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…
Seanan McGuire is one of those authors I wish I could fall in love with every single book they write. She has imagination. Do you know how many authors there are who have the ability to write crazy, unique stories that don’t look like anything else currently being written? Not many. But her books have been extremely hit-or-miss for me. I couldn’t get behind Rosemary and Rue, I fell in love with Feed (and to a lesser extent Deadline) which she wrote as Mira Grant, and I’m feeling mixed when it comes to Discount Armageddon. As seems to be the case when I have problems with books, I can’t stop focusing on what I *want* the book to be versus what is actually is.
The first thing was that I found the humor and snarkiness to be overwhelming to the point that it was no longer amusing and more annoying than anything else. Characters being snarky is sort of a standard thing in Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant books, and for the latter, the snark worked a lot better for me because it was in contrast with the all-too serious situation of a world overrun with zombies and a bunch of bloggers solving a mystery and chasing a conspiracy theory. I could easily have seen the story and the world in this book being written in a more serious manner than it was. You have your Cryptids who are starting to live amongst and coexist with humans more and more these days, there’s the Covenant of St. George who’s sole purpose is to eradicate all Cryptids whether they’re a threat or not, a family descended from members who left the Covenant to devote their lives researching the variety of Cryptid species, protecting the harmless ones, and keeping in control the more problematic one, and a bitter, raging feud between said Covenant and family. I would have preferred for this world to be written in a less comedic manner, particularly with regards to the main storyline. I couldn’t fully get behind the whole “there’s a dragon under New York City” plot and the ending was plain weird. The fact that the dragon princesses are humanoid and the male dragons aren’t and yet they mate with each other and have children… this is speculative fiction, and I could not buy this. I just couldn’t.
Also unfortunately, Seanan McGuire’s info-dumping does not look like it’s going away anytime soon. I was able to deal and not mind too much while reading, but it was frustrating. Granted, I’m not a writer and I’m honestly not sure what would have been a better way to disseminate all the information that needed to be told, but… yeah.
Another problem is that the protagonists in the author’s various books tend to have similar, edgy voices, though there is enough difference between them that it’s not a huge problem. I did like reading about Verity; she definitely has a fascinating life to say the least, what with being a Cryptid protector/ballroom dancer by day and a cocktail waitress by night. And I really liked reading about her family history and how they left the Covenant and have since been involved in the family business of cryptid protection/control/research. I did find it somewhat strange that their study is “cryptozoology” but some of the cryptids have human-levels of sentience, like Sarah, who’s Verity’s cousin. “Cryptozoology” sounds like it should be more insulting when implied to those types of cryptids. But that’s just me. The Aeslin mice were absolutely adorable in that schaedenfreude way where I’m glad they’re not interfering with my life but I’m perfectly happy to watch them get in the way of Verity’s with their daily religious ceremonies and continuous cheering of “HAIL”.
The budding relationship between Verity and Dominic was alright – it was enjoyable reading about Verity knocking him down a couple of pegs and him being all, “WTF this girl is my enemy, what is she doing now, why is she so goddamned infuriating, why does she keep kissing me, gaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh.” I would have appreciated a bit more backstory since right now he seems like he’s just a random Covenant dude, but there’ll probably be more development down the line.
Discount Armageddon does possess a number of strengths, including an original premise, solid and imaginative world-building, consciencious attention to detail, a pretty sweet heroine, and Aeslin mice. However, weaknesses include an overload of snark, an overly lighthearted tone, and plot I wasn’t really able to invest in. Again, I really wish this book had worked better for me than it did. Even so, I will probably keep an eye out for the second book, just to see what’s going on in the next story.
Disclosure – library