The Solstice Countdown by Lisa Shearin (SPI Files #7) Urban Fantasy March 9, 2021 Self-published Reviewed by Kate
“You make me weak in the knees, and not in a good way. One of these days, your cockiness is gonna backfire, and if it doesn’t get you killed, I’ll do it.”
“You’ll be standing in a long line,” he murmured.
Reading the latest SPI Files novel is like visiting old friends. I have been reading Lisa Shearin’s books for over a decade now – starting with her Raine Benares novels, and then the SPI Files. I can probably count on one hand the number of other authors who I have stuck with for that length of time. Her books are just consistently fun, and The Solstice Countdown is no exception.
The most recent SPI Files novel prior to The Solstice Countdown was published in 2018, so it’s been a few years since we’ve hung out with Mac. With that much of a gap, I was a bit concerned about being able to jump back into the story. Similarly, something I try to keep in mind as I’m reading a later book in a series is whether or not a reader can start the series with that book. I do think that an unfamiliar reader has a much better chance of enjoying this book than the past few installments in the SPI Files since those relied on not only SPI Files world-building, but Raine Benares series world-building as well. However, because the basic plot of The Solstice Countdown is “Mac takes Rake home to meet her family for Christmas,” it feels removed from both series and more able to stand on its own. There are certainly references to characters from the other books, but it shouldn’t bring down your enjoyment of this book if you haven’t read the others.
I consider the SPI Files series to be mostly urban fantasy, with a drop of romance, and The Solstice Countdown follows this trend, even if it’s maybe not as “urban” as the previous books in the series (which mostly take place in New York City), being that Mac is visiting her small hometown. Shearin brings in different mythologies to create her supernatural world, while still putting her own twist on everything, resulting in a world that is unique, but somehow still just a little bit familiar. I would also classify this on the more “light-hearted” side of urban fantasy. There is some violence, but most of the destruction is to property and ghouls, not humans, and though we know the end results of a fight (mostly ghouls = dead), the actual fighting is rarely described in much detail.
One thing that is consistent with the other books is Mac’s distinctive voice. I’ve previously noted that Mac’s inner monologue can be repetitive, but this time it doesn’t feel as annoyingly obvious – which likely has to do with the fact that it has been a while since I’ve read an SPI Files book, and also, a lot of the characters are new, so it is helpful to me as a reader to have Mac give me explanations. And the new characters are great! Mac’s mother and grandmother are spectacular. Shearin does a great job of creating multi-dimensional side characters that tend to be amusing as well, and it is exciting to get a bunch of new faces all at once.
Other things you can expect from The Solstice Countdown: non-stop action, a bit of romance, witty dialogue (see above snippet between Mac and Rake), a big evil bad guy, multiple family secrets revealed, and an appearance by the town Santa Claus. I don’t ever doubt that Mac and company will find a way to come out at the end of the book successful, it’s the how they do it that makes the reading enjoyable. And to be perfectly honest, I don’t need a book where I’m anxious about the outcome right now, I need books that are fun little escapes from reality, and The Solstice Countdown fits that bill.