The InCryptid series has quickly become one of my binge addictions – I’ve been planning to read it for a few years now, but it took a buddy read with my Urban-Fantasy-Wednesday-Buddy-Read-Group to get me started. Now I can’t stop.
There are a LOT of short stories that Seanan McGuire has given to us – most of them available for free on her website – and I find myself coming back to them whenever I have a few free minutes to spare.
This first set revolves around Verity’s great-grandparents. Verity is the main character in the first two full-length novels. Jonathan is Verity’s great-grandpa, the first Healy born after the Healy’s defection from the Covenant.
The Flower of Arizona (in Westward Weird anthology)
Something is killing people in Arizona…and whatever it is, it’s not anything currently known to science. Left unchecked, this new predator could call down a Covenant strike team on the state, endangering the lives of uncounted innocent cryptids. Faced with this immediate threat to the cryptid community, the Healy family has no choice but to send a representative to check it out. And as the youngest Healy, Jonathan inevitably draws the short straw.
Naturally, things can’t be as easy as “take the train to Arizona, find out what’s killing people, make it stop, go home.” There’s the desert heat to contend with, along with over-friendly locals, a traveling circus that seems to follow the predator’s path, and a golden-haired trick rider who may or may not know more than she’s letting on. It’s enough to drive a gentleman cryptozoologist to distraction—and that’s before the mice get involved.
That’s really not addressing the fact that anything with a taste for human flesh is likely to regard Jonathan himself as potential prey, and he is, after all, so very, very far from home…
Now, because this was part of a larger anthology – which I didn’t read – I’m only reviewing this small short story here instead. This was a nice, quick, intro to Jonathan and Fran. I love their meeting and the Aeslin mouse (who is very sure of Fran’s place even though Jonathan may not be).
I was a little bummed that the “monster” problem had to be resolved in the way it was, but I was glad that the person taking advantage was handled.
Quick short story. Fun history into the Healy-Price family.
One Hell of a Ride
After a rather…eventful…visit to Tempe, Arizona, Jonathan Healy wants nothing more than to return to his home in Buckley Township, Michigan, where at least the threats are generally familiar ones. With the last of the blood mopped up and the locals none the wiser, it seems he’s just a train ride away from getting his wish.
Of course, there are a few small complications. Like the lovely and occasionally violent Miss Frances Brown, former star of the Campbell Family Circus, who seems to have become his new traveling companion. Or the Aeslin mice, who complicate travel at the best of times. And then there’s the matter of the train having driven through a dimensional gateway into Hell…
Maybe Jonathan shouldn’t be quite so worried about when he’ll be making it back to Michigan. Maybe his time would be better spent in worrying about how to get off the train while he, Fran, and the mice are all still among the living.
Furthing the adventures of Fran and Jonathan – who first met in Arizona (The Flower of Arizona) and are now traveling back to Jonathan’s family in Michigan.
Riding aboard the train could be boring….if you’re not a Healy, I suppose.
Another quick, high action, story that gives us some background and history on the Healy-Price family. I am kind of looking at these like they’re vignettes that are being recorded for future reference and knowledge.
I like Fran and Jonathan and like them together too. Fran is a great match for him, and I can’t wait to see what they get up to next!
No Place Like Home
Road trips are wonderful things, filled with adventure, excitement, and questionable lodgings, but there comes a time in every man’s life where all he wants is the chance to sleep in his own bed, eat at his own table, and reunite his colony of talking pantheistic mice with their fellows, thus making sleep a little bit more likely. With Buckley Township in his sights, Jonathan Healy is finally going home.
The trouble is, home for him isn’t home for Fran, who grew up in the desert, never lived under a fixed roof for more than a week at a time, and has no idea what to expect. To make matters worse, Jonathan’s parents—Enid and Alexander Healy, late of the Covenant of St. George—are right on hand to make things more awkward for everyone.
With her future on the line, it’s time for Frances Brown to make one of the biggest decisions of her life. Does she stay in Buckley Township and try to make a life with the Healys? Or does she saddle up her horse and ride back into the sunset?
This story continues Fran (The Priestess of Unexpected Violence) and Jonathan’s story – though this one is much quieter in tone and action. Not a lot is going on here except for them getting home and meeting Jonathan’s parents – Enid and Alexander….though that’s probably quite enough for Fran!
