Thursday 19 April 2018

#CBR10 Book 30: "Midnight Blue-Light Special" by Seanan McGuire

Page count: 368 pages
Rating: 4 stars

This is the second book in the series. There may be some mild spoilers for the first book, Discount Armageddon, in this review.

Set a few months after the events in the previous book, Verity Price is still trying to make it as a ballroom dancer, while also trying to study all manner of supernatural beings, all while keeping humanity in general from finding out about them. After her former boss' niece took over the club where she worked as a waitress, turning it into more of a burlesque than a strip club, Verity also gets to dance more. Then Dominic de Luca, her sort-of boyfriend shows up and pretty much asks her to pack up and leave town as soon as possible. The Covenant of St. George are sending three representatives to the city to ascertain whether they should start a purge, and they will realise that Dominic has been lying to them. If they discover that his previously rigid views on cryptids has been swayed by a member of the renegade Price family (who they would hunt down and eradicate if they knew any were still alive), they will be ruthless.

Despite Dominic's dire warnings, Verity isn't about to jump ship and leave all the various cryptids she knows in the lurch. Instead she does what she can to warn all of them to lay low, and sets up a sort of safe house for several of the ones who can't easily pass for human. She's worried about Dominic and about where his true loyalties lie. Can he - will he - give up on a lifetime of training and the people who raised him to help her? All of this becomes secondary when an agent of the Covenant manages to capture Verity - now the issue becomes whether her years of training is good enough to withstand the torture and questioning from the Covenant and whether she can escape before they break her and make her reveal the truth about her family and her cryptid friends.

The tone of this book is quite a lot darker than in Discount Armageddon, which despite the somewhat tense final act was more of an adventure romp. Verity gives some background on the Covenant of St. George in the first book, as well as info on her family's history with the group. However, as the only member we meet is Dominic, who is relatively quickly swayed by Verity's arguments about cryptids not all being monsters, we don't really get the full picture of what the organisation's members are like and how single minded they can be.

As it turns out, one of the Covenant agents sent to New York is from the branch of the family that defected a few generations ago, and she is out for vengeance for the loss of status her family suffered since then. When she gets her hands on Verity, she's not exactly gentle. Verity, in turn, has her physical and mental strength tested to its fullest, trying to outsmart the Covenant and escape before they can torture her into revealing everything she knows.

While Verity is captured, some of the chapters are narrated by Verity's cousin by adoption, Sarah, who's not human, but a cryptid known colloquially as a cuckoo. They are telepathic, extremely intelligent and usually completely sociopathic. Sarah is only different because she was raised to have a conscience. Normally studying higher mathematics in New York, she is determined to help out when Verity is captured, no matter how scared she is, although her task is made more difficult since she can't telepathically reach Verity. Getting further insight into Sarah was good, and I also liked the added presence of some of Verity's co-workers/allies, especially Istas the waheela (an Inuit shapeshifter who really likes to rend and tear things).

The next two books in the series are about Verity's older brother, Alex. While sometimes a series can work with different narrators (Kelley Armstrong's Women of the Otherworld springs to mind), I'm slightly torn about this too, as I wanted more about Verity and Dominic before giving up on them.

Judging a book by its cover: This cover isn't exactly exciting, but it's not as actively off-putting as the one for book 1 either. It's nice to see both Verity and Sarah on the cover, as Sarah plays a really important part in the second half of the book. And at least both of them are dressed normally, instead of showing ridiculous amounts of skin.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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