Book Review

Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire - A Guest Review by CarrieS

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Title: Discount Armageddon
Author: Seanan McGuire
Publication Info: Daw Books 2012
ISBN: 978-0-7564-0713-1
Genre: Urban Fantasy

Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire Seanan McGuire is fantastically cool – and not just because she sets some of her books in or near where I live.  As Seanan McGuire, she writes the October Daye urban fantasy series.  She also has several geek-tastic CDs and is notable for, among other things, setting a scene from Firefly to music (“My laugh is an evil, laugh, ha, ha, ha, ha, die”).   Finally, she writes the highly acclaimed Newsflesh series under the name Mira Grant.

I'd love to review the Newsflesh series for you, but it involves a zombie apocalypse and has pretty much no romance to speak of.  Even though I have no excuse to review it here, I will say that it's a great gritty non-romance series, and the final book, Blackout, is out as of June 2012 so you have no nasty cliffhangers to torture you for years (Seanan, HAVE YOU BEEN TRYING TO KILL ME?).

Anyway, Seanan also has a new urban fantasy series out with strong romantic elements that I think the more geektastic Smart Bitches will enjoy.  Discount Armageddon follows the adventures of Verity Price, cryptozoologist, waitress, and competitive ballroom dancer.  Verity's family studies cryptids (mythological creatures, monsters, etc).  They are trained to kill any cryptids that pose an active and immediate threat to humans, but they also work within the cryptid community to assist the substantial non-violent population and study them.  Verity's family broke off from a group, “The Covenant”, generations ago.  This group is devoted to killing any and all cryptids regardless of threat level.  When Verity is presented with a new cryptid threat, she is forced to work with Dominic DeLuca, a Covenant rookie who is quite the hottie and pretty confused about this whole “non-predatory cryptid” concept.

There's nothing particularly new here.  Thanks to my beloved Joss Whedon, the idea that a petite girl in cute clothes can take down monsters is pretty standard stuff.  However, what the story lacks in originality it makes up for with wit, great descriptions, engaging characters, fast pace, and a whole lot of energy.   Verity is an enormously likable character and she's surrounded by a great, and varied, supporting cast.  Verity's reasons for studying ballroom dance are fascinating – she is able to make a case to her family that by pursing dance, something she loves, she can build many of the same skills and physical abilities she would use in combat without having to do so in hiding.  I loved Verity's roommates, the mice who celebrate an endless sequence of festivals and respond to every new comment or development with cries of “HAIL!”  The book is a little heavy on the exposition but since Verity's voice is so conversational, and it's the first book in the series with a lot of world building to tackle, I didn't mind it.

The weakest part of the book is the romance, which is fair since it isn't a “Romance Novel”.  Because the book is told entirely from Verity's point of view, and she doesn't know much about Dominic, we don't either.  He has plenty of appealing qualities but he stays something of a cypher.  Hopefully his character will be better developed as the series progresses – right now he's just a token love interest.  Their chemistry is great and there's a lot of potential for them to be great partners.  Those of you who are allergic to cliffhangers will be pleased to know that the book ends solidly – the immediate situation is resolved, and while the romance is not resolved it's left with a promise of future development.

By the way, even though it's not romance, I can't resist telling you that the Welcome to Bordertown (A | BN | K | S) anthology is out on paperback.  I read it when the hardback edition came out and it was beyond wonderful.  Whether you've never tried urban fantasy before and you want to check it out, or you've loved urban fantasy for years, please don't miss this short story collection by the masters of the genre.  Some stories have a romantic element and some don't, but they are all marvelous.


This book is available from Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Sony | Kobo.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    GHN says:

    Heee! This book happens to be in my TBR file – I think I’ll move it to the top. ;-)

  2. 2
    Bnbsrose says:

    My inner geek is intrigued. Over to the GBPL, and, why yes, thank you, I would like to reserve. Thanks for the rec, Sarah.

  3. 3
    Brandy says:

    I read this book last month and loved it. I already have the second book in my TBR list!

