Half-Off Ragnarok by Seanan McGuire
Seanan McGuire’s INCRYPTID series is a fun paranormal fantasy with a focus on monsters and romance. The first two books, Discount Armageddon and Midnight Blue-Light Special, starred Verity Price, a ballroom dancer wannabe born into a famous family of monster hunters. The Price family were kicked out of the Covenant a couple generations back when their ancestors decided it was unethical to kill monsters indiscriminately. Now they (unlike the Covenant, who hates all non-humans) actually befriend and work with non-humans who they deem non-threatening to other races.
Half-Off Ragnarok (2014), the third INCRYPTID novel, switches point of view to Verity’s brother Dr. Alex Price, a cryptozoologist who specializes in reptiles and currently runs the reptile house at a zoo. Other main characters are Dee, Alex’s gorgon assistant; Shelby Tanner, the hot Australian chick who works with the big cats at the zoo; Sarah, the cousin that we met in the previous books; Alex’s weird grandparents; an Indian girl who is engaged to a python; and Alex’s familiar, a church griffin (seems like a cross between a Maine Coon cat and a raven) named Crow.
When zoo employees start dying of petrification, Alex realizes that a dangerous cryptid is on the loose. He must find and kill it without blowing his cover as just a normal zoologist. He also desperately wants to avoid alerting the Covenant, who are always eager and ready to conduct a “purge.” Alex will need help from all the folks mentioned above as well as a clan of gorgons who have a hidden community in the region.
Half-Off Ragnarok takes a while to wind up while we observe Alex’s daily routines tracking cryptids in an Ohio swamp, managing tour groups in the reptile house, doing his science (lots of talk about food chains and ecosystems), taking care of the reptiles, trying to breed some basilisks in a back room, spending time with Sarah and his grandparents, and trying to have a relationship with Shelby while hiding his real life from her.
Finally the first murder occurs and all hell breaks loose. From there the story is fast and fun. It’s not meant to be challenging or thought-provoking — just fun. There’s a hilarious autopsy scene and just wait until you see what happens to the body. Yuck!
INCRYPTID fans will be glad that Alex has a colony of Aeslin mice (hail!) and will be pleased to catch up with Sarah, who was seriously injured in the previous book. Her recovery process has been a huge struggle and readers are likely to feel a lot of empathy for her situation. It’s also nice to spend some time with the Price grandparents (they are strange!) and to see Verity from Alex’s perspective. The addition of Crow is a good one. He’s bratty but adorable.
The audiobook produced by Audible Studios is narrated by Ray Porter with a guest appearance by Emily Bauer (who performs Verity when Alex calls her on the phone). Porter tends to read Alex’s lines just a tad more dramatically than called for, but I like his voices and pacing.
By the way, I have no idea what the titles of these INCRYPTID novels mean. As far as I can tell, they have nothing to do with the plot.
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…
Oh, this one has Alex! Then I probably do want to read it.