This doesn’t work as a standalone story, but it’s nice to see the moment when Fran makes the decision that’s going to be the rest of her life.
Stingers and Strangers (in Dead Man’s Hand anthology)
Johnny and Fran are on assignment again, this time heading for Colorado to investigate reports of an unusually large Apraxis hive. Apraxis wasps are large, deadly, and worst of all, capable of consuming the memories of the people they kill, which makes them the sort of thing that no one really wants living nearby.
Upon arriving in Colorado, our intrepid pair naturally discover that things aren’t as simple as they appear—and they didn’t appear to be that simple to begin with. Johnny and Fran will have to contend with dragon princesses, suspicious locals, and threats that neither of them have ever dreamed could exist if they want to make it out of this one alive.
Survival has never been so difficult, or so important, because if they don’t make it home, how can they warn the others?
I’m a little surprised that 3 years have passed since we last saw Jonathan and Fran. But beyond that, this was an awesome story with a lot of fun little glimpses into the further cryptid world and species. AND the Easter Eggs if you’ve read any of the full-length novels.
I particularly enjoyed the moments between Fran and Jonathan which seemed to really deepen their relationship.
Married in Green
After a rocky start and a lot of dangerous adventures, the day everyone has been waiting for has finally arrived: Jonathan Healy and Frances Brown are going to be married, and none too soon, since their first child is set to arrive at any moment. Alexander and Enid couldn’t be happier about their son gaining a wife and a child, while giving them a daughter-in-law. The mice have been celebrating for weeks. If only Jonathan and Fran were so sure…
Marriage is a big step, and Fran is terrified of what her future will bring. Is this her happily ever after, or just one more short-term home in a long string of the same? Help comes in the form of her old circus friends…but that just raises more questions. Will she ever be happy holding still? And what does it mean to be married in green?
You are cordially invited to join the Healys and the members of the Campbell Family Carnival on the joyous event of the marriage of Jonathan Healy and Frances Brown. Assuming they go through with it.
Everything changes today.
I love this little story. There’s not much in the way of crytpid type stuff happening, much like No Place Like Home, but there’s a lot happening emotionally.
I loved what Jonathan did for Fran, even if he thought that they were going to “persuade her not to make a mistake.” I loved the moments of Fran and Juniper, even though it had a vaguely ominous air snaking through the entire thing.
And, as always, I love the Aeslin mice. I want some for my own.
But, and this is a big “but”, it ends with a very foreboding feeling, and though I know Jonathan and Fran are long dead by the time the current Healy/Price family story happening, it doesn’t mean I’m anxious to see the end…and I fear that’s exactly what’s coming.
Sweet Poison Wine
Jonathan and Frances Healy are beginning their new lives together with that most traditional of celebrations: the honeymoon. Leaving their infant son with Jonathan’s parents, the Healys are leaving Buckley Township, Michigan for the cosmopolitan wonders of the city of Chicago, where they can properly celebrate the fact that they managed to have a wedding without anybody winding up dead.
Of course, these are the Healys we’re talking about, and nothing in Chicago is exactly fitting the description provided by the Bureau of Tourism. From the gorgon-run hotel where they’ll be staying to the swamp hags in the Chicago River, things are definitely business as usual, at least by the family definition of “usual.”
Bootlegger Arturo Gucciard has only just been introduced to the Healy definition of “usual,” but he’s going to need to get awfully familiar with it if he wants to live long enough to have a honeymoon of his own. And Jonathan, well. Jonathan just wants to have a normal honeymoon.
Good luck with that.
What a fun little short! Now that Fran and Jonathan are married, with their first little baby born and under the care of his grandparents, the newlyweds can finally take their honeymoon.
And it it turns out to be a mite more adventurous than relaxing…well that’s just the way Fran likes it.
By the time she made it around the bed, he was already scrambling down the rocky bank toward the water, where three hunched-over shapes were in the process of dragging what looked like a hog-tied man toward the water.
“Best honeymoon ever,” she said, and charged down the bank after him.
I absolutely adore Fran, and Jonathan. They’re both such great characters. I like how Fran is so outspoken and blunt, and how Jonathan seems quiet and contained, but he’s got this wonderful dry, sarcastic sense of humor.
Another fun story!
The First Fall
It has been three years since the marriage of Jonathan and Frances Healy; three years since the birth of their son, Daniel, who has been the light of their lives for that entire time. And now, due to circumstances beyond their control, the family has come together to do the one thing that none of them has ever wanted to do.
