ARC review: Spelunking through Hell, by Seanan Mcguire

So as some of you might know, I’m a big fan of Seanan McGuire. I’ve made it one of my goals this year to reread all of the October Daye series (I’m at the start of book 6 now, thanks largely to audiobooks), but I also enjoyed what I’ve read of the InCryptid series quite a lot, so I jumped on the chance to grab this review copy from netgalley. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the free copy in exchange for an honest review!

The Story

Now in trade paperback, the eleventh book in the fast-paced InCryptid urban fantasy series returns to the mishaps of the Price family, eccentric cryptozoologists who safeguard the world of magical creatures living in secret among humans.

Love, noun:

1. An intense feeling of deep affection; may be romantic, filial or platonic.

Passion, noun:

1. A strong or barely controllable emotion.
2. Enthusiasm, interest, desire.
3. See also “obsession.”

It’s been fifty years since the crossroads caused the disappearance of Thomas Price, and his wife, Alice, has been trying to find him and bring him home ever since, despite the increasing probability that he’s no longer alive for her to find. Now that the crossroads have been destroyed, she’s redoubling her efforts. It’s time to bring him home, dead or alive.

Preferably alive, of course, but she’s tired, and at this point, she’s not that picky. It’s a pan-dimensional crash course in chaos, as Alice tries to find the rabbit hole she’s been missing for all these decades—the one that will take her to the man she loves.

Who are her allies? Who are her enemies? And if she manages to find him, will he even remember her at this point?

It’s a lot for one cryptozoologist to handle.

The Review

Trauma changes who you are, and there’s no way to say ‘well, I’m finished with this, I’m going to move on now.’ You have to figure out how to reconcile it with everything else you understand about yourself, and sometimes it really sucks.

Alice Price-Healy

First off, if you’ve not read an InCryptid book before, I definitely recommend the series as a whole. There are different places where you can start, like the first book, or arguably when the POV characters change. Probably not this book, though. I’d read up to book 5 at least, and then stopped due to unavailability at the local library/in local stores. I had no problem following the events here, but it’d be a lot harder with no context at all, and definitely having read the Antimony books would’ve helped me with some context. On the plus side, I now want to go and reread the whole series.

This series… It’s a fun romp, there’s loads of cryptids and monsters and funky weird creatures, and talking mice, and it’s funny and light to read, until it’s not. Alice is a tremendously fucked up character, with 50 years of trauma – some of which is self-inflicted – and this novel is about her reaching the end of her quest and dealing with what that means for her as a person. How do you move forward when your whole life was about finding that one person, and you now have to consider “what’s next”. I don’t normally do quotes but the one above just encapsulates the book so well – and also captures what resonated with me.

It was surprisingly fast-paced, although I should not be surprised because this whole series is fast paced short novels, but I didn’t expect Alice to get to where she was going in less than 40% of the book. There were of course other challenges after that and I loved how the story unfolded. I’m also looking forward to seeing Alice and the others do a bit of healing. And hoping we’ll see Sally again in the future, because she was a fun not-quite-antagonist-slash-adopted-kid to read about!

Overall an entertaining read that’s made me want to dive back into the whole series!

trigger warnings for the book: parental abuse/neglect, panic attacks, wasps, graphic descriptions of physical injuries and flaying, mentions of cannibalism and rape.

Barnes & Noble (US) | Portal Bookshop (UK) | Kenny’s (IE)

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