Book Review: Magic For Nothing by Seanan McGuire

June 19, 2017 Book Reviews 1

Book Review: Magic For Nothing by Seanan McGuire

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Magic For Nothing by Seanan McGuire
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Published by DAW Books Pages: 342
on March 7, 2017
Format: Paperback
Source: the library

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Also by this author: Chimes at Midnight, Indexing, The Winter Long, The InCryptid Prequels, Pocket Apocalypse, A Red Rose Chain, Reflections, Once Broken Faith, "Dreams and Slumbers", Chaos Choreography

Sixth in the InCryptid urban fantasy series and revolving around the Price-Healy family of cryptozoologists, bent on protecting the monsters amongst us. The peacable ones! If you’re interested, there is a chronological listing of the InCryptid books on my website.

My Take

LOL, do read the epigraphs at the start of each chapter. Them Price-Healys’ll crack you up with their outlook on life. The way in which Artie and Mary give Tyler ideas on how to make his ghosthood work for him is too typical of their approach to the “monsters”.

Antimony ticks me off. She whines and complains that they never treat her like an adult, that she never gets to do anything in the family business, and when they do? Whine, whine, whine. How handy that McGuire uses first-person protagonist point-of-view to ensure we get the full force of all her complaining! And yet, it’s an assignment that causes Antimony to re-think a lot of her assumptions.

The underlying theme is about bigotry and the negatives of being blind to those around you. Those Covenant people sure have a lot to answer for.

Margaret is so gung-ho to prove herself. And I don’t get why she should have to. Her grandfather didn’t leave. Her parents didn’t leave. Instead, she’s dug herself too deep into the party line. What makes it rather funny is that line she spouts at Antimony about there being other cryptids in the carnival…but she’s missed one! Duh. Well, good for that one, but it doesn’t say much for Covenant training. That party line also makes these people blind despite being so incredibly suspicious!

McGuire does such a great job of the info dump that doesn’t read that way and uses it to slip in the back history on the Covenant and the Price-Healy family, carnie culture and what goes into their decision-making in surviving — the bit on how the games and candy selling are “rigged” is interesting, lol; and, the background on the various cryptid cultures.

That sweet, friendly Leo will make you sweat suddenly. It seem he’s much colder and political than family-oriented.

Events at the end make for a frustrating cliffhanger that means I have to wait another year to find out how Antimony makes out on the road and on the run. I’m still wondering, though, why she didn’t take an Aeslin mouse with her.

The Story

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. All 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.

The Characters

Antimony Price (“Annie” to her friends, “Timmy” to her siblings) is the youngest in the family with an interest in gymnastics of all sorts, participates on a roller derby team, and she’s been furious with her sister Verity forever. She’s also hiding that new fire ability from her family. Mary Dunlavy is an honorary aunt — and the family babysitter and a crossroads ghost who used to babysit Alice View Spoiler » Don’t you DARE ask Aunt Mary for a favor! Mary had known Grandpa Thomas (Midnight Blue-Light Special, 2) before he disappeared. His wife, Grandma Alice, a living spellbook, is still searching for him View Spoiler » Kevin Price is their father; Evelyn is their mother. Alex, a.k.a., the God of Scales and Silence, is a credentialed cryptozoologist with a degree in herpetology (Half-Off Ragnarok, 3), who became engaged to Dr. Shelby Tanner, a.k.a., the Unpredictable Priestess, a big cat specialist from Australia (Pocket Apocalypse, 4).

Artie Harrington is their nerdy, computer-literate cousin who’s half-incubus and inherited his dad’s empathic abilities; he’s also in love with Sarah Zellaby (Discount Armageddon, 1; “IM“, 3.2), another cousin who’s a telepathic super-wasp and still recovering, two years later, in Ohio (Midnight Blue-Light Special, 2). Elsinore “Elsie” Harrington is Artie’s sister and half succubus (Shadowed Souls: “Sleepover”, 5.1). Uncle Ted Harrington is their father and an incubus. Aunt Rose was human who became a road ghost back in 1952 (Sparrow Hill Road, 1; “The Ghosts of Bourbon Street“, 3.1). Uncle Mike and Aunt Lea live in Chicago. Great-aunt Laura had been an ambulancer.

