Published 2012 344 pages
Summary (from the book jacket)
Ghoulies. Ghosties. Long-legged beasties. Things that go bump in the night... The Price family has spent generations studying the monsters of the world, working to protect them from humanity – and humanity from them. Enter Verity Price. Despite being trained from birth as a cryptozoologist, she'd rather dance a tango than tangle with a demon, and is spending a year in Manhattan while she pursues her career in professional ballroom dance.
Sounds pretty simple, right? It would be, if it weren't for the talking mice, the telepathic mathematicians, the asbestos supermodels, and the trained monster-hunter sent by the Price family's old enemies, the Covenant of St. George. To complicate matters further, local cryptids are disappearing, strange lizard-men are appearing in the sewers, and someone's spreading rumours about a dragon sleeping underneath the city...
A lifetime of training isn’t enough to prepare Verity for what’s ahead – especially not for Dominic De Luca, the Covenant’s newest operative. When a Price girl meets a Covenant boy, high stakes, high heels, and a lot of collateral damage are almost guaranteed.
Discount Armageddon is the first book in the InCryptid urban fantasy series by Seanan McGuire. McGuire is already well known in UF circles for her October Daye novels; the InCryptid books are an exciting fun-filled new venture and a complete departure from the darker fantasy and fae mythology that prominently featured in the October Daye books.
Discount Armageddon is narrated in first person by Verity Price a cryptozoologist/ballroom-dancing champion. Cryptozoology is the family business but ballroom dancing is her passion. Cryptozoology involves tracking and occasionally fighting dangerous monsters but Verity maintains that there is a transferable skill set – with dance competitions being a cut-throat environment and being nimble on your toes a vital skill in hand-to-hand combat. The narration style is jaunty and fun with Verity managing to do a substantial amount of world-building through the medium of light-hearted quips and occasional touch of whimsy.
Verity launches readers into a Manhattan that is home to a large variety of cryptids (read, monsters) in addition to its human population. The cryptids make a refreshing change to the usual cast of vampires, werewolves and witches that are so popular in UF stories. Instead readers are introduced to dragon princesses (a non-human species of fair maidens that were the companions to dragons in ages past, their beauty often prompting misguided “rescue” by dragon hunters) and lesser gorgons (who have venomous snakes in place of hair) who work as waitresses in a sleazy strip club. There are Tanuki (a kind of raccoon-dog shapeshifter species) bogeymen and tango-dancing chupacabra. However in the cryptid stakes, it’s the Aeslin mice (a colony of sentient mice that crave religion and worship seemingly random divine figures) that steal the show. The mice live in Verity’s apartment and pay homage to her through a rigorously observed calendar of religious feasts and festivals.
The strength of Discount Armageddon lies in its characters. In addition to Verity, our ballroom dancing and knife wielding heroine, being very well realised, the characterisation of the cryptids lifts this story above more average UF offerings. There is an amazing imagination at work in Discount Armageddon and the diverse personalities of the cryptids compliments the story’s world building to good effect.
While the story’s greatest strength is in its characters, it still isn’t quite enough to cover up the weaker plotline. Some parts of the storyline just didn’t quite coherently gel together. Dominic De Luca is introduced as Verity’s potential love interest but somehow the chemistry is off and I never quite buy the actions of either character in regard to each other – except that they are vitally necessary to drive the weaker plotline forward.
However, the resulting story is a fun, fast-paced and highly original tale of cryptozoology, danger and ballroom dance in New York. Mutant lizard men and deluded snake-god cultists running about causing mayhem in the Manhattan sewer system are just the cherry on the top of this urban fantasy treat.
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