Book Review: That Ain’t Witchcraft by Seanan McGuire

Posted March 29, 2019 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review: That Ain’t Witchcraft 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.

That Ain't Witchcraft by Seanan McGuire
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Published by DAW Books on March 5, 2019
Pages: 357
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, "The Measure of a Monster", The Unkindest Tide, "Hope is Swift", Come Tumbling Down, Imaginary Numbers, "Follow the Lady", "The Fixed Stars", "Forbid the Sea", "No Sooner Met", Across the Green Grass Fields

Eighth in the InCryptid urban fantasy series revolving around the Price-Healy family, eccentric cryptozoologists who safeguard the world of magical creatures living in secret among humans. The focus is on Antimony as she and her crew evade the Covenant.

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

My Take

There’s some awkward reflecting on Antimony’s part about the contribution her family has made to the crossroads operating as it has, helped along by McGuire using first person protagonist point-of-view from Antimony’s perspective. It’s all part of a continuation of the great escape at the end of Tricks for Free, 7, for Antimony as well as righting a centuries-old wrong, but only if she makes a deal with a devil.

I love Antimony’s comment about the stories that people are, even before they’re born. All the past interactions amongst family and how it affects those who come after. Then she gets into her siblings’ and cousins’ defensive strengths. An interesting tidbit that does not read as an info dump. Yay!

You can count on McGuire to be funny:

“If cleanliness is next to godliness, bleach is proof of the existence of the divine.”

My youngest sister would agree, lol

Huh. We find out why Antimony will eat anything. Yuck. Although, it does make perfect sense. Still…ewww…

There’s more, critical, history that we learn about the crossroads and their style of bargaining. And why they want Antimony, Thomas, James… It makes for an excellent ending. and now I can’t wait for Imaginary Numbers, although it will be from Sarah Zellaby’s perspective — and won’t be released until March 2020…argh… I don’t know if that means we’ll discover how James slides in amongst those Price-Healys or not…!

I love this quote as well:

“We make our choices. We live with their consequences. That’s what it means to walk in this world, whether we like it or not.”

I don’t really understand Thomas’ world shrinking. Yeah, I get that he had to make a bargain with the crossroads, but I don’t get how hiding from it made his world condense.

That Leonard is so amazingly dense. He seriously believes his side is right. I don’t get that. I gotta wonder about Antimony too. She makes such a big deal about setting wards to prevent ghosts from hearing what she and her crew are planning, and then she yammers on about her plans.

I loved it, but McGuire did go on and on.

The Story

Being on the run from magical organizations is no fun, so when Antimony, Fern, Sam, and Cylia have a chance for a break, they take it.

It’s a break with far-reaching consequences involving time travel to 1490 and an encounter with both good and evil.

Kids today…

The Characters

Antimony Price is the youngest sister with a false sense of where she stands in the family, a roller derby player, a cheerleader, and following the family business. Sam Taylor is a fūri, a kind of therianthrope cryptid whose natural form is a sort of anthropomorphized monkey (his default form), who left his grandmother’s Spenser and Smith Family Carnival (Magic For Nothing, 6).

Fern is a fellow teammate on the Slasher Chicks roller derby team, a friend, and a sylph, able to dial her gravity up or down. Cylia is a jink, who twists luck, and is a roller derby player on another team. (Her husband, Tav, died from his own bad luck.)

Gravesend, Maine, is…
…where Norbert‘s house is located. He’s renting it out to Cylia and company. Norbert’s cousin, James Smith, a sorcerer with the power to freeze, is not thrilled. His cruel father is the chief of police, Captain Smith. His mother was also an ice sorceress. Sally Henderson was the popular girl in school, who befriended James. Billy Maxton was a school bully. Never make a bargain with the crossroads…

The Covenant of St George is…
…a monster-hunting organization that prefers to shoot on sight. Leonard Cunningham is the heir on trial. Chloe and Margaret Healy, one of the family who refused to leave the Covenant, are also agents.

Lowryland is…
…an amusement park in Florida run by sorcerers, from whom Antimony is also fleeing (Tricks for Free).

