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Magic For Nothing (InCryptid Book 6) by [Seanan McGuire]

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Magic For Nothing (InCryptid Book 6) Kindle Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 422 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Praise for the InCryptid series:

"The only thing more fun than an October Daye book is an InCryptid book. 
Swift narrative, charm, great world-building...all the McGuire trademarks." —Charlaine Harris, #1 New York Times-bestselling author of the Sookie Stackhouse series

"[
Half-Off Ragnarok] is kind of like taking a tour through a very deadly theme park made up of alternating parts awesome and terrifying. Come to think of it, that sums up this series quite nicely.... This book effectively acts as a jumping-on point to those just coming in." —Tor.com 

"
Half-Off Ragnarok is my favorite book in the InCryptid series thus far.... If urban fantasy, intriguing animals, and fast-paced adventure is your thing, you’re going to love Half-Off Ragnarok. Highly recommended." —Jennifer Brozek

"McGuire
creates a sense of wonder and playfulness with her love for mythology and folklore.... Her enthusiastic and fast-paced style makes this an entertaining page-turner." —Publishers Weekly

"A funny, fast-paced and genuinely suspenseful adventure that is sure to engross and entertain.... There is still a wide world for the intrepid Price family to explore, much to readers' guaranteed delight." —RT Reviews

"While chock-full of
quality worldbuilding, realistic characters, and a double helping of sass, at its core, Half-Off Ragnarok is a book about judging others according to stereotypes, how nurture can overcome nature, and the importance of family." —Ranting Dragon

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

One

“It’s better to act than it is to react. Acting gets you in trouble. Reacting all too frequently gets you dead.” —Alice Healy

A deserted house on the outskirts of Salem, Oregon

Now

Don’t get me wrong. Poltergeists have a place in a healthy spectral ecosystem. They wouldn’t exist if they didn’t. Everything evolves for a reason, even the different sorts of ghost people become after they die. Nothing in this or any other dimension is inherently evil.

And none of that was really a comfort with the ghost of an eleven-year-old boy doing his level best to drop an entire house on my head.

“Tyler! I’m here to
help you!” I shouted, ducking around the nearest corner. A waterlogged dresser flew past overhead, shattering when it hit an exposed support beam. Either it had been full of beetles—eww—or Tyler was somehow creating them. When the dresser gave way, the bugs came flowing out, so plentiful that it seemed impossible they could have fit inside there. I squeaked and plastered myself against the wall, trying not to hyperventilate. I don’t have a specific problem with bugs, but there’s a big difference between seeing a single beetle and having a wave of them flowing toward your feet.

Mary sighed, stepping in front of me and drawing an arc across the floor with her toe. The beetles parted as they ran up against it, running in either direction, never crossing the line. After they had gone about three feet, they popped, becoming clouds of green mist that rose into the air and dissipated.

“Okay, this is officially the grossest ghostbusting job I have ever been on,” I said, as calmly as I could. It wasn’t all that calm. “Where the hell is Artie?”

“I can check, but it means leaving you alone with Tyler,” cautioned Mary. A splintering sound from the other side of the wall confirmed that Tyler’s tantrum was still in full force. “Are you sure you’re down for that?”

“If it means finding out where my so-called backup is, yes,” I said.

Mary vanished. A microwave flew through the doorway and slammed into the wall next to the dresser. Unlike the dresser, it didn’t burst into spectral cockroaches or break into a pile of splinters. Also, it could have crushed my skull, which I am fond of leaving uncrushed. I swallowed a yelp and moved farther down the hall, trying to keep my exits in view. With the way this had been going so far, I was going to need to run again before much longer.

The trouble with going up against ghosts is that most of them aren’t bad, just confused. They don’t get why I’m alive and they’re not. Sometimes that’s a fair question, like with Tyler, who died when he was eleven. He’d been riding his bike, following all the rules of the road—even wearing a helmet—when a drunk driver blasted around a corner and slammed into him, not giving him a chance to swerve. If there was any mercy in the situation, it was that Tyler had died instantly.

But maybe that wasn’t actually merciful. Because he’d died instantly, he hadn’t had any time to process what was happening. One moment he was there. The next moment he was gone. The moment after
that, he was back, spectral, confused, and coming home to haunt his family. They’d only lasted six months before they moved away; who could live in a house that shook and groaned and sometimes cried in the voice of your dead son in the middle of the night?

That all happened four years ago. Tyler had been alone ever since, growing stronger, angrier, and more confused. It was a terrible situation for a kid to be in, alive or dead.

I would have had a lot more sympathy if he hadn’t insisted on throwing things at my head, but hey. Nobody’s perfect.

“Tyler, dammit, could you calm
down?” I stayed pressed against the wall, hoping that by shouting at the kid without giving him an immediate target, I could get him to chill out—or at least to stop throwing things. “We’re not here to hurt you!”

The air in front of me shimmered, and a spectral preteen boy appeared. He looked more like a ghost than either of our family phantoms: Rose and Mary both tended to manifest as fairly normal-looking teenage girls. Sure, Mary had white hair and terrifying babysitter eyes that could make me confess to damn near anything, but fashion hair dyes and cosplay contacts exist. You know what
doesn’t exist? Makeup that can make a living person transparent and faintly blue, that’s what. Tyler looked like a really good CGI effect, the sort of thing I had exactly zero interest in getting up close and personal with.