  4. 4
    Dayle says:

    I discovered last night that the Aeslin Mice have a Twitter feed (http://twitter.com/aeslin_writ… , and it made me so unaccountably happy, I squeed. And they responded with HAIL THE SQUEE!  :-)

  5. 5
    Overquoted ... says:

    I read this when it came out and had the most awful time finishing it. Part of it may have been that I thought it was of a different genre (I don’t even remember why), but even after realizing it was straight urban fantasy, I just couldn’t get into it. I’m a big fan of the UF genre, and I’m currently reading the second Daye novel and Feed, so it’s not a dislike of the genre or the author’s work. There just wasn’t anything novel about it beyond a few moments of parkour. But that’s a difficult thing to write into a book, and it didn’t translate into any ooo-aahh moments.

    I really wanted to like it, but it just didn’t fill my head with images the way the best UF novels do. I wasn’t able to imagine the world Verity lived in very well and the character herself didn’t stand out. To top it off, there was zero creep or thrill factor. The whole point of the book, in my opinion, was simply to introduce Verity and her romantic antagonist/interest.

    The ‘mystery’ Verity had to solve had relatively little meaning for her. Sure, she had a “kind of” feeling that she needed to keep people from dying, but when she failed, there just wasn’t any emotional punch to it. Throughout the whole book, Verity just gave off vibes that she was going through the motions, partly because she had nothing better to do.

    Bland is the best word I can think of to describe it. It’s not bad in any way and the writing is perfectly fine, but nothing stands out as awesome either.

  6. 6
    Flo_over says:

    Looooooove my some October Daye.  This one… meh.  And it was because I KNEW the second Dominic appeared on the scene it was going to be romance whether it seemed like a good idea or not.  I felt like at the end he was “just what Verity needed” JUST BECAUSE.  The build up to their relationship was just flat for me.  I love the world though.  Perhaps I would it more from a different perspective.

    The dance thing was a unique take on it but I didn’t get that whole “I am fighting for what I want!” Buffy vibe.  Like it was just an echo of Whedon.  Anyway, I waited for the library copy simply because my book budget well… doesn’t exist anymore :(

  7. 7
    Laurel says:

    Hmm. I read this and I’m with Carrie S. I loved it. I thought is was funny and engaging. In fact, as much as I love the October Daye books, I almost DNF’ed the first one. It was so bleak and depressing for the first 6-8 chapters that I put it down, came back to it during a dry spell, and haven’t stopped since.

    The thing I loved most about this book was that it was LIGHT dark UF. Funny, upbeat MC without a murky, tragic past. Sure, it’s been done before, but it isn’t being done much currently.

    The MC isn’t angsty. I don’t object to an angst-ridden MC (or love interest), but it was fun to read a character who did NOT come from an orphanage, foster care, or any other semi-orphaned or abused childhood state. And the ballroom dance thing? Sheer genius. It looks frilly and unimportant, but translates into an extremely fit and powerful heroine who can get the job done.

    The chapter subtitles alone made the book worth reading. There were one or two, “SERIOUSLY?” things in the book, but against the backdrop of such a fun read they were quibbles.

    And I liked the love interest. He showed some growth in the story and has potential to grow even more. (No pun intended.) I would have liked a bit more confrontation between their “chemistry overcomes all” scene and when they next meet up, but what I wanted would have added another chapter ore two, at least. Also, as a series, it would have been premature. The conversation I’m waiting for can happen anywhere from book 2 to book 5.

  8. 8
    Persnickety says:

    I am enjoying the October daye books, but am having issues with the fact that none of Seanan McGuires novels are available to me on kindle.  At $20 for a paperback here in Australia, I really only buy series I already have involvement in.
    Is this available to US readers in electronic format?  If so, there may be an email or two to various places.  Amazon seems to hide kindle books that aren’t available to overseas viewers. 
    I think the premise is interesting, and would like to read the book, but book money and space are limited, ebooks are my main purchasing option.  Authors who fail to publish worldwide don’t get the readers

  9. 9
    Atrix says:

    I have a Kindle in the US and all of the October Daye novels are available on my Kindle. I’m sorry that Amazon is being crappy about availability.

  10. 10
    CarrieS says:

    I also appreciate the relative lack of angst.  At the same time, I graded a little generously because it’s the first book in a series.  If the next book is as exposition heavy, or if Dominic continues to be Token Love Interest instead of a more rounded character, I would grade more harshly no matter how many mice cry, “HAIL!”  But not too harshly, cause, you know, who can resist the mice?

