Review: That Ain’t Witchcraft (InCryptid #8) by Seanan McGuire

I pre-ordered this book and actually received it a day early. I read it very quickly, but it’s taken me this long to sit down and write a review because I procrastinate terribly when I have no deadline, and also because I try to both write and post things other than reviews. If you look at the home page of adjective plus noun, you can see how successful I am at that1, but hopefully you guys enjoy the reviews anyway. As always, you can find a picture of the book and the blurb below.


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The cover is beautiful and Antimony is accurately presented—knives and all. No complaints here

Crossroads, noun:

1. A place where two roads cross.
2. A place where bargains can be made.
3. See also “places to avoid.”

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.


I’ve made no attempt to disguise my passionate enthusiasm for Seanan McGuire’s writing. That Ain’t Witchcraft is just further proof that the woman is a genius, who creates genuinely fun, interesting characters that still have enough flaws and shortcomings to be believable, adds a dash of urban legends and classical mythology, sets them loose in a vibrant, exciting setting, with wonderful results.

This review is basically just going to be me praising this novel, because I loved it. The InCryptid series is great, but this may be my favourite instalment yet, although Magic for Nothing was also amazing2. The only (very minor) complaint I have is that Antimony seems a little Chosen One-esque. She’s no Mary Sue, but she has magic powers, and three guys end up in love/obsessed/crushing on her in as many books. It’s a liiiittle bit of a stretch. That being said, Antimony is amazing, I love her relationship with Sam, it’s nuanced and interesting, and his reasons for loving her are well established within the book (I’m trying to avoid too many spoilers).

The feelings the unnamed-to-avoid-spoilers person develops for her in this book are of a completely different nature, with believable motivation. Leonard Cunningham’s formerly established obsession with Antimony almost entirely disregards her as a person, focussing instead on the status it would bring him to bring a Price back into the fold. So with that in mind, Antimony doesn’t actually become the everyone-loves-her-but-she’s-just-a-Normal-GirlTM stereotype that so many heroines fall prey to.

There is a chance that Antimony’s (deliberately?) ambiguous sexuality is hinted at a little in this book, and I enjoyed it. I was glad that Sam got fleshed out a little in this book, and we got to see more sides of his relationship with Antimony. One thing I appreciate about this series is that none of the characters are perfect. They’re people doing their best, and sometimes they make things worse and have to live with that. It’s great.

Fern and Cylia also get a bit more page-time in this book, and their continuing motivations were explored in a way that never leaves their loyalties in doubt, and also never discounts their decisions as people. Fern in particular has a relationship to Antimony that is rare to find in novels that all too often simplify or ignore relationships between women, and I loved the loyalty, respect and genuine affection on both sides. I’d love to know more about Cylia, and her species, and I trust this will happen as the series continues to develop.

James was a great character, I’m glad he got introduced, and his backstory and family situation were really interesting. He worked well as a foil for Antimony within the book, and he (and some of the things he brings with him) have the potential to shed some light on exciting structures within the InCryptid world. I loved the way he and Antimony met, I enjoyed the way they continued interacting, and watching her relate to him and the effect this had was really great.

The Crossroads have been one of the most intriguing parts of both the InCryptid series, and the Ghost Roads series which exists in the same world, so this book was a dream come true for me. Some of Mary’s quirks were also explained in this book, and I was happy to see her role in Antimony’s life get examined a little more, and used to drive tension within the novel.

That Ain’t Witchcraft, like all the InCryptid novels, is action packed; but this time more so than usual. So many things happen! Allies are threatened! Developments occur within the family! Important characters are introduced to the series! Old characters return! The fate of other characters is hinted at! Enemies reappear and allies disappear! The world is thrown into upheaval and things will never be the same! I think this is too many exclamation marks!!!

Honestly, though, this book grabs you by the throat, knocks you unconscious and leaves you to wake up with oven mitts duct-taped to your hands in a house full of hostile strangers. That Ain’t Witchcraft is a hell of a ride, full of all the character development, amazing interpersonal situations, meticulous world-building, thoroughly enjoyable dialogue and ridiculously gripping plot that the rest of the series has led us all3 to expect.

I loved the resolution of this novel, it tied up a HUGE plot point while still leaving plenty of material for future books in the series. This book does so much to hint at the future of the Price family, and I can’t wait for a novel focussing more on Alice and/or Thomas. The force Antimony draws upon in the climax of the novel was amazing, there were so many comic-book-esque scenes that I loved, and there was even a situation with a character being off-page in a potentially crucial situation that I think could have major repercussions later on, and I’m really excited to see if it develops into anything.

All in all, a fantastic read that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys great characters, world-building, or urban fantasy in general. There’s something for everyone here, though I would recommend you read the series in order to avoid some major spoilers.

BONUS REVIEW: The Measure of a Monster

AHHH! One of the big questions raised by That Ain’t Witchcraft is answered in this novella, and I’m very excited for it. The Price family structure is amazing, and I can’t wait to see the effect that events from The Measure of a Monster will have on it. Sorry for the vagueness, but it’d be a huge spoiler to be much more specific.

The character development was the teensiest bit thin on the ground, but on par with what you’d expect from a bonus novella included with the eight book of a series—anyone reading The Measure of a Monster should have well and truly read the InCryptid series.  That being said, some interesting aspects of gorgon culture are revealed, events from previous books continue to have repercussions for the characters (increasing the depth of the world, and the tension within the novella) and the conclusion of this book was poetic and satisfying.

Alex and Shelly are a great couple—writing distinct, believable characters who genuinely accentuate the strengths of their chosen partner is (yet another) strength of Seanan McGuire’s writing. Shelly’s ease of dealing with the Aeslin mice was a great, funny way to demonstrate the now-established nature of her relationship with Alex, and her role within the Price family.

I always love when characters from previous novels make cameo appearances (if Stan Lee showed up one day I would not be surprised), and Megan’s connection to Dee was an interesting addition to the InCryptid world. I was glad that Sarah got some page time at last, and can’t wait for Artie and her to meet up in a book.

All in all, I loved this addition to the InCryptid series, and enjoyed the added bonus of a novella with That Ain’t Witchcraft.

 

 

1 That is—not very

2I love Verity and Alex, but something about roller skates and the settings Antimony ends up in just make me want to clap my hands in excitement. A circus? Amazing. A theme park? Great! A monster strip club, reality tv and a zoo with people snakes are cool, but roller derby and knife throwing is the key to my heart that I didn’t know existed

3By ‘us all’ I mean everyone who’s read and enjoyed4 the series, I promise I’m not a swarm of tiny lizards with a typewriter

4Which should be everyone who’s read the series

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