Saturday, March 2, 2013

Family Feuds... and the Family You Choose


The world is full of things we know about... and things about which we know jack. For instance, I know a lot about cats, a respectable amount about fitness, and next-to-nothing about, oh, wild boars. Or jai alai. (Or how to chop an onion into neat little pieces rather than hideously mangling it, but that’s another story.) 

For the most part, it’s okay not understanding everything; I’m fine with my ignorance of meaner-than-snot hogs and weird handball offshoots (although I do secretly envy those who’ve mastered slicing-and-dicing).  

Now, let’s take monsters. They’re everywhere (remember the bogeyman who slithered from your closet to under your bed in the dark every night? or the Tooth Fairy, who only left you money when you placed your sacrifice--a bloody tooth--under your pillow?), but given that most people allow themselves to forget about all the things that go bump in the night once they’re adults, our knowledge of monsters is sadly lacking. 

That’s where cryptozoologists come in; they’re the studiers of all things cryptid (a fancy-pants word for monster)... scientists whose expertise lies in knowing about what lurks in dark corners, hides in nooks and crannies, and occasionally passes itself off as being just like you and me.

Problem is, the majority of “us” aren’t really ready to know about “them”... which is one reason why cryptozoologist Verity Price (hailing--as we learned last year in Seanan McGuire’s new-Urban-Fantasy-series-debut-with-a-bullet Discount Armageddon [see my review here if you haven’t read it!]--from a very long line of cryptozoologists) doesn’t publish the results of her work in scientific journals or go on any talk shows, but rather, keeps it all on the down-low.

But, it’s the other reason for her clandestine work--the ancient European order of cryptid hunters known as the Covenant, who are out to exterminate not only all monsters from the face of the earth, but her own family, as well--that’s keeping Verity on her toes (well, that and the competitive Latin ballroom dancing she tries to squeeze in whenever possible)... and never more so than in this year’s sequel(-with-a-dozen-sheathed-knives), Midnight Blue-light Special.

~ / ~ / ~ / ~ / ~

After successfully managing to extricate herself and several cryptid friends from being made sacrifice to the last known male dragon living (that would be William, currently residing in the bowels of NYC’s somewhat-less-than-salubrious underground) by his nearly-unstoppable army of fertile females, things have been going almost swimmingly for Verity. She’s been maintaining the peace around the city, and has added “choreographer” to her list of duties at the now-trendy-ish T&A bar (newly-dubbed the Freakshow) where she still works in order to pay the bills. Even her love life has seen a little upswing, as she counts Dominic (conflicted Covenant agent on assignment in the States) her on-again, off-again boyfriend. (The only thing not going so well is her ballroom dancing, for which she just can’t find enough time.)

Everything changes when a freaked-out Dominic tells her he has some bad news. It seems a contingent from Covenant HQ has planned a little trip to the Big Apple to check up on his progress... and their arrival is imminent. 

The problem (in case you haven’t guessed) is that Dominic has fudged all of his reports to the home office; he claims to be busy ridding the city left and right of evil cryptids (which, if you’re Covenant, means ALL cryptids), when the opposite is true. His superiors won’t be pleased (to put it mildly). Worse, the fate of every monster who’s made NYC home will be at stake, because when the Covenant comes to town, they follow a strict policy of slash-&-burn, kill-on-sight-until-dead.

Even though Dominic gave her the heads up, part of Verity can’t help but wonder if he’s really on her side, or if it’s all an elaborate act... or how long he’ll be able to last once the Covenant learns the truth. 

With less than twenty-four hours before the apocalypse shows up--and no way to get everyone safely out of Dodge by then--Verity, her cryptid cousin Sarah, and her friends (adopted family, really) at the Freakshow and around town go to ground and settle in for what promises to be an epic fight (as all battles with evil hate-mongers tend to be).

~ / ~ / ~ / ~ / ~

Whether writing under her own name or the pseudonym Mira Grant, common themes prevail in McGuire’s works: family (and the knowledge that blood or marriage aren’t guaranteed be-all, end-alls when it comes to same) versus the “family” of friends you cobble together along the road of life; coming to terms with differences; knowing when to stand up for something (regardless of how many or few are on your side); and accepting that you’re not an island, that sometimes you need a little help. Simple ideas? Perhaps... yet their execution never fails to strike a chord, make my heart race, and suck me in, as I hold my breath (cross my fingers, send good vibes out into the universe, etc.) for a good outcome. (And no, there isn’t always one, because that’s not life... and life, at the core, is what McGuire writes about... she just peppers it with pretty fairy wings, snarling teeth and stiletto-like claws, tricky sea creatures, Cats who will be King, devoutly-religious mice, and a zombie or three.)  

Midnight Blue-light Special isn’t just another hold-your-breath-and-jump-off-the-ledge, free-running thrill ride (with dragons! bogeymen! and more!), but is something that grabs you by the guts and puts you through the wringer... while never losing touch with your brain or your heart. With some surprising twists along the way--plus a very clever ending--it just doesn’t get much better than this. Or, as Verity’s delightful Aeslin mice might say, “HAIL! HAIL THE BRILLIANCE OF THE AUTHORIAL PRIESTESS!”. :)


GlamKitty Catnip Mousie Rating:  ALL the Mousies

Note: Midnight Blue-Light Special is set to release March 5, 2013...