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Book Review: Half-Off Ragnarok

February 28, 2014
There are authors that I will absolutely badger my sales reps about.  I will email, call, and tweet at them to get news, advance reader copies, or (wonder of wonders) actual finished copies (ARC) of their books.  Here is the list:
Tamora Pierce
Jonathan Maberry
Dan Wells
Nancy Atherton
Seanan McGuire
Mary Robinette Kowal would be on the list, but she gave me some manuscripts for my birthday, so I’m pretty set for a couple of books.  (Best birthday EVER!)
ragnarokSo, when my Penguin rep brought me an ARC of Seanan’s Half-Off Ragnarok on Wednesday there was much bouncing, squeeing, and general rejoicing.  The book itself comes out on Tuesday, as in this Tuesday, March 4.  So you can have it very, very soon.  And you absolutely should go out and get it.  It’s made of sunshine and rainbows!
Unless you’re afraid of snakes.  And then… take a Xanax and read it anyway?
This is the third book in the InCryptid series, which focuses on the Prices, a family of cryptobiologists, and their quest to understand and preserve the Cryptids of North America.  The first two books (Discount Armageddon and Midnight Blue-Light Special) focus on Verity Price, the oldest of the Price girls as she works with the Cryptids of New York and tries, with moderate success to protect them from the Covenant of St. George, a quasi-religious order with aspirations of eleminating all Cryptids from the face of the earth.
Half-Off Ragnarok leaves Verity to some much deserved rest off-screen and moves on to her brother, Alex, who has taken a position as a visiting herpetologist at the Columbus zoo.  Of course, being a Price, his presence there isn’t quite so simple.  First, he’s under an assumed name.  Second, he’s actually there to do a research project on a tiny Cryptid known as a frikken, a feathered frog.  Third, he’s running a basilisk breeding program in the back of the zoo’s reptile house.  Oh, and his assistant is a lesser Gorgon.  You know, with snakes for hair and a penchant for petrifying people when she forgets her glasses.  (You may have guessed one of the MANY reasons I love this book, what with my site name and all.)
All of this is totally manageable.  Granted, it makes it a touch hard to date when you have to cancel dinner reservations because a mythological creature attacked you earlier that day.  And intimacy can be difficult when you have to explain the brass knuckles, guns, knives, and vials of cockatrice antivenin you might have stashed about your person.  Which is why Alex’s relationship with the zoo’s other visiting zookeeper, Shelby Tanner, is on the verge of self-destructing.
And then, one of the assistant zookeepers is petrified.  As in turned to stone.  As in dead.  Alex is sure that neither his assistant, nor his breeding pair of basilisks had anything to do with the death, but how likely is it that there are three sets of Cryptids around the zoo with petrifying powers?
Pretty likely, as Alex discovers when he’s attacked in his own back yard.
Alex and Shelby get drawn closer together at the same time that they are pulled further into danger as the petrifier’s body count rises.  
This was a delightful book all the way through.  Seanan is, herself, a trained herpetologist, and her love or the reptiles shines through.  Also, there is an awesome animal called a Church Griffin (cross a Maine Coon cat with a raven) named Crow who I want to wrap up and bring home.  The Aeslin mice that featured prominently in the first two books have their own part to play here too.  Hail! Hail the subplot of the mice!  Hail!   (The anthropologist in me desperately wants to interview a colony of Aeslin mice as soon as possible!)
Alex is sweet, funny, and just clueless enough to be adorable.  Shelby is Australian, enough said.  Added to that are more glimpses of the family as we see Sarah again as well as Alex’s maternal Grandparents.  I probably would never have survived a Price childhood, not being the best at the physical side of… anything really, but I’m pretty sure the family reunions would totally make up for it!
Who should buy this book?  Anyone who wants to have fun!
Who should not buy this book?  Anyone with a pathological fear of snakes.  Or fun.
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