Chaos Choreography by Seanan McGuire
Synopsis from GoodReads: (CONTAINS SERIES SPOILERS!!)
Verity Price is back on the West Coast and getting backinto the swing of the family business: cryptozoology. She’s rescuing cryptids from bad situations, protecting them from monster-hunters, and generally risking life and limb for the greater good, with her ex-Covenant partner/husband, Dominic, by her side. Her ballroom dance career is behind her—or so she thinks. When Verity gets the call from the producers of Dance or Die, the reality show she almost won several years before, she finds the lure impossible to resist, and she and Dominic are off to L.A. for one last shot at the big time.
Of course, nothing is that simple. When two contestants turn up dead, Verity will need every ally she can find with the investigation, without blowing her cover…
So I’ve enjoyed the InCryptid series, as my previous reviews make clear. And I was happy to go back to Verity and see what she’s up to after two books following her older brother Alex. And, to top it off, this one involves a dance competition.
Now, not many people know this, but there is one reality TV show that I watch and that is So You Think You Can Dance? Which is clearly what Dance or Die is based on. It’s so, so obvious and I loved that. I loved the in jokes, the little winks and nods to SYTYCD, and the dance itself. It was great getting to see Verity return to where she was, where she once wanted to be, and see what had changed both for her and for the people she knew from dance.
And of course I loved getting to finally truly meet Alice Healy-Price, whom we’ve heard so much about and who has provided a great many of the chapter quotes from the previous four books (and for this book as well, of course). I’m not sure she lived up to the hype, but it’s hard to do that, and I was still quite taken with her overall, so kudos to McGuire for managing that.
I can’t review a book for this series without talking about the cryptids, of course. There were several new ones and a lot of old ones and all of them were fun. I especially enjoyed the ukupani because, up to this point, all of the dimorphic cryptids have been beautiful human women and animalistic (usually serpent) males. But the ukupani males are the only ones who can take male form (although we don’t know if they all end up physically attractive or not) while the females are stuck in shark form (as the novel says, because that’s exactly what the ocean needs, intelligent sharks). So that was a nice change, and I loved learning more about the customs of other cryptids from prior books and seeing that just because a species is described in broad strokes doesn’t mean they all follow the stereotype to the letter.
On the other hand, I found a lot of the side characters to be unlikable. This continues the trend of the last novel in the series, Pocket Apocalypse, where I like the main character and some of the side characters but find a lot of them not to my taste. Now, I can live with this, especially when it comes to characters we’re not supposed to like, but I found myself wondering for the almost the entire novel why exactly Verity and Lyra were friends. I get that it’s not really Verity who’s friends with Lyra but rather her Valerie persona, but Lyra herself didn’t seem especially like someone I’d want to be friends with, other than for the brief moments of worry over Verity’s condition, her siding with Verity against Jessica, and other minor moments. Over all, it really felt like their friendship ran hot and cold. I get that that’s because of Verity’s realizations of what exactly she wants and doesn’t want in life, but it felt a bit too much like a stand-in for what we saw of Verity’s relationship with her sister Antimony early on in the novel and i didn’t really like that. Especially given how Lyra’s plot ended.
While I’m talking about issues, I should probably mention the beginning of the novel which didn’t really have anything at all to do with the later plot. It set the stage for where Verity and Dominic are at the beginning of the novel for people like me who haven’t read the side stories, but that was really about it. I didn’t dislike it, I’m just not sure it added anything other than to, again, establish what’s happened in the time since the end of Midnight Blue-Light Special, Verity’s last book.
On the other hand, I was kept guessing about whodunnit for most of the novel. Some of the characters I knew were innocent early on, so the suspense over them didn’t really make sense to me, but I definitely didn’t see the final reveal coming. Well, not all of it. Sure, the ending’s a bit over-dramatic, but that’s how this series tends to go and I am definitely looking forward to where McGuire goes with Verity’s declaration.
4 out of 5 stars. Another great installment in a fun series. Now I really need to read more of the short stories while I wait to get my hand on the just-published sixth novel!