Series: InCryptid, Book 1
Rating: 5 Stars
Length: 368 Pages
Formats: Mass Market Paperback, Kindle
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by the author.
This Price Is Definitely Right
Sometimes a girl's just gotta dance. For Verity Price, it's more than a party, it's a passionate calling. One for which she trains hard to excel. She's got a year in New York City to try to make a career out of it. If she can't, she'll return to the family and make her side job her primary occupation. Like the rest of her family. For now, though, New York City is her town. And Verity is very protective of her town.
The Prices have been renegades for a couple of generations, after splitting from the Covenant of St. George over ideological differences. The Covenant is an organization that has a much more slash-and-burn mentality than the Prices were comfortable with. See, the Prices are cryptozoologists. They investigate, study, and dispatch (if necessary) the sorts of creatures that go bump in the night. The not-human beings they refer to as cryptids, but everyone else would call monsters.
What separates the Price family from the Covenant? Well...the Covenant doesn't much care what kind of cryptid it is, or whether or not it poses a danger to humanity. They certainly don't bother researching physiology or behavior patterns. They have a far simpler, and frankly, narrow-minded viewpoint. If it's not human, kill it. Kill it a lot. Kill it dead. Kill it until its ancestors forget it was ever a species on our planet.
There's a whole killing theme.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the cryptids in the city mostly accept Verity. She keeps them safe, too, when one species or another starts to get a little peckish and forgets the rules, and she's proven herself to be no threat to non-predatory cryptids at all. That's why she's told about the disappearances, informed that cryptids all over the city are vanishing with no trace and for no easily discernible reason. Or at least she has no reason until she finds out there is sleeping dragon under the city. A dragon believed, erroneously as it turns out, to have been hunted to extinction over three centuries ago. A dragon that someone - some idiotic, ignorant, has-a-death-wish someone - is trying to wake up.
Well...at least that accounts for the missing cryptids. In bloody and horrifying ways.
Now Verity has to find and stop that someone, deal with the dragon (an actual dragon!), try to get into a regional dance competition (she could really use the prize money), cover her shift at the cryptid-owned strip club where she works (the only place she refuses to ever dance), and figure out if she has to kill the Covenant guy who's shown up in her city and started offing the local megafauna like he's some sort of Terminator with hemorrhoids.
All-in-all, just another day in the life of Verity Price, kick-ass cryptozoologist and ballroom dance queen.
Hey, you, stop right there. Yes, I'm talking to you. Before you go any further, you need to ask yourself a few things. Are you a fan of knee-slapping (and bitch-slapping) sardonic humor? Do sarcastic and mouthy heroines with peculiar moral compasses and even odder career goals hold any appeal for you? Would you appreciate a unique...and, okay, a little peculiar (but creative!)...urban fantasy with a spectacularly diverse and original cast of cryptids (and yes, that actually is the technical term)? Have you ever seen an episode of either So You Think You Can Dance or Dancing With the Stars?
If you've answered yes to some/most/all of those questions, then you are welcome to continue. If not...well...you're still welcome to continue (I'm all about the inclusive reviewing), but I'm going to guess this book isn't going to be your cuppa. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit, my answers to those questions range from a resounding, "Yes!" to, "Hell yes, are you daft, man?" on every one.
I had so much fun reading this book. I'm a huge fan of McGuire's October Daye series and have long admired her writing chops, so I was thrilled to hear she had another series starting up. My expectations were leaning towards something similar in tone to that one, but I have to say, I was very pleasantly surprised by how not like October Daye this series debut is.
Of course, there are some similarities. Both are well-written with strong female lead characters who trend towards sarcasm as a religion, but Verity is much younger than Toby (with all that implies), she's human, and the world-building - for all its complexity and variety - is not quite as...multihued, lets say, as the world and people in the October Daye series. At least not yet. This book also doesn't stride anywhere near the Fae or anything resembling a fantasy land. I liked the change.
