Book Review: Magic For Nothing by Seanan McGuire
Magic for Nothing is the sixth installment of Seanan McGuire’s InCryptid series. This book begins just after the events in of the last book, Chaos in Choreography featuring Verity Price as she reveals to the Covenant of St. George the continued existence of the Price family. Magic for Nothing is told from the viewpoint of the youngest of the Price clan, Antimony Timpani Price and she is not happy with her older sister. In fact, she has a boulder the size of a mountain on her shoulder and is not shy about her feelings at all.
Each book in the series has been told from a different sibling and as we finally got to Antimony or Annie as most call her, I was totally excited to hear her point of view. She is painted in the other books as a brat and decidedly not the happiest of souls. But I’d read Seanan’s short story, Blocked, from her website and I felt like Antimony’s voice needed to be heard. At the very least, it would give us a view of the entire family and at the best…..well, we have a fantastic, rocking story which is what we get.
Antimony has stayed on the sidelines, letting her older brother and sister traipse around the world while she figured out what she wanted to focus on. She’s an ex-cheerleader, all around gymnast, roller derby queen with a penchant for throwing knives. On top of that, she has a secret, she has a touch of magic from her grandfather that she is struggling to control. Spoiler, she hasn’t told her family yet. As the beginning of the book gets rolling, her family realize that they need more information on the Covenant and as the only Price who isn’t a blond clone, Antimony is selected to go in as a spy.
With only one lone Aeslin mouse to keep her company and her assorted skills to keep her alive in case of trouble, she tackles the task, sent halfway across the world to infiltrate the Covenant. Blowing her cover could get her killed but she figures nothing worse would happen. Except things become way more complicated than she plans as the Covenant sends her on a mission of their own.
Just so we’re clear, the mice are my favorite. ALL HAIL THE PRECISE PRINCESS. I can’t get enough seriously. But they are just one element that makes this series so rich and diverse, so full of complexity and depth.
Let’s start with the characters. Not only does Antimony have a unique voice all her own, so do most of the characters in the story, even the minor characters. Each character has their own language choices. Antimony is built for the geeks. Her character references comic books and the X-men in particular and I fell in love because I could empathize one hundred percent with her because I’m the comic geek girl too. Beyond that, even her minor characters are complex, so much so that you feel sympathy for the cousin brought up in the Covenant and want to somehow see her redeemed. Kudos to Seanan for writing such good characters that even the villains are both creepy and sympathetic at the same time.
The world is one of the most complex I’ve seen and it comes across as effortless. Now, I happen to know a ton of research has to go into these novels but it doesn’t feel like it. Not only do we not get overloaded with details, we get just enough to carry us through each scene involving a new or different cryptid. The other part that makes it all work together so well is that nothing is black or white, not the monsters or the humans. Just when you think you have one figured out, Seanan pulls out another surprise.
Seanan also develops Antimony well. She begins as a youngest child who’s stubborn and angry at her sister. As she progresses through the story, she develops, showing loyalty and a strength of purpose much like the characters in the rest of the series. The difference for me, is that Antimony is more practical and grounded in some ways than the rest of her family. She doesn’t try to do things the hard way until she has no other choice. And that is a character I can fall in love with because she’s smart.
One of the other pieces of brilliance is that Seanan begins the novel in the first chapter by foreshadowing Antimony’s trip to infiltrate the Covenant and managing to also foreshadow the end of the story. I won’t tell you the specific reference, no spoilers on this one! But see if you can figure it out.
Not only are the characters witty and smart, the dialogue crackling off the page but the first person point of view adds richness to each scene. I especially love the way Seanan manages to slip little pieces of information into scenes using the dialogue and action to help build characterization and plot. She is one of the best writers I’ve seen and once again, she shows how skilled she is in this novel.
If I have a critique, it’s that the story felt left on somewhat of a cliffhanger. While she did resolve most of the plot elements from this story, I was left hanging, wanting to know what happens next. Now, that probably sounds like good writing and it is! But I hate leaving left with the feeling of parts of the story being unresolved. While I know there will be more, I hope we get to read it soon. Otherwise, I’ll be disappointed.
Beyond that, I loved reading this novel, was thankful to netgalley for allowing me to read it. If you’re looking for a spunky, non-princess character who can handle her own action scenes and save the day, this one’s for you. It is full of talking mice, strange creatures and humans who turn out to be more monstrous than the monsters.
Rating: 4.5 stars