Aftermarket Afterlife by Seanan McGuire (Incryptid #13)

Mary Dunlavy didn't intend to become a professional babysitter.  Of course, she didn't intend to die, either, or to become a crossroads ghost. As a babysitting ghost, she's been caring for the Price family for four generations, and she's planning to keep doing the job for the better part of forever.

With her first charge finally back from her decades-long cross-dimensional field trip, with a long-lost husband and adopted daughter in tow, it's time for Mary to oversee the world's most chaotic family reunion. And that's before the Covenant of St. George launches a full scale strike against the cryptids of Manhattan, followed quickly by an attack on the Campbell Family Carnival.   

It's going to take every advantage and every ally they have for the Prices to survive what's coming—and for Mary, to avoid finding out the answer to a question she's never wanted to know: where does a babysitting ghost go when she runs out of people to take care of? 

YEAR: 2024
LENGTH: 368 pages 
AGE: Adult
GENRE: Fantasy

Queer Rep Summary: Lesbian/Sapphic Secondary Character(s), Gay/Achillean Secondary Character(s), Bi/Pan Secondary Character(s).

*I received a free review copy in exchange for an honest review of this book. 

**This is the thirteenth book in an ongoing series, and by necessity commenting on this book spoils the events of some previous books. If you're interested in the idea of a family of cryptozoologists working to understand the cryptids around them and to defend them from a single-minded xenophobic organization (with more than a few ghosts and some dimension-hopping woven in for good measure), then stop here and go read DISCOUNT ARMAGEDDON, the first book in the series.

AFTERMARKET AFTERLIFE is the first Incryptid book narrated by Mary Dunlavy, the babysitting ghost who has been around longer than any one member of the Price-Healy family still living, surpassing even Thomas and Alice. Mary is a babysitting ghost, but she never really lets go of her charges (not even when they're grown and having kids of their own). What was supposed to be Alice and Thomas's long-awaited return to the family is disrupted by violence when the dragon Nest in New York is attacked and Mary is pulled to the scene by the call of Verity and Dominic's child's distress. As the war with the Covenant of Saint George turns violent in a burst of coordinated attacks, only a dimension-hopping ghost could keep up with all the action spread over North America between roughly a dozen family members and involving even more allies, cryptid and human alike. 

I like Mary as a narrator. She's a great choice for narrating Alice and Thomas's return since she was part of his disappearance. Also, she's ideal for allowing the story to play out with so many important characters and geographically dispersed events on a timescale which doesn't allow for mundane travel methods. The first few chapters focus on her version of the recap, but, for me, one of the joys of this series is reading how different characters recollect earlier events. 

I don't know yet if this is an okay place to start for someone who wanted to jump into the series midway. I won't have a good answer for that until I know where the next book picks things up. It's either an all-right entry point because of how well things are summarized by Mary's recounting of the events that got them here, or a terrible one because so many plot threads from the first twelve books converge very suddenly and much of the emotional impact would be missing for a reader who treated this as a starting point. Such a reader would be in a position much closer to Arthur than anyone else, but I'm too immersed in the series to be certain how that would pan out. As always, I recommend starting from the beginning. So many important things were introduced there, and if the blurb grabbed you, it'll be even better if you follow the whole journey. Failing that, either SPELUNKING THROUGH HELL (#11) for TRICKS FOR FREE (#7) would be good options for a midway start, given how important Alice and Annie are to AFTERMARKET AFTERLIFE. 

AFTERMARKET AFTERLIFE is an important step in putting an end to the war between the Covenant and the Prices, or at least stopping one particular Covenant member's obsession with Annie that fuels this sudden round of violence. The newest storyline focuses on the attacks which begin in New York but quickly spread elsewhere as it becomes clear that the Covenant won't stop so quickly in their goal of wiping out the Prices. It was supposed to be a chance for Thomas to get to know his family after so long kept away, and for Alice to get to know her kids now that she had a shot at sticking around. Unfortunately, any slice of time interesting enough to be an Incryptid book had no shot at remaining as dubiously idyllic as this reunion ought to be. Several plot threads were moved forward, mostly related to particular interpersonal conflicts and reunions between various family members and newly-family adoptees, but it remains to be seen how much was actually resolved amidst so much chaos. There is a distinct sense of finality in the ending. It has just enough emotional closure to avoid being a cliffhanger, but it leaves room for the next book to go in many directions (depending on how well the strike against the Covenant worked out). No matter what happens next, several things have changed for Mary and the Prices, and there's no going back. I'll follow wherever the next book takes me, this was great and I'm ready for more.

Graphic/Explicit CW for grief, death.

Moderate CW for abandonment, xenophobia, fire, violence, gun violence, torture, injury detail, war, murder, child death, parental death.

Minor CW for alcohol, alcoholism, bullying, racism, classism, pregnancy, disordered eating, terminal illnesses, cancer, medical content, genocide.

CWs for included novella, "Dreaming of You in Freefall: grief (graphic), misgendering, pregnancy, vomit (brief), blood, violence, gun violence, colonization (brief), genocide (brief), war, murder, death

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