Liar,” he hissed. “Exorcist. Liar.”

“If I were an exorcist, would I have a ghost with me?” It seemed like a reasonable question.

Apparently not. Tyler scowled. “You’re trying to
trick me,” he accused. Behind him—well, technically, through him—I saw the busted remains of the dresser start to pull themselves together. He was getting ready for another volley.

Swell. That was just what I needed. “I am not trying to trick you, Tyler,” I said firmly. “If I were trying to trick you, I’d have brought . . . shit, I don’t even know. I have no idea how to trick a kid your age. I don’t even like kids. I never have.”

He blinked. I had apparently gone far enough off-script to confuse him. “You were a kid once.”

“And when I was a kid, I was not my own biggest fan,” I said. “Kids are sticky by default, and annoying almost all the damn time. I am not the person you choose to trick a kid. Look, I’m running out of novel ways to say this, but I’m here because I want to help you. That starts with you helping me. You help me by not throwing that damn dresser at my head again. I am mortal, I am breakable, I do not want to be broken.”

Tyler scowled. “If you want to help me, where are my parents?”

“They’re gone. You died and they moved away, because they couldn’t handle the pain of living here and knowing you weren’t ever going to grow up, or come back, or be their little boy again.” They’d also moved away because he’d scared the pants off them when he started haunting the place, but saying that seemed a little impolitic. Tyler had just been doing what his new instincts told him to do. It wasn’t his fault that those instincts sort of sucked.

“You’re
lying!” he howled, face distorting until it was less that of a preteen boy and more that of an unspeakable nightmare. I prepared to brace for impact.

Artie burst in through the front door and thrust a rectangular object at Tyler.

“Hey,” he said, panting slightly. “You wanna play RoboRally?”

The nightmare bled back out of Tyler’s face, replaced by an expression of deep, profound confusion. I could sort of understand where he was coming from. This wasn’t exactly normal procedure.

I put a hand over my face and groaned. “I asked for backup, not a comedy routine, Artie.”

“This
is backup,” he said, sounding stung. “I was an eleven-year-old boy and you weren’t, and I’m telling you, this is backup. C’mon, Tyler. When’s the last time you sat down and played a game?”

My cousin is an enormous nerd—and when I’m the one saying that, it means something. After all, I’m the girl who shares her room with a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf full of X-Men trades, and who once stayed up for three days straight to organize an attack plan for the Comic-Con hotel lottery. Somehow, despite all that, Artie out-nerds me.

But he’s got good instincts. I lowered my hand. Tyler was looking thoughtfully at the box in Artie’s hands.

“Is this a trick?” he asked. “When you open the lid, will it be a Ouija board or something?”

Artie looked hurt. “I don’t screw around with the spirit world,” he said. “Aunt Mary would hit me in the head.”

“Damn right,” said Mary, appearing next to him. “And you shouldn’t believe all the press about Ouija boards. They can’t be used in an exorcism. Trivial Pursuit can, but that’s another story. Come on, kid. What can it hurt?”

Tyler looked at Mary, frowning. Finally, he heaved a heavy sigh and said, “I guess. But I get firsts.”

“No problem,” I said.

* * * * *

The four of us sat on the floor around the board, which Artie had laid out with the utmost care, as fussy as if he were getting set up in a clean, well-lit game store, and not in a decrepit house that would probably be condemned as soon as it stopped being haunted. (Most construction firms are sensibly hands-off about really haunted houses, even if they don’t like to admit that ghosts are real. There’s making a profit and then there’s getting possessed. Only one of them is good for business.) I was going to need a six-hour shower when we got out of here, after all the things I’d touched without meaning to.

On the plus side, the game seemed to be helping. Tyler was still blue and faintly transparent, but at least he looked like a kid again, and not the sort of thing that had been designed to give me nightmares for the rest of my life.

Our little robots were making good progress through their robotic death factory, even if Tyler never touched the cards or pieces. He just looked at them and they moved. There was a good chance he was cheating, since he could presumably control which card he pulled from the deck, but it didn’t seem worth pointing out, especially since we were supposed to be calming him down, not getting into a weird family game night fight. Besides, it wasn’t like he was hurting anyone.

Unlike Tyler, Mary used her hands when it was her turn to move, pulling her cards with relish, leaning across anyone who got in her way in order to reach her avatar. Like Tyler, she had allowed herself to grow less and less solid, until she’d become transparent enough for me to see right through her. It seemed to be helping him calm down. He kept stealing little glances in her direction, like he couldn’t believe another ghost would take this sort of interest in him. Or that
anyone would take this sort of interest in him. Like most poltergeists, he’d been confined to the house he was haunting since his death. And he was lonely.

The more relaxed Tyler got, the more he talked, going on and on about shows he liked to watch and movies he was looking forward to seeing. He didn’t seem to realize that it was all four years out of date. Most of his shows had been canceled; most of those movies had not only been released, they had come out on DVD and been consigned to the bargain shelf. He was a boy without a country in more ways than one.

