“Imaginary Numbers” by Seanan McGuire-Brilliant Characters and Worldbuilding

The ninth book in the fast-paced InCryptid urban fantasy series returns to the mishaps of the Price family, eccentric cryptozoologists who safeguard the world of magical creatures living in secret among humans.
Sarah Zellaby has always been in an interesting position. Adopted into the Price family at a young age, she’s never been able to escape the biological reality of her origins: she’s a cuckoo, a telepathic ambush predator closer akin to a parasitic wasp than a human being. Friend, cousin, mathematician; it’s never been enough to dispel the fear that one day, nature will win out over nurture, and everything will change.
Maybe that time has finally come.
After spending the last several years recuperating in Ohio with her adoptive parents, Sarah is ready to return to the world–and most importantly, to her cousin Artie, with whom she has been head-over-heels in love since childhood. But there are cuckoos everywhere, and when the question of her own survival is weighed against the survival of her family, Sarah’s choices all add up to one inescapable conclusion.
This is war. Cuckoo vs. Price, human vs. cryptid…and not all of them are going to walk away.

I’ve always been fascinated with the character of Sarah Zellaby. As a secondary character, she’s been intriguing, mostly because of her origin as one of the most deadly Incryptid that the Price family has ever encountered. For years, I’ve wondered how they discovered her, how she managed to become a part of the Price family, and more importantly, whether she’d ever recover from the events of the first novel in the series. I was not disappointed in this book because it answers all those questions and a few more I hadn’t considered, including whether all Cuckoo are the enemy and if Sarah can escape her nature.

This novel has all the telltale elements that I love about Seanan’s writing, excellent worldbuilding, realistic characters, and some of the finest storytelling I’ve ever read. We get Sarah as the hero of her own story but we also get Artie because in this narrative, you can’t have one without the other. With Sarah’s recovery and return to Oregon, she must deal with the repercussions of her withdrawal from Artie. Unfortunately, she’s also dealing with a group of Cuckoo who want her for their own reasons and those reasons are not good for the human race. I won’t spoil the story but suffice to say, it is full of action, love, and sacrifice, with a healthy helping of sass and a ton of numbers, because at heart, Sarah is a mathematician but will numbers save the day or will it be love?

My only downside is that with this novel, you will want to have read the series because there is a lot of information from the previous books that helps explain some of the actions and characters in this book. In addition, it does end on a bit of a cliffhanger. While the ending makes sense and the novel would have to be a lot longer to incorporate more story, it does leave me wanting more.

If you love the rest of the Incryptid series, if you love the action, the sass and if you love characters that are three dimensional, not black and white, and where even the villains can be saved, then I highly recommend this book. Just remember to catch up on the other books first.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 mathematicians

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