Saturday, April 11, 2015

Review: Royal Street by Suzanne Johnson

Royal Street by Suzanne Johnson
Series:  Sentinels of New Orleans, #1

My Rating:  
Sultry Scale:

As the junior wizard sentinel for New Orleans, Drusilla Jaco’s job involves a lot more potion-mixing and pixie-retrieval than sniffing out supernatural bad guys like rogue vampires and lethal were-creatures. DJ's boss and mentor, Gerald St. Simon, is the wizard tasked with protecting the city from anyone or anything that might slip over from the preternatural beyond.

Then Hurricane Katrina hammers New Orleans’ fragile levees, unleashing more than just dangerous flood waters.

While winds howled and Lake Pontchartrain surged, the borders between the modern city and the Otherworld crumbled. Now, the undead and the restless are roaming the Big Easy, and a serial killer with ties to voodoo is murdering the soldiers sent to help the city recover.

To make it worse, Gerry has gone missing, the wizards’ Elders have assigned a grenade-toting assassin as DJ’s new partner, and undead pirate Jean Lafitte wants to make her walk his plank. The search for Gerry and for the serial killer turns personal when DJ learns the hard way that loyalty requires sacrifice, allies come from the unlikeliest places, and duty mixed with love creates one bitter gumbo. 

I really enjoyed this book. As a newer resident of New Orleans, I was captivated by Suzanne Johnson's description of the city before, during and after Hurricane Katrina. This was the best fictional account of the storm that I have read, and it was tastefully done by Ms. Johnson, who was a longtime resident of New Orleans herself. Even though this was an urban fantasy, the pain and hopelessness of the city's residents after the storm came through in the writing.

While New Orleans is almost a character itself, the actual characters in the story were equally engaging and likable. Drusilla or DJ, was a midline heroine for me. I didn't hate her, she got on my nerves a couple times, but for the most part we got along just fine. Based on things that we learn about Drusilla in this book, I think that her character will only get more interesting as the series progresses (especially as things evolve with her new sentient stick)!

The male characters really stole the show for me, particularly the lovable undead pirate, Jean Lafitte. Alex and Jake, alpha male cousins with particularly yummy descriptions, were also a nice addition to the story. Though I was not a fan of the love triangle, and felt it caused unnecessary drama among the characters. I think the reason it bothered me so much is because there is no clear "bad" choice - Alex and Jake both have a lot going for them and are not hurting in the looks department. (And honestly, I'm also routing for Jean Lafitte.) And the relationship drama is where DJ got on my nerves a bit... so I hope we don't have more of that in future books.

I felt there was plenty of action to hold my interest, but honestly Johnson's descriptions of the storm-ravaged city were enough to do that. I also liked that some New Orleans mythology worked it's way into the plot with the voodoo theme. It's rare lately that I find a book where both the concept and the characters appeal to me. So the fact that they did here has me stoked to read the rest of the series.

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