Monday, June 4, 2012

Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire

It seems that the urban fantasy genre started a while back with the vampires appearing on the modern scene in books like Interview with a Vampire by Rice and The Dracula Tape by Saberhagen, and rather rapidly spread, to the point where it's gotten difficult to find any classic, high fantasy these days. The vampires and werewolves seem to be the most popular legendary critters, perhaps because of their romantic vibes with the teen scene, but slowly just about every other denizen of lore has made an appearance in some author's work. McGuire adds a new twist or two here, with her introduction of diverse "cryptids" in a new series. The style and plot seem very similar to some of Larry Correia's Monster Hunter books, without (despite the title) the apocalyptic implications which seem to be his stock in trade.

Actually, the whole point of the book may just be McGuire's desire to write a novel about defeating monsters through the powers of ballroom dance. The protagonist, Verity Price, comes from a family of cryptozoologists - those who study the supernatural species which still linger in the cracks of society. She really loves ballroom dancing, and believes she can make a successful career of it, so she is living in New York on her own to prove to her family that she can protect and serve the cryptids there, as well as succeed in the cutthroat world of competitive dance.

She works in a stip club run by a bogeyman named Dave - neat little invention introduced here - "darks". He can turn on the darks in his office, instead of turning on the lights, resulting in various shades of darkness where he can be scary - a bogeyman's favorite pasttime. Most of the club's other employees are also cryptids, of the sort that can pass for human, including a dragon princess named Candy who is a fireproof bombshell blonde, a shape-shifting waheela (yeah, I never heard of one before, see the glossary at the back of the book)  named Istas who is a Goth Lolita, and Carol the gorgon, with uncontrollable snakes in her hair.

Someone is causing unattached female, presumably virgin, cryptids to disappear, and Verity decides it is her mission to find out why. The Price family originally belonged to an organization called The Covenant, which fanatically dedicated its time to wiping out all cryptids from the face of the planet, but at some point several generations ago, they realized that cryptids were people, too, for the most part, and deserved life, liberty and the pursuit of happinesss, as long as that happiness didn't involve harming other sentients. In the course of her investigations, Verity is caught in a snare set by a young member of the Covenant who has been sent to see if New York City requires a purge of its cryptid population, Dominic De Luca.

You can see this one coming a mile away, as Verity is immediately attracted to and simultaneously repelled by, Dominic's good looks and his fanatical devotion to wiping out cryptids. Coincidentally, I was reading a blog post about plot devices the other day that talked about romantic comedies - and Verity and Dominic's affair followed the plan perfectly. Also quite predictably...virgins being abducted for nefarious purposes...gotta be either a volcano or a dragon, right? Turns out there's a dragon snoozing beneath the city, and Verity and Dominic need to reach it before the bad guys succeed in rousing it, to create chaos in the Big Apple.

A promising start to a new series, a little less serious than McGuire's October Daye novels.

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