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Tricks for Free
InCryptid #7
by Seanan McGuire
Daw, $7.99, 432pp
Published: March 2018

It's been a fun ride but I'm now officially out of Seanan McGuire books to review. I finished up with her Toby Daye books last month and book twelve, 'Night and Silence' won't be out until September. This one means that I'm up to date again with her InCryptid series.

It's book seven for for this series and book two for Antimony Price, thus far my favourite character in that series. It looks like the author is digging her too, because the acknowledgements point out that she'll be back for the next book, to be titled 'That Ain't Witchcraft'.

Annie is the youngest of the Price family, who this series follows (books one, two and five are about her sister, Verity, while books three and four are about her brother, Alex). They're renegades one and all from the monster-slaying Covenant of St. George, though Annie is particularly high on their wants list because she went undercover with them in 'Magic for Nothing' and naturally turned on them when it came down to the crunch. After all, the job of her family is to protect those whom the Covenant would slay.

After Annie burned down the Spenser and Smith Family Carnival in 'Magic for Nothing'—to save its people, I should add—she felt that it wouldn't be safe for either or her family if she went home, so she hits the road to somewhere she hasn't figured out yet. She leaves her new boyfriend, Sam Taylor, behind for his own safety, and she tries very hard to stay out of everyone's way, especially the Covenant's but also her family's.

In my review of that book, I explained that Antimony Price is, in many ways, what I wanted Verity to be and that holds true here for a number of reasons. However, I also appreciated her romance angle, which feels right to me just as Verity's felt very wrong. Annie fell for Sam, who is a half-furi, which means he turns into a monkey, an interesting relationship but not one that magically falls into place. I described Verity's romance as being more like a Disney musical than reality and that came back to bite me here. It's not that Annie follows suit, it's just that she and Sam get back together (you know that was coming) at Lowryland, which is a quite obvious clone of Disney World.

Now, unlike Seanan McGuire, I hate Disney and don't buy into any of their 'happiest place on Earth' publicity but I do dig the mechanics behind the theme parks for which they're rightly known and we get to see a lot of that here, with Annie working menial labour for the company that runs Lowryland. This is fascinating stuff to set a book against and I can only presume that McGuire really did her homework. If not, her imagination is fantastic, as this theme park rings very true from all angles, and, as much as I enjoyed 'Magic for Nothing', I can picture Lowryland's layout a lot better than I could the carnival in that book.

Hopefully this doesn't count as a spoiler but there was one major surprise for me here: I was expecting this to be a Covenant of St. George story and it isn't. Instead, while hiding in public, where proximity to so many people might blunt their ability to find her, she stumbles upon something sinister going down at Lowryland and, of course, it's up to her and her friends to stop it.

Those friends, because this is an InCryptid novel, are of course cryptids and interesting ones to boot: she rooms with a sylph and a gorgon. Fern is the former, someone who knew Annie back in Portland because they skated on the same roller derby team, and she's a fascinating character; sylphs can control the density of their bodies at will, a strange talent that's given some wild scenes here. Megan (or Magaere) is the latter and she's more like what you expect, if you expect a young lady with snakes growing out of her head, that she hides under a wig while she's working, and who can turn you to stone with her gaze. Heck, we have characters here who manipulate luck!

Annie, who's going by Melody West at Lowryland, wants to keep quiet and out of everyone's attention, but we know that's never going to happen. Strange things happen instead, starting with Annie and Fern's discovery of a dead body in Lowryland while skating there after hours. That's followed by a set of serious accidents, all of which seem to occur when Annie's nearby. There has to be something behind this and Annie and her cohorts try to figure out what it is before more Cast Members die in their princess costumes.

I liked 'Tricks for Free' but I'd have been surprised if I didn't. I liked Annie a lot better than Verity even when she was just a name dropped in the background and her first book in the series, 'Magic for Nothing', was all I had hoped that it would be. This isn't up to that standard, but it's still Annie and she's given a fantastic backdrop for its story to unfold against.

I did feel her isolation though and I'm unsure as to whether that helps her establish herself more or weakens the universe in which she operates. I did miss the Aeslin mice, whom she sends home in between novels to recount their stories. They do at least get the now customary bonus novella, entitled in suitably overblown Aeslin fashion, 'The Recitation of the Most Holy and Harrowing Pilgrimage of Mindy and Also Mork'. I missed the Covenant of St. George more, though. Given where we left the last book, I was ready for war and this is very much an interlude before we get there.

Now I'm caught up, there are no more Seanan McGuires waiting for me to read next month. She has written outside the Toby Daye and InCryptid series and I've enjoyed one of those other books, her contribution to the Deadlands series. I believe I should seek out 'Sparrow Hill Road' next, as it's set in the same universe as the InCryptid books, a fixup novel from a set of short stories originally published online. Its lead character is Rose Marshall, a hitch-hiking ghost and one of Annie's honorary aunts. ~~ Hal C F Astell

For more titles in the InCryptid series click here

For more titles by Seanan McGuire click here

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