New York
Verity (the Arboreal Priestess), a competitive ballroom dancer (Discount Armageddon, 1), outed the family and challenged the Covenant on national TV in Chaos Choreography, 5. Now she’s in New York with her husband, ex-Covenant operative, Dominic De Luca (Discount Armageddon, 1). The Freakshow (Discount Armageddon, 1; Midnight Blue-Light Special, 2) is a burlesque club owned by Kitty Smith, a bogeyman. Employees include Istas, a waheela (“Black as Blood“, 2.5; “White as a Raven’s Wing“, 2.6). The grumpy Miri and William are dragons (Discount Armageddon, 1, and Midnight Blue-Light Special, 2).

The Aeslin mice are…
…adorable and take worship and religion to extremes in their belief that the Price-Healys are their gods. They have an eidetic memory, remembering every single thing any one in the family has EVER done. Mindy is the mouse who has volunteered for this possible suicide assignment. She discovers “Mork“, a member of the Lost Catechisms, an Aeslin colony left behind when the Patient Priestess and the God of Uncommon Sense left. And had to leave their two children — Charles and Ada Healy — behind (“Oh Pretty Bird“, 0.1).

The Campbell Traveling Carnival is…
…sort of family through Great-grandma Fran‘s side View Spoiler » Antimony has spent summers learning how to tumble, throw knives with the Amazing Christopher, and work the trapeze and trampoline under the tutelage of Grayson Campbell.

The Spenser and Smith Family Carnival is…

…under suspicion after a trail of disappearances is linked to their presence. Samuel Coleridge Taylor, a Fūri, is very distrusting of strangers. Emery Spenser is the grandmother who raised him and who owns the carnival; she’d married Michael Taylor. Delilah is their daughter whose life couldn’t accommodate a child, no matter his makeup.

The performers include Umeko, a Jorōgumo who does a flame dance with two others; Pablo is the boyfriend Umeko moved in with; Ananta is a wadjet and two of her cobra brothers are part of her act; the Amazing Johnsons are the main trapeze act; Babs works the Tunnel of Love; the Knowles twins, a married bogeymen couple, run the Haunted House; and, Savannah is a candy girl.

The Covenant of St. George is…

…a hate organization of monster hunters from whom Alexander and Enid Healy fled some four generations ago View Spoiler » Headquartered in England, they believe that anyone who is a monster or associates with monsters must die. Members belong to one of two sections: the pen and page who are responsible for research or the shield which is the battle arm. The only positive about these “people” is that they include women in their ranks.

Leonard “Leo” Cunningham is the heir apparent to the Covenant leadership. Reginald Cunningham is his overwhelming grandfather and the current head of the Covenant; Louise is his wife. William is one of Reginald’s sons; Joanne is his wife. The friendly Leo, cranky Chloe, and Nathaniel are William and Joanne’s children.

Hasin and Kumari Pillai are probably security. The obsessed Margaret “Maggie” Healy, a.k.a., the Impassioned Priestess, is a descendant of Charles, the son Alexander and Enid Healy were forced to leave behind. The Covenant treats her like a traitorous criminal.

Penton Hall is…
…a country house which functions as the headquarters for the Covenant. Robert Bullard is in charge of security; the Aeslin mice call him “the Quiet Man”.

Annie will become “Timpani Brown“, the last survivor of the Black Family Carnival.

Portland’s roller derby teams
The Slasher Chicks is Antimony’s team; she’s known as Annie Thompson and her team name is “Final Girl“. View Spoiler » Elmira Street is their sarcastic team captain. Fern, a.k.a., “Meggie Itwasthewind”, is a blocker as well as a Sylph, a humanoid crypto who can alter her body density. Other teams in the Silver Screams League include the Concussion Stand with Carlotta as the captain and Elsie’s ex-girlfriend, the Block Busters, and the StuntTroubles.

Adrienne, a mara, had been a skater for the Wilsonville Rose Petals. Tyler is a young poltergeist who doesn’t know he’s dead. Jinks look like humans and feed on good and/or bad luck. Mara are also human-looking and feed on life energy.

The Cover and Title

The cover is browns with Antimony in khaki green capris and a brown T-shirt perched on a trapeze swing up close against the top of the striped big top. Interest is created by tilting the central support and Antimony holding the trigger for a bundle of TNT dangling beneath her. An info blurb in white is at the very top with the embossed author’s name immediately below it, also in white. The title is an embossed pale peach with the series information in white immediately below it at the very bottom.

No matter how I try, I don’t get the title. Is it Magic For Nothing because bigotry still reigns?

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