  11. 11
    John C. Bunnell says:

    I can see both sides of the reaction here.  To a lot of readers used to the current conventions of paranormal romance and dark urban fantasy, Discount Armageddon‘s tone is going to read as cotton-candy light, the approach to the romance will look equally feathery, and parts of the plot will look rushed or too quickly resolved.  OTOH, I’m squarely with Laurel—I found the book a refreshing alternative to the angst, hand-wringing, and constantly tormented relationships common to a lot of the modern paranormals.

    What’s important to note is that the difference is very much by design.  Seanan has posted about this on her LiveJournal; the InCryptid series is explicitly meant to be more episodic and less continuity-intensive than the Toby Daye books.  At the time I read the relevant post, I hadn’t yet read Discount Armageddon; now that I have, I think a useful comparison might be to Elizabeth Peters’ Vicky Bliss novels, both tonally and structurally.  In a lot of respects, this series looks as if it’s following the pacing and conventions of mystery-genre romance rather than romance-genre romance—so that it fits on the shelf between the Emma Bull/Charles de Lint “urban faerie” novels and the current tidal wave of cozy mysteries with ghosts, talking cats, and witch-sleuths, exactly on the opposite end of the paranormal spectrum from Anita Blake, Mercy Thompson, et al.

  12. 12
    persnickety says:

    Thanks.  My mode on this now is that I will buy no more books by that author ( in any format but used), and to a degree the publisher.  I also send an email/ message to the author and publisher to note my unhappiness.  Don’t know if one person can make a change, But I do note that the Alison Tyler Harlequin book that caused this policy is now available in Kindle format.
    Pity, I do like Seanan McGuire’s writing.

  13. 13

    I loved the mice in this. Even when it got slow (which it did at some points) i could power through by waiting for the next scene with the mice.

  14. 14
    FairyKat says:

    That is genius! I really enjoyed the book, it was light, funny, and a return to the Buffy-verse that brought something renewed to the genre that has become a bit too much angst and not enough ‘OMG demons have cursed us so now we’re in a musical!’

  15. 15
    MissB2U says:

    Hey CarrieS, we might be neighbors.  Back in the day I used to ride my horse through what is now Paso Nogal Park.  The fact that it’s the entrance to a Knowe explains sooooo much of what we saw when we were hanging out there in high school. Either that or it was the whacky tabacky…

    Since I love the October Daye series so much I’m going to check “Discount…” out.  I think really like Ms. McGuire’s style.

  16. 16
    Brandy says:

    Totally agree, especially about the lack of LIGHT dark UF.

  17. 17
    John C. Bunnell says:

    There’s a post on Seanan McGuire’s blog about exactly this issue (ebooks and territorial availability).  The key point to be noted is that it’s not an issue that’s in Seanan’s control.

    My guess—and it is only a guess—is that DAW (which is one of the very few publishers left that isn’t owned by a large international conglomerate) may have issues with Amazon’s ebook sales and pricing policies.  [I don’t know offhand whether editions of the DAW titles are available in other e-formats in Australia, but it would be enlightening to find out.]

  18. 18
    CarrieS says:

    Not close neighbors – look like you are in the Bay Area and I’m in Sacramento, which Seanan tore up nicely in “Feed”.  There must be more Bay Area/Northern California Bitches around, though – we could have a BitchesCon!

  19. 19
    MissB2U says:

    Sounds good to me!  Which do you like better – Bay Area Bitches, (has a nice ring to it, no?), or Left Coast Bitches, which is more inclusive.  And can we ask Seanan to join?

  20. 20
    Sycorax says:

    She also wrote the wonderful ‘Wicked Girls’, a song about all the girls in classic children’s fantasy books.

    http://youtu.be/1DQx7iF-yOc

    Unfortunately none of the versions on youtube are that great. You really need the cd.

    Also, I liked the 0.5% romance in Newsflesh.

  21. 21
    CarrieS says:

    Oooh..I like both names.  Hard to pick.  Heck yeah we should ask Seanan to join! 

