out and kill monsters. One branch of the leading family, decided that not all these supernatural people or cryptids were dangerous and shouldn’t be destroyed gratuitously. The Price family mostly lives quietly in America, out of sight of the Covenant. That is until an incident at a TV studio causes Verity Price to publically declare war on the Covenant. As a result, the family need to know what the Covenant are planning.

‘Magic For Nothing’ is Antimony Price’s story. Antimony or Annie is the youngest member of the family and has so far fretted about not being able to take part in any missions. She’s been kept safely at home for her own protection. Now she is sent undercover as the one who looks physically least like the rest of the family and, therefore, least likely to be recognised. Her aim is to be recruited into the Covenant with a cover story of wanting to kill monsters, like the ones that killed her ‘family’. The cover story allows her to use skills she has developed, so when the Covenant want her to infiltrate a carnival back in America as an observer, she has no problem. She is an expert knife thrower and no slouch on the trapeze. The quandary is that the Covenant wants her to pin-point the ‘monsters’ while she needs to find a way of keeping them safe.

This is a fast-paced action novel and Annie is a believable character, a young woman at an age where she has to learn to stand on her own, without the fall-back she is used to. Sam, the grandson of the owner of the carnie she is sent to infiltrate, is delightful. He is one of the cryptids she wants to protect, being half-furi, able to shape shift between human and simian form. The stars though are the Aeslin mice. These sentient creatures, one of which accompanies Annie on her journey, not only worship humans but possess total recall so will be able to report back to the family precisely, especially if anything happens to Annie.

Despite being the sixth book in the series, it is totally accessible to readers who are unfamiliar with the sequence. Fun to read.

Pauline Morgan

June 2017

(pub: DAW, New York. 342 page paperback. Price: $7.99 (US), $10.99 (CAN), £ 6.40 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-7564-1039-1)

check out website: www.dawbooks.com

Category: Books, Fantasy

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