Artie caught my eye and grimaced. I wrinkled my nose in apology. Artie and his sister Elsie are only half-human. Their father, my Uncle Ted, is an incubus. Artie inherited his father’s empathic abilities, which would be a neat superpower to have if we lived in a world where wearing spandex out of the house was not only socially acceptable but magically automatically flattering. Instead, poor Artie gets to pick up the emotional state of every living person around him, whether he wants to or not. Since Mary and Tyler weren’t alive, they weren’t putting off emotions he could read. But I was. And I was feeling so much pity for Tyler that it must have been like swimming through treacle.

“Sorry,” I mouthed.

“’S okay,” he mouthed back.

“What are you whispering about?” asked Tyler suspiciously.

We hadn’t been whispering—we hadn’t been making a sound—but it was a good opening. “Whose turn it is to do the dishes. It’s Artie’s. He always tries to get out of it.”

“So do you,” said Artie.

I stuck my tongue out at him. Tyler giggled.

He was starting to sound like a real kid again. “What did you want to be when you grew up, Tyler?” I asked, trying to make my tone light.

He glanced at me through the translucent fringe of his hair. “A football player. Or maybe a fireman. I was trying to make up my mind when I got hit.” His lips drew downward. “I guess it doesn’t matter now.”

“Maybe, maybe not,” said Mary. “I know some ghost kids who still like to play football. Best part? You can’t get hurt when you’re dead. So they can just tackle and shove and do whatever they want, forever. And it’s never time to go in for dinner, and there’s never homework to make them stop playing.”

“Yeah?” asked Tyler. “What if I wanted to be a fireman?”

“You’re a poltergeist, right?” asked Artie. “I mean, if you figured out how to control what you can do, and you decided what you really wanted to do with your time was fight fires, I bet you could. You could get the water and the foam deeper into the building, you could move smoke away from kids who are trapped . . .”

“You wouldn’t be the first,” said Mary. “There are lots of constructive ways to haunt.”

“Yeah?” asked Tyler again. He seemed more solid, and almost hopeful. Then he flickered, becoming a cellophane boy. “What about my parents?”

“Not everyone becomes a ghost,” said Mary. “Mostly only people who feel like they’re leaving something behind. Because you died so young, they’re likely to hurry on to whatever comes after this world, looking for you. I’m sorry. You probably won’t see them until you decide to move past haunting. But maybe you will. Sticking around to see can’t hurt anything, and it might make you feel less like you got cheated out of everything you should have had.”

“But I
did get cheated,” said Tyler. That horror movie mask was starting to ooze around the edges of his face again, darkening the whole room. “That man shouldn’t have been driving. I was being good. I was following the rules. I just wanted to go home.”

The game board began to shake. Artie looked alarmed. Right. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from being the youngest of three, it’s how to throw a good tantrum—and how to defuse one.

“You got screwed,” I said amiably. Tyler’s face stopped shifting toward the horrific and snapped back into little boy innocence as he turned to gape at me. I shrugged. “It’s true. You got screwed over. That asshole stole every year you should have had. Your high school, dating, college, kids if that’s what you wanted, everything, he took it, because he couldn’t take a taxi home after slamming back a few beers. God, that sucks. I’d be mad, too. I don’t know if I’d be ‘haunt the house I lived in, throwing the furniture at people’ mad, but who knows? It didn’t happen to me. Even if you brought the roof down on my head right now—”

“Uh, maybe don’t give him ideas?” said Artie, with a nervous glance at the ceiling.

“—I would still have lived longer and done more than you ever got to, and I am sorry, and that is fucked up, but throwing shit at us is not going to make it better, and it’s not going to make you alive again.” I gestured to Mary. “She wants to take you someplace where you can meet other kids who got screwed like you did. You can make friends. You can do stuff. And, yeah, you can wait to see if your parents come to join you. You’re a ghost. You’ve got time. Maybe this isn’t what you would have chosen, but it’s what you’ve got, so make the best of it.”

Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B01H17UAT0
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ DAW (March 7, 2017)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ March 7, 2017
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 1953 KB
  • Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Screen Reader ‏ : ‎ Supported
  • Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 360 pages
  • Lending ‏ : ‎ Not Enabled
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.7 out of 5 stars 422 ratings

About the author

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Seanan McGuire is a native Californian, which has resulted in her being exceedingly laid-back about venomous wildlife, and terrified of weather. When not writing urban fantasy (as herself) and science fiction thrillers (as Mira Grant), she likes to watch way too many horror movies, wander around in swamps, record albums of original music, and harass her cats.

Seanan is the author of the October Daye, InCryptid, and Indexing series of urban fantasies; the Newsflesh trilogy; the Parasitology duology; and the "Velveteen vs." superhero shorts. Her cats, Lilly, Alice, and Thomas, are plotting world domination even as we speak, but are easily distracted by feathers on sticks, so mankind is probably safe. For now.

Seanan's favorite things include the X-Men, folklore, and the Black Death. No, seriously. She writes all biographies in the third person, because it's easier that way.

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