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2016 Stories 59 - 61

Way, way, way, way, way behind on posting story reviews here. Here's a slight attempt to start catching up.

Today's entry is three interconnected stories by seanan_mcguire that are a part of her InCryptid universe. They take place in the year gap (character time) between when Verity Price and Dominic deLuca leave NYC at the end of Midnight Blue-Light Special (book two in the series) and when they arrive in Oregon prior to the start of Chaos Choreography (book 5). There's no need for me to spoil what prompted this cross-country year-long trek; if you haven't done so, go read the novels -- or, if you don't mind mild spoilers, use these stories as your introduction to the world.

Story 59: The Ghosts of Bourbon Street

This is the first of three novellas that fill in the year-long gap between McGuire’s InCryptid novels Midnight Blue Light Special and Chaos Choreography. Falling on the short end of novella-dom, it’s a tightly-written, quckly-paced tale that trades on character more than action. As the start of a trilogy of linked tales, it sets stages (Verity and Dominic are road-tripping across the country, stopping wherever Verity’s whim or a Cryptid-in-need takes them) that will pay off both in the trilogy-of-shorts and eventually in the InCryptid novels. But it also stands very well on its own, with a solid beginning, middle and end. (Having read McGuire’s linked short stories of Verity’s great-grandparents Fran and John, I expected no less.) Drinks with Aunt Rose (the main character from McGuire’s novel Sparrow Hill Road) leads to a mystery that needs to be solved. We get to explore a bit of the ghostly side of this universe that we don’t really see in the novels, we get a better sense of Rose’s connection to the family, and we get some character development for Verity and Dominic.

We also get a little bit of a fight scene, because what would a Price family story bet without at least one punch being thrown? But unlike the novels, this story’s fight doesn’t lead to some massive game-change for Verity’s world. Although, one never knows what McGuire has planned further down the road.



Story 60: Snake in the Glass

This is the second of three novellas that fill in the year-long gap between McGuire’s InCryptid novels Midnight Blue Light Special and Chaos Choreography. This time, Verity is introducing Dominic to extended family. There’s a lot of character building for Dominic in particular. In fact, in its own quiet way, this is the story that convinced me Dominic is sincere about leaving the Covenant behind and joining the Price family. The story has a slower pace than the stories that precede and follow it, giving the reader as much a respite from the usually-hectic pace of the InCryptid world as Verity herself gets. Readers familiar with the Carmichael from its appearance in some of the Fran-and-John InCryptid stories will enjoy catching up with the gorgon family that runs the establishment; even more so I enjoyed another look into the gorgon community (and mentally couldn’t help contrasting this long-established urban settlement with the more rural settlement McGuire shows us in Half-Off Ragnarok). McGuire, as always, packs these 40 pages with a ton of world-building, character development and interpersonal development, but it never feels overwhelming.


Story 61: Swamp Bromeliad

This is the third of three novellas that fill in the year-long gap between McGuire’s InCryptid novels Midnight Blue-Light Special and Chaos Choreography.  These novellas are more than just an attempt by the author to fill in some of the “missing time” for Verity and Dominic while Verity’s brother Alex takes over the lead in the InCryptid novels. They’re linked not just by chronology but by theme. There’s a sense, reading them back to back, of both “the journey is the destination” and “the past is present.” Verity has been trying to soften Dominic’s first meeting with her parents and younger sister by introducing him to blood and extended family; he started this sequence meeting one ghost-aunt and ends it visiting with another. Mary Dunlavy has always watched out for the children of the Price family, and this visit is no different. One of the subtler tissues connecting all three novellas is that Verity’s aunts and uncle don’t do much more than observe: they’re watching to see how Dominic fits in, but I think almost as important they’re watching to see how Verity supports Dominic’s immersion into this world (of which he’s always been aware but has also always been an outsider to). This connectivity of family watching out for us, and judging, and hopefully finding worthy, the people we fall in love with, is something I didn’t consciously notice the first time I read each of these. 

It’s also always a delight when McGuire focuses on a previously unknown, or at least un-detailed, cryptid – this time it’s the killer plant “swamp bromeliad.”  And that’s another thing that ties these stories together: Dominic’s exposure to different types of cryptids in each story (ghosts in the first; gorgon society in the second; predatory plants in this one).  He’s likely familiar with the types thanks to his Covenant training, but we get to see him have some first hand experience – which involves making mistakes. That humanizes him even more.

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