Half-Off Ragnarok by Seanan McGuire urban fantasy book reviewsHalf-Off Ragnarok by Seanan McGuireHalf-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.

InCryptid (Book Series) by Seanan McGuire urban fantasy book reviewsHalf-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.

Published in 2014. The third book in New York Times-bestselling Seanan McGuire’s witty urban fantasy InCryptid series about a family of cryptozoologists who act as a buffer between humans and the magical creatures living in secret around us. Cryptid, noun: Any creature whose existence has not yet been proven by science. See also “monster.” Cryptozoologist, noun: Any person who thinks hunting for cryptids is a good idea. See also “idiot.” What do gorgons, basilisks, and frogs with feathers all have in common? They’re all considered mythological by modern science, and some people are working very hard to keep them that way. Alexander Price is a member of a cryptozoological lineage that spans generations, and it’s his job to act as a buffer between the human and cryptid worlds—not an easy task when you’re dealing with women who has snakes in place of hair, little girls who may actually be cobras, and brilliant, beautiful Australian zookeepers. And then there’s the matter of the murders… Alex thought he was choosing the easier career when he decided to specialize in non-urban cryptids, leaving the cities to his little sister, Verity. He had no idea what he was letting himself in for. It’s a family affair, and everyone—from his reanimated grandfather to his slightly broken telepathic cousin—is going to find themselves drawn in before things get any better.

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…

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  • Kat Hooper

    KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.