I enjoyed Calculated Risks, but more for the things it brings to the InCryptid series, and the entertaining world, than for the book in it’s own right. I don’t connect with Sarah or enjoy her as a protagonist as much as I do the Price siblings.
One of my favourite parts of the InCryptid series is the sibling dynamics and the way that effects the Price siblings and the way they relate to the world and their work. That aspect of the series isn’t as present in the books focussing on Sarah, instead focussing on the way she struggles with her biological differences from humans and the way she tries to be a good person. Her interactions with her cousins is certainly part of her character development, and maybe it’s because she doesn’t have outside friends or many interests that get explored—she’s interested in maths and comic books, but this doesn’t effect the books she’s in as much as Verity’s dancing, Alex’s work in zoos and Antimony’s interest in roller derby.
This, or maybe just the only child feel of Sarah’s development, leave me generally less interested in her story lines. Even in Calculated Risks, which had a more novel setting than Imaginary Numbers, the fun of the settings in the other InCryptid books was missing for me. Other books in the series were set in a strip club, a circus, a zoo. In comparison, even a magically transported college campus with surprise alien lifeforms doesn’t really compare.
Maybe I’m being uncharitable, I’ve already mentioned that I find it hard to connect with Sarah as a character; and as I primarily enjoy fiction through the viewpoint character, and read for character development and interactions, I find the books filtered through Sarah a little less fun for me.
I also wish Cuckoo abilities had more obvious limits, because the way Sarah’s powers currently do/don’t work currently seem very dependant on what is needed in the plot, becoming more of a MacGuffin than an interesting and satisfying way to overcome obstacles. I was glad to learn more about Jorhlac culture and magic, and I look forward to the magic system and abilities becoming more fleshed out in future InCryptid novels.
So far I’ve been fairly abivalent in this review, so I feel the need to say that I genuinely did find Calculated Risks gripping. I read it in a night, and I’m very excited for the ways the series will continue to develop from where this book ended.
Calculated Risks had an interesting storyline, with clear tension and obvious punishments for failure.While it seemed unlikely from the beginning that everyone would be left inter-dimensionally stranded, most long-running series have the assumption that the main characters will end up living in the same world they started off in. The question then becomes, what will the cost be? Seanan McGuire has a way of writing meaningful, narratively satisfying and interesting consequences for heroism, and Calculated Risks is no different.
I found the set up for this book to be very interesting, and really liked the science-fiction esque challenge of interacting with a family member who had forgotten you. Mark was a somewhat minor character in Imaginary Numbers, he gets a little more page time here and I really want to know where his character ends up. James also gets some more development, and some other characters that shall remain nameless to avoid spoilers also promise to be great additions to the series and the family.
I was also absolutely thrilled to find out that the next InCryptid book will feature Alice (at last!). Spelunking Through Hell is a fantastic title, and I want to meet Thomas, even if it happens at the very end of the book. The Healy family luck gets explained a little in this book, and promises to come into play more with Alice as a main character. I love the way the InCryptid world continues to develop, and I can’t wait for the next installment.
Absolutely don’t read this book if you haven’t read the previous novels, start at Discount Armageddon (book one) and work your way forward, or you’ll miss a lot and possibly have a hard time following some storylines. I’d recommend the InCryptid series to fans of Devon Monk’s Ordinary Magic series, Lisa Shearin’s SPI Files or Raine Benares series, or Shelly Laurenston’s Smith Shifter World series.