Sunday 15 April 2018

#CBR10 Book 29: "Discount Armageddon" by Seanan McGuire

Page count: 368 pages
Rating: 4 stars

From Goodreads, because I'm really far behind on my reviews, and it's a good summary of the book:

Ghoulies. Ghosties. Long-legged beasties. Things that go bump in the night...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 is spending a year in Manhattan while she pursues her career in professional ballroom dance. Sounds pretty simple, right?

It would be, if it weren't for the talking mice, the telepathic mathematicians, the asbestos supermodels, and the trained monster-hunter sent by the Price family's old enemies, the Covenant of St. George. When a Price girl meets a Covenant boy, high stakes, high heels, and a lot of collateral damage are almost guaranteed. To complicate matters further, local cryptids are disappearing, strange lizard-men are appearing in the sewers, and someone's spreading rumours about a dragon sleeping underneath the city...

After it took me a few books to really get into it, I have been a huge fan of Seanan McGuire's October Daye series for many years. I was aware that she had written other paranormal fantasy books as well, but somehow never really felt the need to check them out (partially because of the dreadful outfit that the woman on the cover - who I now know is supposed to be Verity - is wearing). Also, I think I skimmed a blurb for this years ago and must have noticed the ballroom dancing more than the monster hunting. I was missing out. Only after my former Cannonball rival, now good online friend Jen K mentioned having blazed through the first three books in this series in about two days and really enjoying them (she's now read the entire series to date) was my interest peaked enough and checking my LibraryThing, I had in fact bought the first book on sale a while back (this is frequently the case - since I started reading and buying e-books, I own way more books than I can easily keep track of, hence the need for a digital archive). Since I have a baby, I can't really read three books in two days, but I did finish this one in about 24 hours.

I suspect fans of Supernatural would love these books. The first book is absolutely more light-hearted than the October Daye books, and Verity is a slightly more cheerful heroine. While ending up in danger, she's also not quite as near-death-prone as dear Toby. Verity is subletting an apartment from a Sasquatch and working part-time as a waitress in a strip joint run by a bogeyman. When not waitressing or trying to make it professionally as a ballroom dancer, she free runs across the rooftops of New York and tries to keep the cryptid (a nicer term than monster) population safe from humans and vice versa. Three generations ago, her family left the secret organisation known as the Covenant of St. George, a bunch of indiscriminate monster hunters (their motto seems to be: if it isn't human, it should probably be eradicated) because of a difference in ideology. Now they are on the Covenant's most wanted list, so Verity needs to keep her real identity secret. Her family believe that as long as cryptids are not a danger to their local eco system, they should be allowed to live and let live. This doesn't mean that Verity isn't trained in a range of combat styles and can use bladed weapons and firearms extremely well to protect herself and to take out cryptid threats.

While out on patrol one evening, she ends up in in a snare, discovering that the Covenant of St. George has sent a representative, Dominic de Luca, to the city to check whether the city needs a purge or not. The Covenant is bad news for cryptids and for members of the Price family, but after some negotiation, Verity and Dominic agree on an uneasy truce. Single, female cryptids keep disappearing, however, and initially, Verity suspects the Covenant agent of killing them, while Dominic thinks Verity has been warning them, so they've fled town. Once they realise that neither is to blame, but some kind of third party, they agree to work together to find out who's actually to blame.

It's obvious to anyone who's ever read a single romantic narrative that Verity and Dominic, especially because they start out as bitter enemies, at least on paper, are probably going to end up falling for one another. Dominic is initially rather stuffy and has pretty much been raised by a cult whose told him that anything not human is evil, so it takes him a little while to loosen up, but the longer he and Verity work together, the more he comes around to her way of thinking (there is also historical precedent for that - one of Verity's ancestors also ended up with the Covenant agent sent to bring her down).

Now that I've finally started these books, I'm both sad that it took me so long, and glad, because now there are seven books in the series so far (as well as a lot of novellas and short stories, McGuire is always big on fleshing out her world-building with bonus short fiction) and lots for me to read before I have to wait for new releases. It's always fun to find a new paranormal/urban fantasy series to binge-read and these are going to keep me busy for a while to come.

Judging a book by its cover: Oh, this cover. An athletic blonde in a minuscule parody of a schoolgirl's outfit. In pink. Now that I've read the book, I know that it's a very appropriate cover, and portrays Verity pretty perfectly. The awful outfit is what she's forced to wear while waitressing at the strip club and having her sit on a rooftop with a gun, a sword strapped to her back, is also perfectly within the realms of what she does in her spare time. But I am not going to lie, as I mentioned in the review above, I totally judged this book and avoided it for years, despite really liking the October Daye series, simply because I thought the cover was so awful.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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