Review: Half-Off Ragnarok by Seanan McGuire

‘Being smart isn’t good enough. You need to be educated, and you need to be open-minded, and you need to remember that what you don’t know can most definitely hurt you.’

Over the year, I’ve been slowly reading my way through Seanan McGuire’s Incryptid series and it’s really been a gateway for me back into urban fantasy. I sadly couldn’t get to this book, the third in the series, until now just due to life, work and being a human. While my opinion of the last two books has been extremely positive, this one was sadly a bit of a let down for me.

When Alex Price agreed to go to Ohio to oversee a basilisk breeding program and assist in the recovery of his psychic cousin, he didn’t expect people to start dropping dead. But bodies are cropping up at the zoo where he works, and his girlfriend—Shelby Tanner, an Australian zoologist with a fondness for big cats—is starting to get suspicious.

Worse yet, the bodies have all been turned partially to stone…

The third book in the InCryptid series takes us to a new location and a new member of the family, as Alex tries to balance life, work, and the strong desire not to become a piece of garden statuary. Old friends and new are on the scene, and danger lurks around every corner.

Of course, so do the talking mice.

As I mentioned at the start, I do feel this book was a little bit of a disappointment than the first two. I did rate Discount Armageddon lower but I did overall find it a very enjoyable read. This one was a bit bland compared to it. And that is likely down to just the change in perspective since the first two books we follow Verity who leads a fast paced life and has an even more fast paced mind.

We meet Alex in this book, Verity’s brother, and it’s his POV we follow for this book and for the one after it. Alex, like his sister, hides his true identity almost completely with the exception that he also has to hide his work with cryptids actually inside his workplace. Made easier of course by his assistant being a cryptid herself but there is a more mundane element and stability to his every day life than that of his sister. Ballroom dancing and cocktail waitressing among cryptids don’t exactly function on a 9-5 schedule.

Sadly my main issue with the book was mostly down to Alex himself and a lot of the moments with his girlfriend Shelby. There’s something I can’t put my finger on with Alex but he just felt a lot weaker and less developed. The only real moments I found he actually was a bit more fleshed out were moments he interacted directly with Sarah Zellaby, his cryptid cousin recovering from a psychic burn out and those were few. Though I was glad to see a lot of Sarah and her mother and father. This is something I don’t often say about female characters, but Shelby was highly underdeveloped and genuinely irritating.

Shelby to me was just there to have an outside conflict for Alex, a girlfriend in the mundane world that he couldn’t reveal his full self to. I did have a lot of hope that as the book went on and she became more outlined in her motivations, feelings and any potential connection with Australia’s cryptid world would become clear. She actually somehow goes backward in my opinion and becomes less. I also don’t know if I’m calling myself out on this point (being the other way round as an Irish person previously doing it in Canada and the U.K) but her constant reminders that she was in fact Australian in case you had forgotten were wearing on me a bit towards the end.

However I did still like a lot from this. Seanan McGuire still writes a brilliant story and I was highly intrigued up to the very end at the mystery of who or what was turning people to stone. I loved how for this book as well the focus was on a particular group of cryptids, mostly Gorgons of different types. Dee, Alex’s assistant, is a Pliny’s Gorgon working alongside Alex among humans. She was a character I really enjoyed, especially how she clearly has boundaries with Alex because of his family’s history with the Covenant of St. George and just in the best interest of protecting her community.

The family aspects as well in these books is still a shining star. We meet Sarah’s mother, another adopted cuckoo named Angela and her husband Martin. Martin is another non human member of the family, a ‘revenant’ which is essentially what would be the official name of the Frankenstein creature. There is a genuine network of love and support among the Price family, adopted and biological, really hits home every time for me and I do think that is something Seanan McGuire writes really well. It’s a huge part of the Wayward Children series and Middlegame but this big sprawling family of misfits and weirdos gets me on a more personal level.

Despite this book’s ups and downs, I am still enjoying this series. I do want to try and get to the fourth and see if Alex’s point of view improves in it but either way, we would be moving to the next Price sibling for book five. Either way, series is still very solid. Thanks for checking in everyone, happy reading!


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