Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: DAW on March 6, 2012
Ghoulies. Ghosties. Long-legged beasties. Things that go bump in the night….
The Price family has spent generations studying the monsters of the world, working to protect them from humanity – and humanity from them. Enter Verity Price. Despite being trained from birth as a cryptozoologist, she’d rather dance a tango than tangle with a demon, and is spending a year in Manhattan while she pursues her career in professional ballroom dance. Sounds pretty simple, right? It would be, if it weren’t for the talking mice, the telepathic mathematicians, the asbestos supermodels, and the trained monster-hunter sent by the Price family’s old enemies, the Covenant of St. George.
When a Price girl meets a Covenant boy, high stakes, high heels, and a lot of collateral damage are almost guaranteed. To complicate matters further, local cryptids are disappearing, strange lizard-men are appearing in the sewers, and someone’s spreading rumors about a dragon sleeping underneath the city.
If you’re the sort of person who’s read any of the big urban fantasy series, then you’ve probably heard Seanan McGuire’s name tossed around a few times. Despite being a self-professed UF junkie, I hadn’t picked up a book by McGuire before this summer. Most people are more familiar with her October Daye series, but I chose to start with Discount Armageddon because I needed something with some good banter and general hilarity. And I was not disappointed!
Verity Price is starting over. She’s moved away from her family home to NYC to pursue a career in ballroom dance.Like any true artist, she’s spinning it for her family as a ‘research trip’ so they don’t disown her. What’s she researching? Why, cryptozoology of course! Cryptozoology is the study of so-called “monsters” or cryptids, a process that involves cataloguing their diverse biology, language, and cultures. While Verity isn’t a science-y type per se, she is very knowledgeable about cryptids; her tangents about the oddities of various species were hilarious and also pretty damn interesting.
Seanan McGuire clearly put a lot of thought into the construction of cryptid species, dividing them into two main categories: sentient and non-sentient cryptids. Most of the book features sentient cryptids, which I was fine with because let’s be real – monster types that can deliver a good zinger are miles above those who just growl. As a member of the infamous Price family, Verity has taken up the mantle of improving cryptid/human interactions.
Verity’s day job is owned and operated by cryptids belonging to any species that can take on human form. There’s Candy, the dragon princess; Istas, the goth-girl Lolita whose Waheela heritage means that she can transform into a massive wolf-bear hybrid; and Ryan, a Tanuki whose cryptid form is a 10 foot tall racoon dog. While Verity works with these people, she’s also supposed to be collecting testimonials from them so that she can add information to the Price family’s cyrptid encyclopaedia. A task made difficult by the fact that several of these species are anti-social and have long-standing grudges against the Price family. Awkward.
So what’s the big hullabaloo with the Price family? They used to be members of the Covenant of St. George, an organization dedicated to eradicating ‘unnatural’ species, which boils down to any animal that wasn’t on Noah’s Ark. Eventually Verity’s grandfather came to the realization that the genocide of multiple species probably wasn’t a good thing, so he defected and began protecting cryptids instead. Now there are cryptids who remember the Price family as hunters and humans who think of them as traitors.
The biggest issue that I had with Discount Armageddon was character related: I thought that Dom was a pretty weak leading male character and didn’t care much about him either way. His personality was comprised of about 85% prejudice and 10% hotness and 5% humour. McGuire spends enough time developing the archaic beliefs of the Covenant to make Dom’s prejudice against cryptids understandable, but I was pretty disappointed by his minimal growth towards a more tolerant outlook. Verity has more personality in her sassily pointed foot than Dom does in his entire body (although to be fair, Verity is all personality!).
If you like your UF fluffy and friggin’ hilarious, you should definitely pick up a copy of Discount Armageddon. It had me smiling and laughing so many times. Don’t let the cover artwork deter you – that’s just the uniform that Verity has to wear at work (it is a strip club, after all!).