Midnight Blue-Light Special
by Seanan McGuire
Book 2 of InCryptid
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 when her work with the cryptid community took her to Manhattan, she thought she would finally be free to pursue competition-level dance in earnest. It didn't quite work out that way...
But now, with the snake cult that was killing virgins all over Manhattan finally taken care of, Verity is ready to settle down for some serious ballroom dancing—until her on-again, off-again, semi-boyfriend Dominic De Luca, a member of the monster-hunting Covenant of St. George, informs her that the Covenant is on their way to assess the city's readiness for a cryptid purge. With everything and everyone she loves on the line, there's no way Verity can take that lying down.
Alliances will be tested, allies will be questioned, lives will be lost, and the talking mice in Verity's apartment will immortalize everything as holy writ--assuming there's anyone left standing when all is said and done. It's a midnight blue-light special, and the sale of the day is on betrayal, deceit...and carnage.
Midnight Blue-Light Special was, in a weird way, a bit tamer than Discount Armageddon--and when I say tamer, I really just mean that it didn't have as many scattered story lines buzzing around the main conflict. While Discount Armageddon was a somewhat slow-paced, banal following of Verity's daily life in New York, finally focusing on a main conflict about halfway through the book, Midnight Blue-Light Special had a more focused plot driving the story and the characters from the beginning.
By all rights, the way in which Midnight was outlined and executed should have made me love the book much more than it's predecessor. But for some strange reason, I didn't detect that giddiness I'd had from reading Discount Armageddon--I attribute that to the fact that my squee-ness from finding a shiny new series to obsess on kind of faded.
That isn't to say that I didn't immensely love Midnight. It just means that I'm now aware that there may have been some glaring foibles in Discount that I purposefully ignored because I was enjoying it so much. In truth, Midnight is, indeed the better book, although I would have loved to see more of a presence from our main love interest, Dominic De Luca, who seemed to sort of fade into the background for a certain period of time.
On the other hand, you get to see more from the cast of cryptids whom Verity is always around, and I love how quickly they all band together to help Verity when she gets into a jam. As the resident cryptozoologist cum cryptid hunter in Manhattan, you always saw a wariness coming from some of these humanoid cryptids, all wondering if Verity will suddenly change her credo and start slashing away at every non-human she comes across. So I loved that that wariness sort of slips away as soon as the city is threatened by a purging from the Covenant, and Verity has now got a group of cryptids ready to defend their community as well as their cryptozoologist.
I liked seeing more of the cryptids as more than just background decoration in Verity's world. In fact, from the beginning of this series, the cryptids were always a close second set of main characters through Verity's eyes. I liked that Kitty comes more to the forefront, and you can see how conniving she can be, even if for her own bogeyman-like, moralistic reasons--she certainly wasn't like her jackass of an uncle from the first book. I like that Sarah, and even Istas, was given a bigger role in this book than just sidekick to Verity's missions.
Sarah wasn't really a personal favorite of mine, but she certainly had much more depth than we are likely to give her credit for when she goes to work trying to help Verity out of trouble. She's got an inner struggle that is quite illuminating considering her line of cryptid species--she's a Cuckoo, described as a telepathic bug-like creature who looks human, but is far from being human. Cuckoos are also described as being sociopaths from birth, wherein their seemingly one and only goal in life is to use their telepathic abilities to manipulate others (specifically humans) into giving them everything they own, and then leaving said human in ruination, especially financially. Cuckoos don't eat human flesh, but they DO ruin human lives.
So it's kind of interesting to watch Sarah continuously be embarrassed of her own species, showing a very distinct exception as a member of her kind. At the same time, she doesn't necessarily restrict the use of her Cuckoo abilities just because she could potentially be a dangerous creature. Her pleasures in life are quite harmless if you overlook the fact that she still has the innate ability to make fancy hotels let her stay in their nicest, grandest suites for free. Otherwise, she enjoys reading comic books, spending time with Verity, going to college math classes, and chatting with her long-time crush, Artie, online almost every evening.
Meanwhile, we also get a quick glimpse, if superficial, at Istas, the waheela--a bear-dog therianthrope with a tendency towards violence and lacy Goth-Lolita costumes. It's both cute and strangely creepy at the same time, especially when Istas lets out her various one-liners, often involving the approval of violent carnage being involved. It's fascinating following her line of logic as well, because in spite of her carnage-happy declarations, a lot of what she says has a simplistic logic to it, especially when concerning who to rip the head off of, or who NOT to rip the head off of.
And now I'm rambling again, so it's entirely possible I was lying about not being giddy about this book. I absolutely loved it, and I'm guessing that getting a chance to give it a quick analytic write-up is doing much more to make me want to read more.
I would absolutely love to come back to this world anytime! And sort of lament the fact that the next two books will be more focused on Alex Price, Verity's older brother. I mean, I love the little tidbits we get about her family every so often, and I've been wanting a family reunion since she first mentioned her grandmother's spelunking through Hell, or other dimensions and worlds in search of her missing grandfather. I mean, how often do you get to call home and be told that Mom is spelunking Hell with Grandma?
But I have nothing against Alex Price, despite the fact that I would have liked to have had more interaction between him and Verity before being dropped in his realm. I guess, being that I've fallen quite in love with Verity and her world (and her colony of Aeslin mice), I just want to hang out for a bit longer with her and the Manhattan community of cryptids.