Review: Discount Armageddon

Discount ArmageddonSeanan McGuire, Discount Armageddon

Verity Price is a cocktail waitress and aspiring professional ballroom dancer living in New York City. But she’s also a cryptozoologist who studies the paranormal inhabitants of Manhattan — everything from ghouls to bogeymen, shapeshifters to the Tooth Fairy. To Verity, cryptids are part of the natural order and should be left alone unless they start harming humans. But not everyone sees it that way, particularly the Covenant of St. George, an ancient order sworn to exterminate all cryptids. Now a member of the Covenant, Dominic de Luca, has arrived in New York; and between his rigid views and his attractive physique, he’s trouble for Verity in more ways than one. Not to mention that there are rumors of a dragon — a species long assumed to be extinct — sleeping underneath the city, and someone seems to be trying to wake it up.

I’m a longtime fan of Seanan McGuire’s Toby Daye series, but I haven’t been as enthusiastic about the last few books. So I guess it’s not surprising that I wasn’t a huge fan of this novel either. If you love Toby, you’ll also love Verity; she’s the same type of tough woman who will toss off quip after quip while she’s kicking the bad guy’s ass. But for me, the two characters feel almost too similar, and I’m over the schtick. I do think the world-building is very creative, and it was fun to read about the different types of cryptids and their various abilities. I also enjoyed the romance between Verity and Dominic, although every beat of it is predictable. I wish there had been more ballroom dancing, honestly; it would have been a fun distraction from the main plot, which involves a snake cult (!) and several trips into Manhattan’s sewer system. Maybe I’m being unfair to this book because I’m getting a bit burned out on the author, but I’m not particularly interested in continuing with the series.

Mini-reviews: Fête, Tide, Red, Battle

Fête Worse Than Death, AAngry Tide, The

Dolores Gordon-Smith, A Fête Worse than Death — Jack Haldean, former World War I pilot and current crime writer, becomes involved in a real murder investigation when an old wartime acquaintance turns up at the village fête and is later found dead in the fortune teller’s tent. Jack is convinced that the man’s death is somehow connected to a mysterious scandal from the war, and his investigation soon reveals that the commonly believed version of events is not the whole story. I quite enjoyed this book — Jack is a likable and sympathetic main character, and I appreciated the fact that he was willing to work with the police rather than against them. There’s also a good supporting cast that I suspect will recur in later books. Overall, I think this is a very solid start to a historical mystery series, and I’m glad that my library has several more of the books!

Winston Graham, The Angry Tide — ***Warning: spoilers for previous Poldark books.***

It’s funny — a number of dramatic events occur in this book, but nevertheless I feel like it’s a little short on plot! Ross is now a member of Parliament, which he has conflicting feelings about. He also makes yet another terrible impulsive decision, hurting Demelza but surprising no one. Ossie continues to be the world’s actual worst human being. Pascoe’s bank is in trouble, thanks to Warleggan skulduggery. Drake considers marriage. All in all, I’m happy with where things are at the end of this book and intrigued to see what will happen next!

Red-Rose Chain, AArabella and the Battle of Venus

Seanan McGuire, A Red-Rose Chain — Just as things are looking up for Toby and the gang, the Kingdom of Mists receives a declaration of war — and for some reason, the queen thinks Toby is the perfect person to stop said war from happening. Toby is appointed ambassador to the neighboring Kingdom of Silences and must find a way to convince King Rhys not to invade. But when Toby and her entourage arrive in Silences, they are shocked to discover various secrets the king is hiding. I’m a longtime fan of this series, and this book was a fun read as well, but I think my enthusiasm is beginning to wane. I’m still definitely invested enough to stick with the series until the end; I think I read somewhere that the 12th book will be the last. But I won’t be too upset when it’s over — it’s starting to feel like the characters are nearing the end of their journeys.

David D. Levine, Arabella and the Battle of Venus — ***Warning: spoilers for Arabella of Mars.***

This sequel to Arabella of Mars is just as much swashbuckling fun as the first book. Arabella learns that her beloved Capitan Singh has been captured by the French and imprisoned on Venus. She is determined to rescue him, so she obtains passage to Venus with roguish privateer Daniel Fox. When she arrives on the French-occupied planet, she sees how brutally the English prisoners and native Venusians are treated, and she hatches a daring escape plan under the very nose of Napoleon himself. I’m really enjoying this series and will definitely continue if and when a third book is released!

Review: Chimes at Midnight

Chimes at MidnightSeanan McGuire, Chimes at Midnight

October Daye, faerie knight and private detective, is making it her mission to get goblin fruit off the streets of San Francisco. More potent than any human drug, goblin fruit will cause a human or changeling to become addicted with just one taste; its victims will become swallowed up in their dreams, wasting away and eventually dying. When Toby discovers the corpse of yet another changeling addict, she decides to petition the Queen of the Mists for help. But instead of listening to Toby’s arguments, the queen promptly exiles her, giving her only three days to get out of town forever. Reeling from shock, Toby nonetheless decides to fight back — and soon discovers some interesting details about the queen’s accession to her throne.

This book is yet another wonderful installment of the Toby Daye series. I don’t actually read a lot of urban fantasy, but I was hooked on these books from the beginning. I love Toby’s hard-boiled, self-deprecating voice, and it’s easy to root for her even when she’s getting herself into ever more dangerous situations. I think this book in particular was an excellent showcase for all the secondary characters: from Tybalt and May to Quentin and the Luidaeg, everyone seems to have a moment to shine. Also, the mystery of Quentin’s background is finally revealed! This is definitely more of a “plot” book than a “character” book, though; it’s Toby’s race against time to avoid banishment that drives the story forward. Overall, this is another strong installment of a great series — can’t wait for the next one!

Review: Ashes of Honor

Ashes of Honor by Seanan McGuireSeanan McGuire, Ashes of Honor

Still reeling after the tragic events of One Salt Sea, Toby Daye has thrown herself into her work, rushing into unnecessarily dangerous situations and pushing all her friends away. But she can’t avoid the people around her forever — a fact made abundantly clear when Etienne, one of Duke Sylvester’s knights, comes to her for help. His daughter Chelsea, a changeling whose existence he only recently discovered, has inherited extremely strong powers from her fae blood, but she has no idea how to control them. Now she’s ripping doors through Faerie that were never meant to be opened, and Toby has to stop her before she inadvertently destroys the world of Faerie.

I’m really enjoying the Toby Daye books, and this latest installment is no exception. The book moves at a quick pace, with the need to find Chelsea being the driving force, but there’s still the occasional quiet moment to balance out the action sequences. I also noticed several little hints throughout the novel about what might come next in the series: for example, the clues about Quentin’s background should pay off in future installments. Tybalt also plays a prominent role in this book, which is always a plus for me! And as always, I love Toby’s sarcastic voice and gallows humor, which are the perfect antidote to the violence and cruelty that she confronts on a daily basis. Overall, this is another strong installment in an excellent series. Can’t wait for the next Toby Daye novel!