  22. 22
    Ellen says:

    As it happens, I recently finished reading the last book in the Newsflesh trilogy, and it did get romantic.  It seemed incongruous to me, but it made sense in its own strange way and there was a HEA. 

  23. 23
    Overquoted ... says:

    Try getting someone to buy the U.S. version, crack it and send it to you. (Obviously, deleting the original from their own computer after you verified you’d gotten it. And I don’t know the legal issues associated with it, but frankly, I don’t give a damn. The point of DRM is to prevent piracy, not to prevent genuine customers from obtaining a product.) I had to get an Aussie buddy to buy Marianne de Pierres’ Burn Bright for me and then send it my way because it wasn’t available through ANY American retail store. Not even ebay. >:( I still don’t have book two.

  24. 24
    Overquoted ... says:

    I don’t know. I’m okay with light and fluffy. I’ve been reading MaryJanice Davidson since she was with Ellora’s Cave. But the way the main character handled people dying wasn’t light and fluffy, it was just irrelevant. Refusing to angst isn’t the same thing as not caring.

    But yeah, this novel would probably work for UF fans who shy from the Mercy Thompson-style UF (even I’m a little bit over the angst). I’d say if you liked Discount Armageddon, try Bedlam, Bath & Beyond by JD Warren (if you can find it used). Similar kind of tone without being too heavy on the romance-side of it.

  25. 25
    Persnickety says:

    There are ways for people not living in the USA to get ebooks that are limited, the easiest being a ” holiday” in the USA.  In my case, I can resurrect my original amazon address, which dates from when I did live there. But at this point I resent giving any money to the publisher! Rewarding them for a terrible policy.

    Australians have been ripped off on books for a very long time, and ebooks are no different it seems.

    I do note that the publisher in this case is DAW, distributed by Penguin.  Sadly, penguin and hachette are two of the worst offenders in the terrible ebook pricing and availability stakes.  I just don’t buy them new anymore, in any format. 
    I hadnt realized that Marianne de Pierres was not available outside australia.  Hmm, that makes two Aussie writers that I do appreciate who I would not otherwise know.  ( the other is Kylie chan, her stuff may be available now)

  26. 26
    CarrieS says:

    Oooh…I had to submit this review before Blackout came out, and I won’t have a chance to start reading it until later this week – I sure hope someone ends up happy.  Some romance would be nice after the middle book was so bleak – awesome, but bleak.

  27. 27
    Overquoted ... says:

    Persnickety – yeah, you guys also get ripped off for games, too. I don’t understand it, given that the USD is on par with the AUD. Maybe they up the price because of government regulation on imports, but with ebooks, why not just make the copyright available to individual consumers (make online buys non-country specific when it comes to IP addresses). Wish there was some publisher affiliate around to answer. :P I know in some games’ case, it has to do with Aussie content laws, meaning the game has to be tweaked to be sold.

    Nylon Angel and the follow-ups are/were available for the US, but her YA isn’t. Very irritating. I even wrote on some FB group about it, and the author herself replied but didn’t have any links I could buy from (stupid US IP address).

  28. 28
    John C. Bunnell says:

    I do not know this for sure, but I suspect that the issue with DAW and Australian Kindle editions may actually have more to do with Amazon than it does with DAW/Penguin.  Specifically, ebook pricing is one area in which Amazon has sometimes attempted to use its 600-pound-gorilla status to impose conditions on publishers that said publishers don’t necessarily like.  As I understand it, my small e-publisher and I get a smaller cut on Kindle sales of my two US-published e-titles than we do from any other e-retail source; if they’re demanding similarly lean terms for Australian e-editions of DAW’s titles, that could explain matters.

    Again, I emphasize that this is a guess, and I’d be extremely interested to know whether Discount Armageddon is available in other e-formats down in Australia.

  29. 29
    John C. Bunnell says:

    Further on ebooks and international distribution: there is a long, thorough, and enlightening discussion of the logistics in the comment thread to this entry on SF author John Scalzi’s blog.  No direct mention of Discount Armageddon, but for anyone interested in the unfolding issues, it’s well worth a read.

  30. 30
    Overquoted ... says:

    @John C. – thanks a ton for the link. Persnickety was right – the publishers are being bastards. >:(

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