July 7, 2018
Hugo Reading 2018: Midnight Blue-Light Special, by Seanan McGuire
This is the second book in the Best Series-nominated InCryptid series. It picks up where the last book left off, with the same protagonist, Verity Price (though that will change in subsequent books, as Verity's older brother Alexander and younger sister Antimony take their turns). Time-wise, this takes place about six months after the events of the first book, with Verity drawing near the end of her year's stay in New York City.
Verity's sometimes boyfriend, Dominic De Luca, reappears with some bad news: the Covenant of St George is descending on the city for a "purge." The cryptids (creatures of magic, myth and legend, also known as "monsters," hiding in plain sight) are in danger. Verity immediately rallies to save her city, visiting the cryptids to warn them, and gathering the more vulnerable ones to hide in the nightclub where she works, the Freakshow.
Two prominent themes in this book are friendship and found family. Both Verity and Dominic have nice character arcs in this book, with Verity realizing her "job," and true calling, is to protect the cryptids, no matter how much she loves ballroom dancing. Dominic also reaches a personal epiphany; for much of the book he is caught between Verity and the Covenant, between the woman he loves and the organization that took him in and raised him. The Covenant also fed him a line of propaganda about the cryptids, and he finally realizes he cannot be a part of the organization anymore. He throws his lot in with Verity and her cryptids, and just in time, as the Covenant representatives (one of whom is a cousin of Verity's from far back, from a line of the family that did not break away) capture Verity and set about torturing her, both to make her reveal the whereabouts of her family and the cryptids in New York.
The back half of this book is a fast-paced, nerve-wracking rescue mission, as Dominic and Verity's uncle Mike lead a team of cryptids to rescue her. We are treated to an interesting POV switch, as several chapters in the middle of the book are narrated by Verity's adopted cousin Sarah, a telepathic cryptid known as a "cuckoo." (As far as that goes, I wish Dominic had at least one chapter to call his own. Getting inside his head would have been interesting, I think.) Verity, being the badass that she is, breaks free on her own before the cavalry gets there. Despite her torture and subsequent injuries, she still gives a good account of herself. With everyone charging in to save the day, the Covenant is defeated...but Sarah, unfortunately, pays the heaviest price, as her telepathic abilities are needed to scour the Covenant members' memories to ensure others of their ilk will not descend on New York, and doing so damages her mind. Hopefully she will recover in future books.
This series continues to impress, so much so that I ordered the rest of the books. This book is a bit grimmer than the first, despite the levity of the Aeslin mice (intelligent, extremely religious mouse-like cryptids, who worship Verity and her family as gods). The secondary characters are well developed, especially Istas the shapeshifting waheela and her constant deadpan bloodthirsty calls for "carnage." I'm looking forward to the rest of the Price family's story.