Book Review: Imaginary Numbers by Seanan McGuire

March 9, 2020 Book Reviews 0

Book Review: Imaginary Numbers 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.

Imaginary Numbers by Seanan McGuire
Published by DAW Books on February 25, 2020
Pages: 365
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, Magic For Nothing, Indigo, Every Heart a Doorway, The Brightest Fell, "Of Things Unknown", Beneath the Sugar Sky, Night and Silence, "Suffer a Sea-change", The Girl in the Green Silk Gown, "The Recitation of the Most Holy and Harrowing Pilgrimage of Mindy and Also Mork", Tricks for Free, That Ain't Witchcraft, "The Measure of a Monster", The Unkindest Tide, "Hope is Swift", Come Tumbling Down, "Follow the Lady"

Ninth in the InCryptid urban fantasy series and revolving around the mishaps of the extended Price family, eccentric cryptozoologists who safeguard the world of magical creatures living in secret among humans. The focus is on Sarah Zellabay, a telepathic, predatory alien adopted into the family. It’s been five years since events in New York City in Midnight Blue-Light Special, 2.

If you’re interested, there is a chronological listing of the InCryptid books on my website.

My Take

It starts with a twenty-year look back as Martin and Angela take the kids to Lowryland and pick up an unexpected souvenir: Sarah.

We fairly quickly delve into Sarah’s thoughts about Artie. We all know that Sarah loves Artie and Artie loves Sarah…only they don’t know the other loves them back, which makes this the underlying theme of Imaginary Nunmbers. Poor Artie thinks the effect of his pheromones accounts for Sarah’s feelings about him. While Sarah “knows” she’s affecting Artie with her mind.

I was annoyed with McGuire’s vague treatment of Sarah’s fears in terms of Angela, as her mother. I couldn’t figure out if it had been a long-term issue or a recent discovery on Sarah’s part.

I do like some of the victims Sarah chooses. That TSA guy for one. Sarah’s whole trip through the airport is ideal in how McGuire uses it to inform the reader about Johrlac culture. I also appreciated how McGuire used it to note the differences between the standard cuckoo and how Sarah was raised. Of course, once we meet Mark, we find out it’s quite possible for cuckoos to be more decent.

While McGuire primarily uses first person protagonist point-of-view from Sarah’s perspective, we do get perspectives from some of the others. Antimony’s noting the effect of ordering take-out pizza for the mice, lol. Oh, lordy, then there’s Janie’s outburst about forbidding Artie dating outside his species. Yeah, Ted is not impressed. Elsie and Artie have their particular scene, and the others.

Jeez, Mark’s whole attitude made me so angry! Of course, Ingrid’s is so much worse. McGuire doesn’t help in explaining the whole instar thing. Oh, her explanation worked for the different stages, but McGuire first tells us how awful that Sarah’s got drawn out, but later it seems as if that was a blessing to prepare her for stage four??? Then there’s all that negativity about Angela only we later find out that it’s a blessing she’s “defective”? What???

How very appropo for Martin Baker to note that “Dr Frankenstein was always the monster.”

It’s all about family and nature versus nurture with a character-driven plot, as evidenced by Mark’s later behavior. Only it’s not limited to individual characters, but the attitude of whole groups — cuckoos as a whole and the compassionate nature of the Prices.

It did drive me a bit buggy that McGuire went on and on in some areas while she glossed over a few scenes too quickly.

Read it, people, and do the math.

The Story

Can Sarah do it? Has she healed enough to be able to leave Ohio and see Artie again?

It’s a trip fraught with worries and obstacles, a giant hurdle in the form of that cuckoo at the Portland airport, for cuckoos are territorial.

A lone cuckoo who isn’t so lone as Sarah discovers when threats come against her family. There’s only one thing Sarah can do to save her family. Walk away.

And stock up on the bug spray.

The Characters

The Bakers, Healys, Harringtons, and Prices are all on the Covenant hit list.

