by Seanan McGuire
Series: InCryptid #10
Publication Date: February 23, 2021
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: DAW Books
Just when Sarah Zellaby, adopted Price cousin and telepathic ambush predator, thought that things couldn’t get worse, she’s had to go and prove herself wrong. After being kidnapped and manipulated by her birth family, she has undergone a transformation called an instar, reaching back to her Apocritic origins to metamorphize. While externally the same, she is internally much more powerful, and much more difficult to control.
Even by herself. After years of denial, the fact that she will always be a cuckoo has become impossible to deny.
Now stranded in another dimension with a handful of allies who seem to have no idea who she is–including her cousin Annie and her maybe-boyfriend Artie, both of whom have forgotten their relationship–and a bunch of cuckoos with good reason to want her dead, Sarah must figure out not only how to contend with her situation, but with the new realities of her future. What is she now? Who is she now? Is that person someone she can live with?
And when all is said and done, will she be able to get the people she loves, whether or not they’ve forgotten her, safely home?
I knew, after finishing the last book, Imaginary Numbers, that I probably wouldn’t rate this one highly in my personal ranking of InCryptid books, and I wasn’t wrong. Math, multiple dimensions, alien planets – none of these are guaranteed to make me giddy with anticipation, but Sarah has always been one of my favorite characters, so I counted on my investment in the characters to see me through.
They almost didn’t. So. much. explication. The first half of the book was crushed under the weight of repetition about what a cuckoo is, what it means to be a cuckoo, the inherent amorality of cuckoos. What little survived was further smothered by Sarah’s guilt and constant mea culpas. Which were contradictory, by the way, as on one page she’s explaining that the equation at the end of the first book was sentient enough to fight against its own destruction, and malevolent enough to exact its revenge on her by – SPOILER ALERT! – excising Antimony’s and Arnie’s memories of just her, and on the next page she’s saying she did it, that she chose to do it so they wouldn’t miss her when she was dead. Either way, the constant self-flagellation was way over-played.
Like most of the InCryptid books, once you get past the half-way mark, things start to get interesting. Just by sheer virtue of the fact that there was less wailing and more action, more progress being made in the plot. But the introduction of Greg really livened things up, and the speed of plot progression made even an other-dimension, alien planet sound interesting to me. Sarah’s angst over the capacity problem irked me, because she was back to the whole woe-is-me schtick when the solution to the problem was painfully obvious – but at least it lasted only a few pages before the lightbulb clicked on, and then it was all action as the end was neigh. And it turned out the end was much neigh’er than I’d thought – a short story at the end of the book had the actual story ending much sooner than I expected, making it feel like an abrupt, albeit happy, ending.
I still enjoy the series and I’ve learned to just put up with the first half of each book to get ‘to the good stuff’, so I’ll likely pick up the next one. Or maybe, after having braved alien planets, I’ll go back and read Antimony’s story, carnival settings and all. Maybe.