Midnight Blue-Light Special: Distant relatives and dancing mice

Midnight Blue-Light Special by Seanan McGuire urban fantasy book reviewsMidnight Blue-Light Special by Seanan McGuire

Midnight Blue-Light Special (2013), book two in Seanan McGuire’s INCRYPTID series, wraps up some plot points, deepens some characters and expands the world of the stories. McGuire takes the expected “The Covenant Strikes Back” plot, but incorporates a few nice twists along the way.

The Covenant of St. George is a group dedicated to a “scorched earth” policy toward magical creatures, working hard to exterminate any cryptid race, no matter how harmless or, in some cases, helpful to humanity it might be. Several generations ago, the Healy family, loyal covenant members, realized that this approach was short-sighted and wrong. They left the Covenant and came to the New World. The Covenant branded them traitors and issued “kill on sight” orders. Verity Price is a descendant of the Healys. She came to New York to study cryptids, but also to become a competitive ballroom dancer. In Manhattan, she met Dominic De Luca, raised by the Covenant. Verity and her cryptid friends eventually won Dominic over, but he still works for the Covenant, and now, alerted by a change in his reports, or something, the Covenant is sending a second team to determine if New York requires another “purge;” the murder of every cryptid in the city.

The Covenant sends the usual team of three: the Sexually Sadistic One, the Coldly Professional One and the One Who Thinks It’s Personal. In this case, the One Who Thinks It’s Personal is right. She is a descendant from the branch of the Healy clan who stayed with the Covenant. She’s got baggage, and she’d like nothing better than to dump that baggage on Verity’s head — preferably from a great height.

InCryptid (Book Series) by Seanan McGuire urban fantasy book reviewsVerity, meanwhile, has to deal with a sense of betrayal. Even though Dominic told her about the new team, she is not sure she can trust his loyalty, especially when it’s clear that the Covenant knows things that could only have come from him. Dominic becomes a stronger person and a stronger character in this book, moving beyond “smokin’ hot boyfriend” status to “heroic.” Partly, this is because McGuire wisely chooses to make Dominic’s struggle not loyalty versus love, but loyalty versus conscience. Dominic has seen first-hand that cryptids are people and that the Covenant rules are wrong. At the same time, the Covenant raised him. Dominic’s struggle is to become his own man.

The Aeslin mice are back in force. In the first book they were quirky and cute and I loved them. In this book, they are still quirky and cute (and shockingly sexist! Even Verity comments on it). They are also loyal, valiant and ingenious, playing a meaningful role in the rescue attempt when Verity is captured by the Covenant. The growing relationship with Istas, a carnivorous shape-shifter, and the mice is absolutely charming.

Ryan turned to see where Dominic was going, and his face split in a wide smile. “Verity. You’re up and moving again.”

“I am,” I agreed. “Hey, Istas.”

“The mice are performing a dance of thanks,” she informed me, frowning. “You should observe the mice.”

When Verity is captured, she has to dig deep and use all her resources, physical, spiritual and intellectual to survive, let alone escape. At stake is not only her own life but her family’s. Far from being above torture, the Covenant seems to enjoy it. This makes for a compelling final act, in large part because a charm used by the Covenant has stripped away Verity’s safety net, her psychic link to her adopted cousin Sarah.

In spite of Verity’s convincing trial by ordeal, and Dominic’s growth, this story is really Sarah’s. Sarah is a nonhuman cryptid who is fully telepathic. Her race preys on humans in a variety of ways. Sarah was raised by the Healy/Price family and has internalized human qualities, but she is often struggling against her nature. She counts on her connection to Verity and when it is torn away she is nearly as lost as her cousin.

McGuire shifts from first-person Verity to first-person Sarah for part of the book, and I didn’t think the two voices were quite differentiated enough. When Verity is being snarky and cracking wise, she is distinctive, but she does a bit of lecturing. Sarah has a different “conversational” tone, but she also does a bit of lecturing. Lecturing voice sounded the same for both. And it would have been nice to spend some time in the mind of an organism that is not mammalian, for example. Still, the voice shift didn’t throw me out of the story, and it helped me see some of Sarah’s conflicts.

Primary characters employ self-sacrifice to neutralize the Covenant threat, and the book closes one chapter of the Price family saga. In the Afterword, McGuire says that the next book, Half-Off Ragnarok, will follow the adventures of Verity’s big brother Alex. I thoroughly enjoyed Midnight Blue Light Special and I’m curious to see what kinds of shenanigans Alex can get up to.

~Marion Deeds


Midnight Blue-Light Special by Seanan McGuire urban fantasy book reviewsIf you liked Discount Armageddon, I think you’ll like Midnight Blue Light Special even more. The story is simple and unlikely to change your world in any way, but it’s great entertainment. It’s exciting, tense, and frightening at times. The pacing is excellent. I liked McGuire’s handling of Dominic’s development, especially, and it was nice to get Sarah’s POV. The audiobook narration by Emily Bauer is excellent. I’m looking forward to reading the next INCRYPTID novel, Half-Off Ragnarok.

~Kat Hooper 

Published in 2013. The Price family has spent generations studying the monsters of the world, working to protect them from humanity—and to protect humanity from them. Verity Price is just trying to do her job, keeping the native cryptid population of Manhattan from getting into trouble, and doing a little ballroom dancing on the side. Enter Dominic De Luca, an operative for the Covenant of St. George, and Verity’s on-again, off-again boyfriend. When he tells her that the Covenant is sending a full team to assess how ready the city is for a purge, Verity finds herself between a rock and a hard place. Stay, and risk her almost-certain death, or flee, and leave the cryptids of New York with nothing between them and the Covenant.

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MARION DEEDS, with us since March 2011, is retired from a 35-year career with county government, where she met enough interesting characters and heard enough zany stories to inspire at least two trilogies’ worth of fantasy fiction. Currently she spends part of her time working at a local used bookstore. She is an aspiring writer herself and, in the 1990s, had short fiction published in small magazines like Night Terrors, Aberrations, and in the cross-genre anthology The Magic Within. On her blog Deeds & Words, she reviews many types of books and follows developments in food policy and other topics.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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3 comments

  1. susan emans /

    My library just got Pocket Apocalypse, and I am excited to read how Alex handles Australia.

  2. susan emans /

    Oh! Check Seanan McGuire’s website. Istas (I love this waheela) has her own short stories.

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