After five novels, Antimony “Annie” Price, the youngest Price sibling finally gets to say her piece. While her older siblings see Antimony as the trap and ambush setting younger sister who has been hanging out at home post high school and playing roller derby, Annie has a rather different view. She is the good, loyal daughter while Verity craves the spotlight, and as a result got them into their current mess: after battling a snake summoned from an alternate dimension on live TV and revealing herself as a Price to the world – and the Covenant – the family is on lock down and in need of intelligence. Since Annie doesn’t have the Ealy/Carew look, the hope is that she can infiltrate the Covenant through one of the recruiting stations. Her family may have reconsidered their request if Annie had mentioned that she appears to have inherited some of the magical abilities her grandfather Thomas Price had, and doesn’t know how to control them.
As a result, Annie is quickly off to London (with only one Aeslin mouse, Mindy), and even manages to make it through the initial background checks to be accepted at the training grounds, which are run by none other than Margaret Ealy and Robert after their unsuccessful Manhattan mission in Midnight Blue-Light Special. Leo, the grandson of the current head of the Covenant, takes an interest in Annie, but she has no interest in following in her sister’s romantic footsteps and converting a Covenant boy (not to mention that turning the heir to the throne would probably be more difficult than turning an orphan with no family ties). Annie’s cover story is mostly based in part truths – as far as the Covenant knows, Timpani “Annie” Brown is from a carnival family and was away at school when her family’s carnival, the Black Family Carnival, was attacked and killed during an apraxis wasp attack,. Since the Price family has connections to carnivals, Annie spent most of her summers working at the carnival, and learned the trapeze and trampoline. The Covenant actually sees her carnie background as an important skill set since so many cryptids can hide in plain site at carnivals, making her the perfect candidate to infiltrate them and determine whether a carnival might be in need of purging.
In fact, Annie is given a first mission in record time, and before long is on her way back to the States with Margaret Ealy to go under cover within her cover and find out who is behind the disappearances of local teenage boys which have all coincided with a visiting carnival’s schedule.
Annie quickly talks herself into the carnival, though she clashes with the owner’s grandson Sam (can you say romantic interest). Annie eventually gains everyone’s trust, and even discovers the culprit behind the disappearances, but quickly finds her loyalties and her boundaries tested.
McGuire definitely set herself up for a challenge in this one – the series started with Verity, so switching to her younger sister, who strongly dislikes Verity, but still making her sympathetic despite this hatred could be difficult in other hands. In the beginning, Annie definitely appears to be unfair, but she ends up being her own character and person by the end rather than defining herself against her sister. While I enjoyed the novel, I was also disappointed with the direction and how quickly Annie had to go on mission. With Annie going undercover in the Covenant, I wanted to see more of the inner workings of the Covenant and their classroom training so transitioning to the world of the carnival so soon felt like a lost opportunity.