In fact, I liked Verity very much, too. Beyond the fact that she's strong, capable, and delightfully snarky, she's also caring and conscientious about both cryptids and her dancing. She's not prickly and unlikable, like so many kick-ass heroines out there, but she sure doesn't lack for self confidence. She also knows when she's in trouble and can ask for help - an admirable trait. She's not stupid, nor does she make stupid decisions.
Young, yes, headstrong, too, and when it comes to the Covenant guy, she definitely lets her mouth write a few checks her body ends up cashing, but I liked her. I wasn't so fond of Dominic, who struck me as a bit too prissy, even after his world view started shifting a little. My hopes are for some maturing of his character, because compared to Verity, he reminded me of a boy too long home schooled - little to no socialization skills and an unrealistic view of the Real World, combined with an over-inflated ego. My issues with his personality made it hard to really feel whatever romantic or sexual vibes there was supposed to be between him and Verity. I'm a romantic at heart, though, so hope springs eternal.
I enjoyed the plot and thought it was woven together quite nicely. I've got a thing for dragons, so I loved the whole dragon quest, and thought the Land of the Lost references were priceless.
Personally, I would have enjoyed more of Verity's cousin Sarah. I found her fascinating and wish she'd had more of a role throughout the book. I'm not sure I completely understand the familial connection between her and Verity...even though I know it's through adoption (I wasn't sure if that was a euphemism or not)...but that might have just been me missing something. I do wish the explanation of what she is and why she's so feared had been a little more clearly defined for me, though. What was provided almost seemed too polite or something, as if going into detail would be considered rude...or make people run away screaming...so much is kept vague or described sparsely.
Honestly, though, it's the humor that really put this book over the edge into the range of love. I am a total sucker for quick-witted sarcasm and dialogue that's more like pointed banter, and the narrative has that in spades. The quotes that kicked off each chapter were also a blast and so much of the other, smaller touches (like the talking mice) were flat-out awesome for the fun factor.
Lest I've given the impression, however, that this is a lighter-toned or comedic urban fantasy let me disabuse you of that notion - it's not. It's got plenty of wonderful humor, yes. It's also got sacrificial murder, lots of fighting/action scenes, and Bad Guys who are not messing around. All of which worked just fine for me, as I prefer that over fluff fantasy any day.
I loved this book. It's original, funny, creative, and while there's room for more complexity in the plot and more detail for the secondary characters, Verity herself was highly enjoyable and carried the book well. I'd love to meet her sister, though. Like Sarah, she seems deadly, highly individual, and weird. That works for me. This whole book works for me. I want more.
"Do we have to have the 'don't lie to the telepath' talk again? It won't take long. I say 'don't lie to the telepath, it never works,' you glare at me, and then you go find something you can hit."
Self-defense teaches you to kick ass. Ballroom dance teaches you to do it in heels.
"Sure, you can take a heroic stand against the forces of darkness. Or you can not die. It's entirely up to you."
"When in doubt, play dead. Well, unless you might be dealing with a ghoul, or a basilisk, or something else that likes its meat a little ripe. Actually, when in doubt, just start shooting."
"A proper lady should be able to smile pretty, wear sequins like she means it, and kick a man's ass nine ways from Sunday while wearing stiletto heels. If she can't do that much, she's not trying hard enough."
"A lady is never truly embarrassed. And if she is, a lady is never gauche enough to leave survivors."
He was gorgeous, possibly the most gorgeous man I'd ever had the pleasure of having my way with.
Pity he was turning out to be a total asshole.
"Learning something new about the world in which we live is always a wonderful thing. Unless you're learning what a wendigo looks like from the inside."
Mother Nature is a freaky lady who probably created pot so she could spend all her time smoking it.
"Don't worry about me. I'm the bad thing that happens to other people."
"I haven't found the snake cult yet and, when I do, they can explain themselves to me during the pauses."
"I can't beat their heads against the wall constantly, now can I?"