I've been a reviewer since February 2001, when I began writing for my local newspaper. In 2010 the paper did away with their arts section and I went completely online. I review science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy and dystopian in young adult and mainstream adult. I'm also interested in travel writing, history, and general non-fiction, but my main focus is sci-fi/fantasy.
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“What do gorgons, basilisks, and frogs with feathers all have in common? They're all considered mythological by modern science, and some people are working very hard to keep them that way. Alexander Price is a member of a cryptozoological lineage that spans generations, and it's his job to act as a buffer between the human and cryptid worlds—not an easy task when you're dealing with women who has snakes in place of hair, little girls who may actually be cobras, and brilliant, beautiful Australian zookeepers. And then there's the matter of the murders...
Alex thought he was choosing the easier career when he decided to specialize in non-urban cryptids, leaving the cities to his little sister, Verity. He had no idea what he was letting himself in for. It's a family affair, and everyone—from his reanimated grandfather to his slightly broken telepathic cousin—is going to find themselves drawn in before things get any better.”
ALL HAIL THE AUTHORIAL PRIESTESS! Sorry, I couldn’t resist. I do so love me those Aeslin mice. And it’s the mice that really represent what I love about this series and about McGuire’s writing in general: quirky and original and not something you’re going to find in just any old book. The author most definitely has her own voice and style and she’s not afraid to use it.
This book departs a bit from the previous two in that it doesn’t focus on Verity, moving instead to her brother Alex. While I’ll miss all the ballroom dancing references, I found myself warming up to Alex and his work at a zoo’s reptile house. His specialization is non-sentient cryptids like basilisks, so his story is less about diplomatic situations and more about being a caretaker to the hidden species of our world. Or at least, it starts that way.
Just because he works with reptiles doesn’t mean that those species can’t talk back. The gorgons are a large presence in this book, and there’s even one working with Alex at the zoo. I continue to like how McGuire delves into mythology for her creatures, and yet she puts her own touches to the different non-human characters and how they live and interact with humans and each other.
Readers even get glimpses of an organization out of Australia that is sort of like the Healy-Price clan, one that might be good allies with Alex and his family down the road. There’s little to no Covenant presence in this book, but I’m kind of glad, because that might have muddied the waters with too many rival organizations. Getting a look at the wider world of those who know about the cryptids is something that I was hoping for and was very happy to see.
As usual, I absolutely adored McGuire’s storytelling and humor. And of course, the Aeslin mice. Half-Off Ragnarok is one of the most enjoyable novels debuting this month and I’ll continue preaching the gospel of cheese and cake to anyone who will listen.
This review originally appeared on Owlcat Mountain on March 19, 2014.
Title provided by the publisher.