A pleasure, as always, to revisit The SPI Files. Lisa Shearin always brings it—and by it I mean that combination of humour and serious situations in need of ass-kicking that results in delightful urban fantasy stories. The tone might be light, but the stakes are often high. This the kind of series you can easily devour over a week or two yet keep coming back to time and again.
Mac and Ian are back at it again, this time guarding the biggest supernatural convention of the century. The Myth Manifestation promises mayhem and chaos when the convention hotel, owned and operated by none other than Mac’s goblin love interest, Rake Danescu, is isolated by malevolent forces. As the eponymous manifested myths keep attacking guests, and with SPI’s agents cut off from contact with the outside world, it’s up to the team inside to figure out who is responsible, how they’re doing it, and how to stop them. The clock is ticking, because if they don’t get out of this, the balance of the supernatural world on Earth could be forever altered. Oh, and even if they do, the balance on another world might forever be altered.
I love how closely intertwined this series has become with Shearin’s Raine Benares series. What began as mere hints in the first book has blossomed, with events in the other series being referenced and having ramifications for events here. In this case, the growing instability in Raine’s world means problems for this one, specifically for the goblin and elf colonies here. And the antagonist in The Myth Manifestation really just wants to perfect a weapon that they could then deploy in Raine’s world. Oh noes!
The political intrigue here, the background, is my favourite part. I appreciate how Mac is so deeply involved in these high-stakes situations. Suddenly she has gone from being SPI’s newest hire to dating this shady goblin who is higher and higher up the goblin chain of command every time we see him, and now she’s working with him to achieve things that directly affect the power structure of his world. This is a very skilful way of making a “nobody” type protagonist important without just thrusting the mantle of Chosen One upon them.
Mac’s growth is really nice to see as well. The Myth Manifestation continues to highlight her inexperience in combat. She wields paint guns to mark targets, and she can get creative with her … weapons. But she still hasn’t become a badass fighter. I’m so interested to see how Shearing further develops this aspect of Mac’s character and whether by book 8 or 9 we’ll see Mac facing off more and more confidently and competently against physical foes.
Alas, after so much of the last book focusing on him, Ian seems to be a bit sidelined here. By that I mean he’s present, obviously, and he contributes—a little—but there’s relatively few scenes between Mac and Ian. It’s mostly Mac/Rake, or Mac poking around and consulting other characters, like Kenji. Ian gets a little page time but otherwise exists very much in a background, supporting role, which is not something I’m used to. Not sure how I feel about it, but I’m sure it’s an anomaly. Again, I really like that Shearin has the two series leads falling for other people instead of each other. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like my Mac/Ian banter!
There’s a decent amount of action in The Myth Manifestation, and creatively enough done considering the restricted setting. I guess if I have to single out any particular reason I didn’t like this quite as much as the previous instalments, it’s just that it feels a little less grand in scope. The setting, Ian’s diminished involvement, etc., all sort of make this a perfectly OK volume, but I’ve definitely had better SPI Files. Still, I’m no less excited for the next volume, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Shearin has cooked up next for Mac and Ian. (I don’t really care about Rake.)