They have come together to bury Daniel.
Shattered by the death of their little boy, Jonathan and Frances set out to find the Campbell Family Carnival, where Fran’s old friend Juniper’s talent for talking to ghosts may allow her to believe that her child is truly at rest. Jonathan has no such hopes; he just wants to there’s a chance his wife will survive the labyrinth of her grief.
This is not a happy story, and it does not chronicle a happy time in the annals of the Price family. But this is what happened, and when it happened, and it shaped so very much of what came after.
Rest well, Daniel Healy. You never had a chance.
Good lord. I cried the entire way through this story. The pain that permeates is all too easy to relate to, even if I’ve never had to deal with losing my child.
This is a difficult story, full of heartache and devastation. Even the Aeslin mice, who can usually be counted on to bring joy to any occasion, feel only sadness and mourning in this time.
“The God of Early Arrivals and Earlier Departures was beloved to us. He will be forever part of the pantheon that watches over the colony from the place beyond the attic, where the cheese and cake are bountiful, and where we will all one day go.” The mouse spoke with absolute and utter conviction. There was a Heaven; Daniel was there; one day all the mice would go to join him.
It’s not a story I’ll re-visit anytime, ever, likely. But I’m glad I read it. Even if I’m still fighting tears.
Loch and Key
Daniel Healy has been dead for two years, and his parents are still in the process of healing both themselves and their relationship. When Alexander Healy suggests that it’s finally time for his daughter-in-law to accompany them on their periodic fishing trip to White Otter Lake, it seems like the perfect opportunity for the four surviving members of the family to become reacquainted with one another. Fran is dubious at first, not really understanding what a fishing trip could do for them as a family.
That was before she knew about the monsters in White Otter Lake, of course. The monsters change everything.
Before long, the entire Healy clan is embroiled in a fight for the lives of the creatures that live in White Otter Lake, which may be the last of their kind in the world. If they want to save these majestic plesiosaurs, the family will need to find a way to come together in order to solve the mystery of what the guardian of White Otter Lake has disappeared to.
It’s bullets versus brains as the Healys finally step up to do their jobs, and preserve the crytozoological world. No matter what it takes.
This short is much lighter than the last short story which kind of tore my heart out.
So that’s much appreciated. The pain and trauma is still there, for the Healys and for me, but I still found much to smile about here. Jonathan and Fran reconnecting and finding life with each other again and finding their life together on more solid ground.
Plus, the cryptids at the lake are so adorable. I love how much this family goes through to protect and help all those that can’t be helped in normal ways.
We Both Go Down Together
With their second child due to arrive any day, it would be reasonable for Jonathan and Frances Healy to stay safe at home. Unfortunately, the world has other ideas. A postcard from the mysterious coastal town of Gentling, Maine has Jonathan packing his bags and preparing for an adventure—and when did Fran ever pass up an adventure?
But the people of Gentling aren’t just ordinary fishermen and sailors: they’re the descendants of finfolk who fell in love with the humans who pulled them from the sea, and they have long since settled into a gentle rhythm of a life lived between the wet and the dry. Only now, someone or something is stealing their babies from the shore, endangering the next generation.
Old obligations and new obligations will collide, and the newest member of the Healy family will join the fight…or will she? Because it’s not just the babies of the finfolk who are in danger, and unless they’re careful, Johnny and Fran might find themselves losing another child…
This was so incredibly interesting. A whole town built and settled by (mostly) cryptids. It makes sense, and I find myself wondering if it still exists in Verity’s time. Gentling is a town like no other, situated on the sea for a very specific reason. The folk here are tied to it in ways that I won’t spoil.
But I can say that I love how cryptid life has just as many, or more, natural difficulties and challenges as human life. Often in books it is portrayed as nearly the same, with a few differences, and a few alternate difficulties (like not being able to go out in sunlight or something). Here these are obviously different species with different needs, requirements, and desires. I love learning about their biologies and cultures and traditions.
Even though the conflict nearly broke me, especially after what happened in The First Fall, I really enjoyed this story. You can feel the heartache still in Jonathan and Fran, but also the healing and love between them. They’ve pulled each other through, and are continuing to do so. I love seeing their relationship continue to evolve, and how they continue to support each other.