The crossroads are…
…where the desperate seek a bargain with a crossroads ghost to argue the bargain. One such is Aunt Mary Dunlavy, a ghost who died in the 1930s (“Bury Me in Satin“, 0.11), but retained her sense of humanity by babysitting (Sparrow Hill Road, 1). And Aunt Mary is furious with Antimony. Bethany is a nasty, spiteful ghost, who becomes Antimony’s new “caseworker”.

Aunt Rose Marshall of Buckley Township, a.k.a., the Girl in the Green Silk Gown, became a road ghost back in 1952 (Sparrow Hill Road). She’s also the Price-Healys’ primary psychopomp.

The Price-Healy family…

…of cryptozoologists protects both cryptids and humans. They’re a long line of nerds, researchers, librarians, and animal lovers who begin to train their kids in self-defense as soon as they can walk and hold a knife.

Spoiler title
Antimony talks of Elizabeth “Beth” Evans, the Kindly Priestess, who rescued the mice. Caroline, her daughter, was the Well-groomed Priestess who married Peter Carew, the God of Hard Work and Sunshine. Agnes Carew was their daughter who refused to leave the Covenant, but their daughter Enid, the Patient Priestess, went with her parents to Michigan and married Alexander Healy, Antimony’s great-great-grandparents. Their son (Antimony’s great-grandfather), Jonathan, married Frances Brown (“One Hell of a Ride“, .02, and “Married in Green“, 0.05). Alice Healy, a.k.a., the Phantom Priestess, Fran and Jonathan’s daughter, is the dimension-hopping grandmother, searching for her husband, Grandpa Thomas Price, who had started as a Covenant agent sent to recruit her (“The Way Home“, 0.2). Great-aunt Laura had been an ambulancer and the best ghost wrangler in North America.

Jane was Alice and Thomas’ daughter, and she married Theodore Harrington, an incubus. Jane and Theodore have three children: Elsie, a half-succubus; Artie, the reclusive, half-incubus, comic book-loving nerd; and, Kevin who married Evelyn Baker and are Verity, Alex, and Antimony’s parents. (Dad is an academic who can translate anything; Mom provides medical advice, care, and remedies to the community.) Alex Price, a.k.a., the God of Scales and Silence, is a credentialed cryptozoologist, doing research at the Columbus Zoo. He’s engaged to Dr Shelby Tanner, a.k.a., the Unpredictable Priestess, a big cat specialist from Australia (Pocket Apocalypse, 4). Crow is a Church Griffin — think cat with wings — and something of a familiar / pet to Alex. His sister Verity, the Arboreal Priestess, is a cryptid social worker who does ballroom dancing for fun who has married a former Covenant agent, Dominic de Luca.

Evelyn’s adopted parents are Angela (a cuckoo) and Martin Baker (a Revenant — think Frankenstein — who works as a coroner for the city) who live in Columbus, Ohio. They’ve been caring for Sarah Zellaby, a cousin by adoption and a cuckoo who almost died in Midnight Blue-Light Special, 2. The Bakers also adopted Drew, a bogeyman who had been kidnapped and sold when he was a child.

The Aeslin mice are pantheistic rodents who worship the Price-Healy family as gods and have raised passing on the family oral history to a religious ritual — think living black boxes.

A cuckoo is a pseudo-mammalian cryptid telepathic wasp with a passion for math. A Blight is a fungus spore that ingests a large blood meal, absorbs it, and seeks more. The people in Gentling are crossbreeds between humans and finfolk, a safer branch of the merfolk (“We Both Go Down Together“, 0.09). The anima mundi is the spirit of Earth.

Karen (she skates as Can’t Believe It’s Not Beater), a blocker from the Concussion Stand, is single again.

The Cover and Title

The cover is browns. A dark brown sky with shafts of yellow rays highlighting the cornfield behind Antimony, her long dark hair lifting in the breeze, in her short black leather jacket and jeans, a dark brown T declaring “Skate or Die”, and an athame in each hand. At the very top is an info blurb followed by the author’s name in white. A blue disc declares in white letters that the series is a Hugo finalist. The title is at the bottom in pale yellow with a colonial blue outline. The series information is below that in white.

The title is more ironic than anything else, then again That Ain’t Witchcraft, but it is sorcery.

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