Seanan McGuire has been one of my favorite authors ever since I began reading her October Daye series. She has a unique voice and a way with dialogue that sticks with a reader. When she began The Incryptid series, I was immediately hooked, especially by the diverse, incredibly detailed world and characters that have flair and rich backgrounds. “That Ain’t Witchcraft” is the eighth novel in the series, the third focusing on the youngest Price daughter, Antimony. Not only does it continue Seanan McGuire’s tradition of excellent craftsmanship but the story is engaging, thrilling, and completes Antimony’s character arc in an unexpected fashion.
Here is what the official synopsis says:
Antimony Price has never done well without a support system. As the youngest of her generation, she has always been able to depend on her parents, siblings, and cousins to help her out when she’s in a pinch—until now. After fleeing from the Covenant of St. George, she’s found herself in debt to the crossroads and running for her life. No family. No mice. No way out.
Lucky for her, she’s always been resourceful, and she’s been gathering allies as she travels: Sam, fūri trapeze artist turned boyfriend; Cylia, jink roller derby captain and designated driver; Fern, sylph friend, confidant, and maker of breakfasts; even Mary, ghost babysitter to the Price family. Annie’s actually starting to feel like they might be able to figure things out—which is probably why things start going wrong again.
New Gravesend, Maine is a nice place to raise a family…or make a binding contract with the crossroads. For James Smith, whose best friend disappeared when she tried to do precisely that, it’s also an excellent place to plot revenge. Now the crossroads want him dead and they want Annie to do the dirty deed. She owes them, after all.
And that’s before Leonard Cunningham, aka, “the next leader of the Covenant,” shows up…
It’s going to take everything Annie has and a little bit more to get out of this one. If she succeeds, she gets to go home. If she fails, she becomes one more cautionary tale about the dangers of bargaining with the crossroads.
But no pressure.
The plot is captivating. Seanan McGuire is truly talented at building a story that grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go. Each step of the way, the characters have choices they make that lead to further problems. The main character, Antimony, is on the run, helped by her friends and boyfriend but she still is stuck not being able to go home. Not only does Seanan build a unique solution to the problem but she carries multiple threads that are all resolved by the end of the novel. Between the Covenant and the Crossroads, the plot keeps you on the edge of your seat, up late at night and completely wrapped up in the story.
One of the foundations of Seanan’s style is her way with worldbuilding. With the Incryptid series, she has built a rich urban fantasy world, one where she re-envisions fairytales and urban legends from around world into a new form, one where humans aren’t the good guys, where some of them care but some are the hunters, the ones that are the monsters under the bed. In this book, she builds on that idea, especially with Antimony’s boyfriend being cryptid as are her best friends. Despite the humans in Antimony’s life, it is those who are different who handle the problems in this story and are the support for Antimony. It is incredible to see this type of spin on a paranormal world. I’ve seen others that embrace the different but this is a world where even the non-humans are different than the types we normally see the grace the pages of books like this one. Instead of vampires, werewolves, and demons, we get Furi Monkey, Jinxes, and Sylphs. That unique vision is why I keep reading every book Seanan McGuire puts out.
Most of all what I love most, especially in this novel, are the characters. This story would not nearly be as amazing without the incredible people that Seanan creates. Antimony is complex, strong-willed, sarcastic and full of spunk. As the main character, she is the focus of the novel and she holds that attention perfectly, engaging the reader in the plot and being a dynamic force for the novel. She isn’t perfect but so few people are and one of the strengths of Seanan McGuire’s writing is her ability to create characters with rich, diverse backgrounds, with strengths and weaknesses, and never cookie cutter, two dimensional. The best part of Antimony Price as a character is that she doesn’t always make the right choice, doesn’t have all the answers and doesn’t always fix everything but she has a team which is how the story works. Not only is she a brilliant character but so are the rest of the characters in the novel.
The secondary characters are as interesting and engaging as Antimony, the main character. Her boyfriend, Sam, is willing to follow her path, instead of the other way around but he isn’t a passive character. As a character, he has opinions of his own as do Antimony’s friends, Cylia and Fern. Fern isn’t a fighter but she has her own contributions to make. Cylia ensures that they have a place to stay and all of them help Antimony when she meets James Smith, to help find a solution to the Crossroads coming after him. Included in the dynamic group is Antimony’s adopted aunt Mary, who still gives Antimony input, even when she can’t help any other way. Much like Antimony, they are people who keep the reader engaged in the story and add their own elements to the novel.
With fantastic worldbuilding, rich details to the plot, surprise ending and realistic, engaging characters, this is one of the best novels I’ve read. It kept me up at night, was thrilling, and Seanan McGuire has done it once again, giving readers a great story and builds the universe she has created in the Incryptid series. I can’t wait for her next book!