Overall, I would say this one is probably my least favorite of the InCryptid series so far but is still an entertaining ride. Sometimes when an author does novels from different perspectives, it’s hard not to treat the first narrator as a favorite, even if the other characters are also interesting (definitely had that issue with Women of the Otherworld and Elena, though Eve and Jaime Vegas both gave her a good run for her money – unfortunately Jamie only got the one perspective novel). While I like Alex, I want more Verity! I also think that with the family being so far spread apart, it is sometimes unfortunate that the main characters don’t interact beyond phone calls – I want to see how Dominic and Alex get along, and how Verity reacts to Shelby (maybe I need to start looking for some short stories, I know there are some decent novellas related to McGuire’s Toby Daye series).
Alas, in this novel, there is a large family visit but it is to Shelby’s family in Australia rather than a Price family reunion. Shelby’s family and the Thirty-Six society are dealing with a lycanthrope outbreak in Australia. While this is never a good thing, with Australia being an island, there is also a danger that it could quickly destroy the entire ecosystem, especially since the virus can turn any mammal large enough to survive the initial infection and transformation, leading to fun things like werewolf horses and sheep. Given Alex’s previous experience with a werewolf outbreak, he agrees to accompany Shelby home to stop the spread of the virus. This leads to some interesting smuggling through security since Alex and Shelby both bring a variety of weapons as well as herbs and medicinal supplies, and six Aeslin mice to document Alex’s journey. McGuire draws parallels between Alex and Shelby’s families with both having two younger sisters, one of whom has interests outside the family business (opera vs. dance), while the other is a sarcastic, surely geek.
Once in Australia, Alex struggles to make a positive impression on Shelby’s dad, and the Thirty-Six society treats him as a suspicious outsider rather than a valued resource. Despite his family’s break from the Covenant generations ago, Alex suffers from the same issue that Verity sometimes faced – people focus more on the Covenant part of the term “ex-Covenant.” However, Alex also discovers that the Thirty-Six Society wasn’t quite as positive and tolerant as he had originally thought. While they banded together early on to drive out the Covenant and are concerned with keeping the Australian ecosystem balanced, they are entirely focused on the wildlife, and have rather condescending views towards the sapient cryptids. In fact, as Alex discovers, they have not warned the local population of the werewolf virus or taken advantage of the reptilian sapient cryptids who are not at risk of infection, and therefore a valuable resource. In fact, sometimes the sapient species had been targeted by the “protect the local ecosystem from outsiders” mentality.
While at first, the novel seems like it will simply be about eradicating a virus and epidemiology, it quickly turns out that there might be something more intelligent at play behind the random attacks and the spread of the virus as Alex learns new details about the virus that had previously been undiscovered.
As I said, I enjoyed this one, but Shelby’s family was too aggressively set against Alex, and I was a bit worried in the beginning about the direction. I appreciated the additional world building with the detour to Australia, but was definitely ready to get back to Verity and the US by the end of this one. I also appreciated the expanded role of the mice, and how they proved their usefulness and importance in this one.