Through means cunning and clever, I have laid hands on an advance copy of Discount Armageddon, by Seanan McGuire. The official release date is March 6th, also known as next Tuesday.
I had a lot of fun with this book. I love the variety of cryptids, I love that Verity reacts to everything surprising with violence, I love the many, many questions (and terrifying suspicions) the book leaves us with at the end, and like everyone else, I love the Aeslin Mice. HAIL THE NEW SERIES!
My favorite thing about this book is that it doesn't provoke my first-in-a-series-itis. It doesn't leave the plot unfinished, it doesn't take too long setting everything up, it doesn't have a main character who flails around making stupid, ignorant mistakes, or one who has to be "coaxed back" into the fantasy world, or one who gets dragged back kicking and screaming, or one who survives only on sheer luck and narrativium. It's the first book in a series I always want: jumping right in medias res and not looking back.
It really helps, I think, that Discount Armageddon really is in the middle of a much larger story. The Price family, and the Healys they descend from, have been monster hunters for a very long time. Verity is just the latest. She knows what she's doing, she's smart, she's well-researched, she's armed, and best of all, she's proactive. No waiting till the bad guys attack for this girl. Price girls go hunting--or in her case, checking on the local cryptids to make sure they're okay, or ambushing things that hunt humans (or innocent cryptids). Verity does not sit around.
Also, by golly, do I love the many, many species of cryptid we get to meet in this book. This isn't "vampires, werewolves, and fae exist" urban fantasy--this is "waheela, tanuki, dragon princesses, oreads, bogeymen, ghouls, ghosts, basilisks, and gargoyles exist, and that's just the beginning" urban fantasy. The variety and number of nonhumans in this almost makes me wish for a new category.
(BTW, check out the Field Guide on McGuire's website. Spoiler-free and with awesome illustrations!)
The only thing I didn't love was the romance. The Covenant boy, the representative from the "kill 'em all and don't look back" school of monster hunting that the Price family broke from, is the nominal love interest. I enjoyed their relationship, how it evolved and the conflict inherent there. What I didn't like was that every time they interacted in an overtly sexual way, I felt like I'd been dropped into an alternate reality where this was a romance novel. Like someone literally cut those bits out of another book and pasted them into this one. A sentence or two in either direction was fine! Even when they were still talking about/dealing with the romance-related issue. But when they were kissing (or more)? It was very weird and dissociative.
I do have to say that's never been a problem I've had with any of McGuire's other books. Discount Armageddon is definitely worth those moments of weirdness for the rest of the book!
The plot goes like anything, which I'm always fond of in a book. Details of the plot are difficult to comment on for two reasons: one, spoilers, and two, because it's done so well that I can afford to bypass it in favor of poking around the world. Suffice it to say it's a good mix of a reader who's paying attention able to say "Called it!" and throwing in twists to keep a reader guessing.
In a related note, there are a ton of characters in this book, but I never felt overwhelmed. For that matter, I could probably reel off a list of name, species, and relation to Verity. I have no idea how McGuire managed such a large cast, mostly of secondary characters, so well, but I would pay gold for lessons.
As for the rest, I wish there was more ballroom dance, I'd love to meet more of Verity's relatives face-to-face, as it were, and what do you mean I have to wait a year for the next one?