I may be a little biased when it comes to reviewing Seanan McGuire. I’m a little bit of a fangirl. Getting approved to review this ARC sent me into spasms of joy, my brain doing mental snoopy dances all over the place. I have loved everything she’s ever written, and I have followed the Incryptid series from the start. Calculated Risks is on par with everything else I’ve ever read of hers, and possibly one of the best of the series.
But like I say, I may be a little biased, it’s a book by one of my favorite authors, and it features both of my two favorite characters from the Incryptid series. I remember being extremely excited when I got Book #9 of the series, Imaginary Numbers, because finally, here was a book that featured Sarah Zellaby, one of my favorite recurring side characters in the series, as the main protagonist. But then Imaginary Numbers ended with a heartbreaking cliffhanger that left me reeling. Was my beloved Sarah going to be okay?
Well, she’s not entirely okay. In Calculated Risks, She finds herself stuck in an unfamiliar dimension and, in the process of trying to protect her friends from the potentially world-breaking math she was being forced to do at the end of the last book, she has managed to remove herself from their minds entirely. This is doubly a problem since most of those people have been trained from birth to recognize her species as a threat. So, the people she loves most in the world, including the boy she’s loved all her life, have forgotten her and think she’s a monster. And that’s just the beginning.
The remainder of the Johrlar that kidnapped her for their earth-ending dimension hopping mathematical equation at the end of Imaginary Numbers are still around and have also had their minds wiped, completely, so that they have become psychic zombies roaming the transported Iowa University college campus, and they really want to eat your brains. They are joined by spiders the size of houses. In the midst of all that, Sarah must engage in diplomatic relations with the people indigenous to the new dimension, make friends with some of the local wildlife, and is the only one who can do the math to get them home, as well as the transported campus and all of the innocent students that have been transported with it.
The story is both stranger-in-a-strange-land adventure and horror story (especially if you’re afraid of spiders like I am). It’s a love story, even if one half of the couple has forgotten the other half. But mostly, it’s a story about family and how we define it, about how sometimes found family is the most important family there is. And it is wonderful, from page one to page 488. I highly recommend it, though if you’re new to the series I would suggest reading at least Imaginary Numbers first to be able to understand where the story begins.
While I’ve enjoyed all of the Incryptid series, and they are typically fairly short and easy reads good for comfort reading, it is impossible in a ten book series not to have favorites. While I loved all of the books, I was never particularly fond of the first protagonist in the series, Verity, as she is all a sort of big sister entitlement that kind of wore on me after a while. Alex is probably the most like me of the actual Price siblings, while Annie is the sort of girl I was always prone to getting crushes on. Sarah, though, was always sort of there in the background, an amazing friend who was quiet and shy and sweet but hard as steel when the time came for her to save the day (and save the day she did, over and over, no matter what it cost her).
I have loved getting to know her better in these last two books and can’t wait to see what is coming next. It is, apparently, a book about Alice, the hell-dimension-hopping grandmother of the Price clan. As she has been oft-referenced in the series, but only actually shown up in one book, I can’t wait to get to know her.
Fortunately, with the Incryptid series, a little picking and choosing is absolutely possible. They are chronologically sequels to each other, but the plots within are fairly self-contained by character. It is possible to just pick a favorite character and only read the Incryptid books with that character as protagonist and not feel like you missed that much of the story. Of course, the problem there is that the world built is so good you end up wanting to know the whole thing.
They are all excellent, so if you’re looking for a good set of popcorn reads, go buy all ten.
Calculated Risks will be released on February 23, 2021.
Disclaimer: I received this book for free as an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher. This has in no way impacted my review of this book.