Ohio
Sarah Zellaby (a.k.a., the Heartless One and Savior of the Arboreal Priestess will become the Calculating Priestess), a cuckoo, a Johrlac, whose adoptive parents died when she was young, is absolutely enthralled with math. She was taken in by Angela Baker, a defective cuckoo, a crèche-keeper, and accountant who is married to Martin, a Revenant assembled from four to six different humans. Sarah’s other two siblings were also adopted in: Evie, a human, is now a combat medic and herbalist fascinated by cryptid biology and medicine and Drew, a boogeyman whose birth family was killed in an accident.

Oregon
Evie is now married to Kevin Price, who finds Sarah fascinating. Evie and Kevin’s kids include Verity, Alex, and Antimony. Verity (the Arboreal Priestess) is a professional dancer…or she was until Chaos Choreography, 5, and she’s with Dominic, a former Covenant operative. Alex Price is engaged to the pregnant Shelby, a credentialed cryptozoologist. Antimony “Annie”, a newly revealed fire sorcerer (Tricks for Free, 7), has spent summers with the Campbell Family Carnival. She skates for a roller derby team, the Slasher Chicks. Sam Taylor is her fūri trapeze artist turned boyfriend — don’t call him a monkey! — whom she met at the carnival in Magic For Nothing, 6.

James Smith is an ice sorcerer (That Ain’t Witchcraft, 8) adopted into the Price family. Sally was the best friend who tried to save James.

Kevin’s sister, Jane Price, is married to Ted Harrington, an incubus, a.k.a., a Lilu. Their kids are Artie, half incubus, whose pheromones have a tremendous effect. He spends most of his time in his parents’ basement with his computers, comics, and crafting false IDs. His sister, Elsie, half-succubus, is better able to manage her attractions.

Grandma Alice Price, a bounty hunter, is Kevin and Jane’s mother, and a time traveler hunting for Grandpa Thomas — seems he was a fire sorcerer too — whom Alice lost to the crossroads. Kevin and Jane were actually raised by the Campbell Family Carnival. Alice’s mother was Frances Brown, the Violent Priestess resistant to cuckoos, who married Jonathan Price.

The Aeslin mice are evolutionary mimics who are a religious cult passionate about documenting every move of every member of the family. Beth Evans, a British farmwife, had been a Covenant of St George member who broke the rules and rescued the first group of mice.

Aunt Mary Dunlavy is a crossroads ghost who used to babysit Alice. Aunt Rose is a a hitchhiking ghost; she died sixty years ago (Sparrow Hill Road, 1).

Johrlacs are…
…telepathic ambush predators who ruin lives for fun — the Prices are passionate about preserving cryptid lives…except Johrlacs. The ones on earth were exiled from their dimension, Johrlar. While only one Johrlac can live in a territory at a time, and they only pair up to have a baby, there are times when cuckoos become a group: a swarm is a group of cuckoos while a group of cuckoos who decide to work and live together is a hive. Mark is the kidnapper; Cici is his human sister. David seems to be a close partner with Amelia, who was at the airport. Heloise will impersonate Sarah. Ingrid is incredibly pregnant. There are four stages of instar, metamorphosis, for a cuckoo: the first one is at puberty where they turn violent because they get a sudden download of their collective memory and kill their family; stage two is triggered by self and not always survived. Third instar is rare while the fourth is almost never, as it turns a cuckoo into a queen. One queen per dimension.

Christina is the mother who gets the flight upgrade; Susie is her baby. Duke is the upset dog. Amy had been the friend at whose house the young Sarah had been sleeping over. The Madhura, who are bee-derived, also come from a different world.

The Covenant of St George is…
…the enemy, a human organization who want only the right humans in charge of the world.

The Cover and Title

The cover is a background of blackboard covered in teal mathematical formulas. In front is Sarah with a pensive look on her face as she looks out at us, her black hair blowing in a breeze and haloed in a light teal. She’s wearing a teal V-neck sweater and black jeans. All the text is in white starting with an info blurb at the very top with the author’s name shadowed in black above Sarah’s head. A round red badge to the right of Sarah’s neck provides award information. The title begins at Sarah’s waist and is outlined in red. Below this is the series information.

The title is all about Sarah and her Imaginary Numbers.

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