And thankfully this ends in a much more positive place, so maybe I can start to heal from the trauma that came before, too.
Oh Pretty Bird
It’s been years since the death of their first child, Daniel, but Jonathan and Frances Healy have never been able to catch the person responsible…until now. When word comes that the Apraxis hives are moving strangely, and that a familiar woman with black hair and no history has appeared, it seems like things may finally come to fruition.
And it’s not like they won’t have backup: Enid and Alexander Healy have not forgiven the woman who cost them their first grandchild, and they’re not about to let Johnny and Fran ride out alone. They don’t know much about the situation that they’re walking into. They know enough to be afraid, to be on their guards, and to stay together at all times.
Can they avenge their own without paying more than they can afford? Old questions are finally answered, and old debts are paid as the Healys walk into the most dangerous situation they have faced thus far. It’s for Daniel. There’s no question of whether they’ll go. There’s only a question of whether they’ll come back.
Finally! Finally, they can get justice for the unimaginable wrong that was done to them! This was an incredibly emotional story for me. I’ve been waiting for this since Daniel died.
It’s hard for me to be objective and actually talk about the story, because I was so invested in what was happening. But I did love that we learn more about the cuckoos here, and even see how it came to be that the Healys (to-be Prices) learned so much about them.
Bury Me in Satin
Things are starting to hit an easy sort of groove at the Healy house. Alice is growing up, a little spitfire of a girl who adores her father and idolizes her mother. Johnny and Fran have mostly put their ghosts behind them, and are focusing on the future, which has never seemed brighter, or more guaranteed.
Sadly, for some people, the future has already ended.
Mary Dunlavy has been Alice’s babysitter almost since the girl was born. When her father stops showing up for work, it falls to Fran to go and see what’s going on. What she finds changes everything.
There is no right and there is no wrong in some situations: there’s only the way things should have been, and the way things are.
Not everyone gets out alive.
This was a quick little story that introduces us more fully to “Aunt” Mary and her hsitory.
This was a bit melancholy, as you would expect, but Fran and a Alice managed to inject the perfect amount of humor and love into the story.
Snakes and Ladders
There’s nothing that little girls love more on Halloween than going trick or treating with their mother, a sackful of talking pantheistic mice, and their dead babysitter. All right, maybe there are a lot of things that little girls love more, but for Alice Healy, a nice out with her beloved mama and her favorite ghost is just about perfect.
Right up until someone snatches her off of a porch, that is.
For Alice, this is the most terrifying thing that has ever happened. For Fran, this is the end of the world, and something she may not survive; if she doesn’t get her little girl back, she may be joining Mary in the grave. And for the snake cult that grabbed Alice, this may be the chance that they’ve been waiting for…
It’s tricks and treats on a Buckley Halloween, and this time, there are more than just the usual masked monsters roaming the streets.
Fran takes a Alice out trick or treating for Halloween, when Alice runs into an unwitting “snake-god”.
I really enjoyed this story! It was a lot of fun, with the right amount of drama and worry to make me keep turning pages to find out what was going to happen.
Broken Paper Hearts
Valentine’s Day has come to Buckley Township. For Alice, that means cupcakes and paper hearts. For Jonathan, it means sleepless nights and fear, because Fran hasn’t come home.
Everything ends eventually. No matter how much you hope that it won’t.
I knew it was coming, watching the dates of all the short stories slowly get closer to this year, but it still hit me – hard and feeling like it came at my blind side.
Devastated doesn’t begin to cover it.
The Star of New Mexico
Almost twenty years ago, Jonathan Healy rode a train across the country to investigate reports that something was killing people in the wake of a small family circus. Almost twenty years ago, he brought home the woman who would be his wife, the mother of his children, and his partner in the endless quest to protect the cryptids of the world. The time has come for Fabulous Fran, the Flower of Arizona, the Star of New Mexico, to take the stage for the final time, and take her final bow.
Fran touched a lot of lives in her time in Buckley, and the people who loved her are coming to say goodbye. It’s not going to be easy. The things that are most important so very rarely are.
They say she never missed a shot; she was the darling of the west. But now she’s gone, and the ones she’s left behind must figure out what this means for them.
I’m so glad I read these – but, man, did they get me in the feels. I’m not sure I’ll ever read them again, considering Fran may be one of my all time favorite characters in this series and the losses felt in these short stories will stick with me for a very long time.