Magic for Nothing by Seanan McGuire (Incryptid, #6)

TITLE: Magic for Nothing
AUTHOR: Seanan McGuire
PUBLISHER: Daw Books
YEAR: 2017
LENGTH: 368 pages
AGE: Adult
GENRE: Fantasy
RECOMMENDED: Yes

Queer Rep Summary: Lesbian/Sapphic Secondary Character(s).

MAGIC FOR NOTHING takes Antimony double-undercover as her infiltration of the Covenant sends her to join a circus and investigate some disappearances with the help of borrowed knives and some unexpected friends.

Antimony is my favorite narrator so far. Her descriptions are fantastic on their own, but part of what she brings to the series canon of the family is a view of the various members that feels very different from Verity and Alex. After five books reducing her to the pit trap girl who also skates, understanding why she's that way was really great, without outright contradicting the essence of her siblings stories about their childhoods. It's askew in the way that people who were all present will remember thing differently because they're not the same person and they cared about different pieces. I love Sam as a character, his initial surliness has a very understandable and non-malicious reason, and the way he slowly warms to Antimony felt natural. It took long enough to be believable but didn’t take so long as to drag. I’m creeped out by Leo, he’s a surprisingly deep character who I would never want to be around but I enjoy reading about.

The roller derby descriptions were great, with the level of detail which implies either a personal history or excellent research (jams are closer to downs than innings, but that's a minor quibble). This was the first sport/activity in this series where I'm familiar enough to weigh in on accuracy, so I enjoyed that. I also loved the circus info, but there I have zero ability to weigh in.

This doesn’t specifically wrap up anything left over from the previous book, but the inciting incident was the finale of CHAOS CHOREOGRAPHY, and this is about how the Price family reacts to Verity’s very public actions. The main storyline starts here and wasn’t present previously, and a few major things are introduced and resolved in this volume. It’s not the last book and it leaves some specific things to be addressed later. Antimony’s voice is very distinct from the previous narrators (her siblings) and she’s my favorite so far. Her style is a little more wry and a lot more realistic than Verity, and her thoughts about her siblings as people are more complex than her siblings’ characterizations of her, in a way that made them really feel like a family paying different levels of attention to each other. The main plot would mostly make sense if someone picked this up at random and didn’t know about the series, but if someone were to start mid-series then CHAOS CHOREOGRAPHY would be a better place (as always I recommend starting with book one if you have the option). Both books are mostly self-contained but the whole reason for the events of MAGIC FOR NOTHING to exist is because of the ending of CHAOS CHOREOGRAPHY, and reading it without that backstory would lose a lot of the emotional context. 

If you've loved the series so far, definitely read this one. If following a family of cryptozoologists who are constantly undercover and occasionally double-undercover sounds like your thing, don't miss the series.

CW for ableist language (minor), confinement, blood, gun violence, violence, murder, death.

TW for Harry Potter reference (page 70).

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A young woman with long dark hair is balanced on a swing below a the top of a circus tent, she's holding a walking talkie as a pack of explosives dangles by a string below her.


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