I’m not an expert on paranormal romance versus urban fantasy, especially when the book seems to land right on the border of those two sub-genres. Based on the sexiness of the female hero, the hotness quotient of the boyfriend/adversary, the quality of the sex (steamy!) and the speed at which, after that first passionate connection, they are arguing again (mere minutes!) I’m categorizing Discount Armageddon as paranormal romance (PR). I’m also categorizing it as fun.
Seanan McGuire is one of the busiest writers in the field; she writes urban fantasy (the OCTOBER DAYE series), SF-horror under the name of Mira Grant, and paranormal romance, as well as novellas and shorter fiction. Discount Armageddon may suffer slightly from McGuire’s workload; there are places where it is repetitive and descriptions are shorthanded. Overall though, McGuire adds original touches that make this book sparkle, and I’ll get to those in a minute.
Verity Price is part of the large Price family. Several generations ago, the Prices were part of the Covenant of St George, an organization dedicated to killing off all creatures they defined as cryptid, creatures whose existence is suggested anecdotally but not yet proven scientifically — or, as the Covenant calls them, monsters. The Price family realized that the Covenant was failing to look at each species on its merits as it committed genocide, and they left the Covenant. Now they are branded as traitors by that group; they work with some human-like cryptids, but aren’t completely trusted by them either. Verity, who lives and works in New York, has a different problem; she is a good cryptozoologist, but what she wants to be is a champion ballroom dancer.
Verity is preparing for the Argentinian Tango competition and investigating the disappearance of some female cryptids when she encounters Dominic De Luca, who is a Covenant agent. Dominic is young and a true believer — he’s also drop-dead gorgeous. Reluctantly, Dominic and Verity begin to work together, uncovering the best-kept cryptid secret in several hundred years, fighting lizard-men in the sewers and their own passions in Verity’s apartment. Not a spoiler alert: the passions win.
Three things stood out to make this book different from most of the PR I’ve read. The first were the Aeslin mice. The mice! These sentient, English-speaking mice seem to have religious worship encoded in their DNA. They will make anyone a deity and any event a religious holiday. Verity brought a colony of them with her when she moved from Oregon to New York and she is their goddess. The mice have long memories and a literal take on events (one of their holy days is the Festival of Daddy, I’ll Kiss The Next Man Who Walks Through That Door).
Verity’s love of ballroom dance makes her different from most monster hunters. That’s good, because otherwise some of the short-handing happens with her, and she almost becomes a flat character. Eating leftover takeout and promising to “eat something healthy” later on is not character development (and it really doesn’t fit with a dancer either). Fortunately, her love of dance and the real conflict of having to compete under an alias to protect her family makes up for Verity’s shallowness in other aspects. I was disappointed that we didn’t see much ballroom dancing here and I hope that gets rectified in later books.
It’s the Price family, the bits we see of them here, that really stands out. Verity is in contact with her family and each chapter opens with a quotation with one of the Price women. These range from semi-serious to laugh-out-loud funny.
I had a few other disappointments. This book takes place in Manhattan. Unlike the October Daye stories, where the city of San Francisco feels palpable, New York never seemed real to me. Even the inevitable strip club in which Verity waits tables was not easy to visualize. Discussions with Dominic De Luca were predictable, and the story stalled a bit in places. The perfectly modulated, British-accented voice of the secret cryptid at the end seemed cartoony.
Still, there is a fight-off-the-lizard-men-using-a-stripper-pole scene that I can honestly say I haven’t seen before; the Price clan is priceless; and a few of the cryptids, most especially the women who need gold to survive, are fascinating. As a surprising bonus, the cover of the Daw edition I got shows Verity actually accurately costumed (nearly) in her cocktail waitress outfit.
There are three more books so far in the series; Midnight Blue-Light Special, Pocket Apocalypse and Half-Off Ragnarok. It looks as if the series ranges out beyond Verity, including other family members. I’ll be happy to check those out. They are a great way to spend a few hours, and maybe there will be more with those mice!
I’m agreeing with Marion on this, though I’ll say that I don’t think I’d classify it as paranormal romance because there IS a plot that’s important to the story. It’s a close call, though, because sometimes the plot feels unnaturally pulled in a way to facilitate the romance (e.g., the only place big enough for two humans to eat pizza in an apartment previously inhabited by a Sasquatch is in the bedroom).
I love the mice!! So funny! I also like Verity and Dominic and there are some fascinating secondary characters. As Marion said, the ballroom dancing makes Verity an unusual heroine. I hope she doesn’t give it up.
Since INCRYPTID has been nominated for a 2018 Hugo Award for Best Series, I’ll be reading more of it. I’m listening to the audiobooks produced by Audible Studios and narrated by Emily Bauer. She’s awesome!
InCryptid— (2012- ) Publisher: 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 rumors about a dragon sleeping underneath the city…