Magic for Nothing, (2017), Seanan McGuire’s sixth INCRYPTID novel, finally gives the youngest Price child, Antimony, a story of her own. The rebellious, roller-derby daughter has enough on her plate coming to grips with her newly manifested pyrokinetic abilities when she is thrown into a dangerous undercover assignment, and to her way of thinking, she has her sister Verity to blame for it.
I have only read the first two books in the series and one short story featuring Antimony, so I may commit inadvertent spoilers. In the prologue, we learn that Verity, on a live broadcast of a New York dance-competition show, revealed her cryptozoologist powers, and challenged the Covenant of St. George, a secret society, military in design, that exists to exterminate cryptids. Covenanters don’t care if the cryptids are sentient or whether they’ve never harmed a human; they are ruthless killers and they have extended their campaign with a scorched-earth policy that means they will kill any human they think might have helped a cryptid. The Price family, through the bloodline of the Healys, are a rogue branch of the Covenant, who realized the Covenant’s mission was wrong. Up until now, the Covenant has believed that the Price family died out. Now they are coming after the Prices, and the Prices need a plan.
Antimony — or Annie — is the only family member who did not inherit the Healy physical characteristics. She is not petite, curvy, and blond; she is instead tall, curvy, and brunette. The Prices hatch a daring scheme to send Antimony undercover into the Covenant, so that she can discover information about their workings and plans.
The opening is episodic, but once Annie goes undercover the book picks up. Magic for Nothing has exciting moments, although in the middle, when Annie is sent (as a Covenant trainee) from England back to the US to infiltrate a carnival, tends to go slack. Annie meets a cute, grouchy monkey-man boy who is a trapeze artist; Annie can also work the trapeze, and the trapeze passages are lovely. I really enjoyed them. The “relationship” plot with its obligatory betrayal rests on one huge coincidence. The “action” plot counts on us believing that one of the Covenanters, Margaret Healy (who is a distant cousin of Annie) will act against her own motivations one specific time so that the story will come together. It also relies on a very responsible carnival owner not caring that one of her carnies hasn’t been seen for a week. I found it a little hard to suspend disbelief for either of those two elements.
The Aeslin mice are in here; I don’t think Magic for Nothing would qualify as an INCRYPTID book if they weren’t. They do not overpower the story, mainly because there are only two of them, and as always they are quirky, funny, smart and brave.
Plainly Margaret Healy and one other member of the Covenant are on their way to becoming regular characters. Margaret is a Covenant true believer so it will be interesting to see if events in the New World can crack her belief system. The end of book telegraphs the next one without really setting up any specific plot points.
While I found the plot implausible, I enjoyed the glimpse into a world that’s foreign to me, and by that I mean the carnival. The day-to-day life felt gritty and real, and McGuire juxtaposes it with scenes of the tawdry beauty and glamor that signifies carnivals to me. The mice are adorable and I like Annie’s relationship with Aunt Mary, the crossroads ghost.
While Magic for Nothing is a standard outing in the INCRYPTID series, I like the voice and character of Annie. If you’re a fan of the series you won’t want to miss this one. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel, Tricks for Free, in 2018.
I’ll agree with Marion on this, as usual.
A couple of other thoughts: Antimony was not what I was expecting based on her personality when we saw glimpses of her in previous books. In fact, her personality was a lot like Verity’s. I wish there had been more distinction between them (personality-wise), especially since they don’t seem to get along with each other. They say they are very different from each other, but I didn’t think so. To me it seemed like they were the same person with different hobbies (ballroom dancing for Verity and roller derby for Antimony). Oh, and I totally didn’t believe some things that happened in the final scenes.
Magic for Nothing is an entertaining volume, but not one of the better ones. I am looking forward to finding out what happens to Antimony in the next book, though.
By the way, the audiobook versions read by Emily Bauer are wonderful!
Improbable, adjective: 1. Not very likely to happen; not probable. 2. Probably not a very good idea anyway. 3. See also “bad plan.”
As the youngest of the three Price children, Antimony is used to people not expecting much from her. She’s been happy playing roller derby and hanging out with her cousins, leaving the globe-trotting to her older siblings while she stays at home and tries to decide what she wants to do with her life. She always knew that one day, things would have to change. She didn’t think they’d change so fast. Annie’s expectations keep getting shattered. She didn’t expect Verity to declare war on the Covenant of St. George on live television. She didn’t expect the Covenant to take her sister’s threat seriously. And she definitely didn’t expect to be packed off to London to infiltrate the Covenant from the inside…but as the only Price in her generation without a strong resemblance to the rest of the family, she’s the perfect choice to play spy. They need to know what’s coming. Their lives may depend on it. But Annie has some secrets of her own, like the fact that she’s started setting things on fire when she touches them, and has no idea how to control it. Now she’s headed halfway around the world, into the den of the enemy, where blowing her cover could get her killed. She’s pretty sure things can’t get much worse. Antimony Price is about to learn just how wrong it’s possible for one cryptozoologist to be.
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…