Magic for Nothing by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Anyone who's talked to me about books for more than 30 seconds knows I adore Seanan McGuire's books. I fell behind with this one, though. It's been out for over 2 1/2 months, but I'm just getting to my review? Past Me is so disappointed in Present Me.
This book introduces the perspective of Antimony ("Annie") Price, the youngest of the three siblings, and the one kept closest to home. She's both been protected against and held back from the spotlight all her life, because her siblings were allowed to pursue her passions, and one more Price out there in the world is too much for her parents' blood pressure. She has her interests outside the family profession, of course: TV and comic books and roller derby are her lifeblood, with a particular affinity for the X-Men.
Of course, this wouldn't be a book if she got to go on this way forever. Because of events in previous installments, Antimony has to infiltrate the English chapter of the Covenant of St. George, the people her family has been hiding from for centuries. The ones who want to exterminate all cryptids, believing them to be evil and against the natural order. And, just when she's starting to settle into that role, the Covenant decides to test her cover story by sending her into an American carnival to root out the cryptid or cryptids responsible for the disappearance of three teenagers in the carnival's proximity.
Of the three siblings, Antimony quickly became my favorite perspective character. She's snarky, well aware of her limitations, and she balances out the sense of awe with which people treat her older sister and brother. She reminds the reader that the Price family is still human, still vulnerable, and still a pain in her ass. For all her flippancy, Antimony is well aware of the danger she's walking into, and the stakes if she fails.
Antimony is also given the hardest task of any of her siblings. She isn't just getting to the bottom of a cryptid mystery; no, she's also balancing two levels of secret ID, trying not to piss off the grandmother of the (cryptid) boy she likes, trying to spy on the Covenant, and trying to protect her new friends from that very same Covenant. And she's working with far fewer resources, because reaching out to the family could expose them all.
One of the things accomplished in this book is to give the Covenant a human face. We meet the person running the Great Britain arm, and the next generation, sort of the Price sibling analogues. While it's harder to relish the idea of the Prices crushing an organization made up of thinking, feeling people, it also underscores their commitment to stop any sentient being from harming others. They've been shown, so far, to give all sorts of creatures the chance to show themselves capable of living peacefully. I wonder if the Covenant merits the same treatment. And if anyone in the Covenant is worthy of that chance.
In the end, everything wraps up in a satisfying yet intriguing way, which is how a volume in a series with more to come should end. There's a lot more for Antimony and the rest of her family to take care of before their story is done.
As always, looking forward to the next installment.
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