I basically blew through all seven novels of this series in four days. Fortunately, it is recent enough that I am still able to keep the plot lines very distinct but extra details about the family history and the family tree are added as the series progresses so I can’t get too far into some of the background because I can’t quite remember at what point certain concepts are introduced.
Verity Price is the middle daughter of the latest generation of the Price family. The Price family traces its history back through the Healy family, when Verity’s great-great-grandparents chose to cut ties with the secret monster hunting organization (fanatical cult) they had been a part of due to a difference of opinion. Basically, the Healy couple realized that maybe it was not fair to kill any non-human species, or cryptids, just for not being human, and instead there should be some further evaluation as to what role a species might play in the ecosystem and whether they were a threat to humans. As a result of this disagreement, the Healys became a kill target for the Covenant of St. George and fled to the US, where they and their descendants studied local cryptids, started referring to themselves as cryptozoologists, and focused on protecting the monsters from humans, and occasionally interfering when these intelligent creatures stepped over the line and killed too many humans.
While Verity has the family training and feels the family calling, she also loves professional dance and has even competed on reality TV’s Dance or Die. She was able to do this with a fake name, a wig, and due to the fact that the Covenant thinks her family is as extinct as some of the cryptid species hunted by the Covenant. As the novel begins, Verity is in New York City, away from her family compound in Portland for a year, to figure out which of her two callings will win. She is subletting a tiny apartment and has a small splinter colony of Aeslin mice living with her, a sapient cryptid mice species that is devoutly religious, can talk, and sees Verity and her family as the head of their religion. They also have great memories and keep the family history alive with religious ceremonies. New York gives Verity the opportunity to study the urban cryptid population while also competing in ballroom dance competitions. She earns rent money by working at bogeyman-owned, cryptid-staffed strip club as a cocktail waitress, giving her an opportunity to interact with a variety of species, including lesser gorgons, shapeshifters and dragon princesses – since dragons were hunted to extinction, the dragon princesses are not Verity’s biggest fans since some still are more concerned with the Covenant part of her ex-Covenant family.
Unfortunately, Verity’s already busy life gets disrupted when she accidentally runs into the trap of Dominic DeLuca, a Covenant member on a mission to evaluate New York. After their interaction, during which Verity reveals that her family isn’t quite as dead as assumed, cryptids start disappearing. Verity is concerned that it might be Dominic, but she isn’t finding enough bodies to confirm that theory, and when she realizes that he thinks she has been helping the cryptids evacuate, they realize they might have a much bigger problem on their hands, and work together to find and potentially eliminate a common threat.
I had previously read McGuire’s Toby Daye novels, which focuses on the fae. I liked that she was able to use a completely different, equally extensive source of myth and legend to still have an incredibly diverse mix of creatures without repeating herself. This book was a lot of fun with a good mix of characters, world building and humor. I definitely enjoyed reading this one (it also made my two hour flight delay bearable), although I did feel like the actual mystery behind the disappearances was a mix of interesting and simple. Fortunately it was an engaging enough novel that I didn’t mind a simple explanation, and McGuire’s takes and level of detail on her various fantastical creatures more than make up for not having a super complex case.
Also, the main reason I didn’t pick this up after reading all of the Toby Daye novels is because I hated the cover, but the school girl outfit isn’t actually an example of Verity’s fashion choices – it’s her cocktail waitress uniform.