Saturday, 28 April 2012

Royal Street by Suzanne Johnson

I received a copy of this book courtesy of the publisher from NetGalley.

I discovered this title through a fellow blogger a few weeks ago. We seem to have fairly similar tastes when it comes to urban fantasy so when she listed this book as one of the best books she’s read so far this year, I know that I absolutely had to get my hands on a copy! In this case I was very fortunate and got approved for the ARC on NetGalley.

Title: Royal Street
Author: Suzanne Johnson
Series:  Sentinels of New Orleans #1
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Target Audience: Adult
Genre: Urban fantasy
Length: 352 pages

Story: 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.

Thoughts and impressions: I adored the opening scene of this book! DJ, our heroine, is on a mission to send Jean Lafitte – one of New Orleans’s historical undead – back to the beyond and she finds herself very disturbed that he’s adapted to the modern era by carrying around fruit-flavoured condoms on his person! I think it takes guts to open with a scene like that but Suzanne Johnson pulled it off flawlessly!

The world building was fairly strong, though with some plot holes. The biggest one of these was that it’s mentioned that the wizards from Europe and America step in to help each other in dire situations – be this the American wizards travelling to Europe to fight in a war between wizards and other preternaturals (“pretes”), or the European wizards travelling to the US to deal with the preternatural aftermath of a hurricane in Florida a few years before. And yet, after Katrina hits and devastates the New Orleans area, only one other human preternatural – European or American – steps in to help this deputy with the task of getting things back under control.

Other than this most glaring problem, the world building could easily stand on its own two feet despite the fact that we didn’t meet many of the various preternatural races that exist here. There’s no rush of course; in fact, I believe that it was much better this way with lots still left to explore in future books. The series has a lot of potential to be one that hooks UF readers across the board. It certainly succeeded in hooking me!

In this first book, the pretes that are dealt with the most are what are called the historical undead. These are those people who lived and died in a certain area during their natural life and even after their deaths they remain in the collective memory of current society. So long as people remember their names, they are essentially immortal but if their names are forgotten then they will disappear. I have, of course, come across ideas like this before but I’m pretty sure it’s the first time I’ve seen them used to this extent in a book. It was actually a very interesting idea as it allowed for use of such historical figures as Louis Armstrong, Marie Laveau and Jean Lafitte (though I have to admit that I hadn’t heard of Lafitte before – I’m not exactly “up” on New Orleans culture).

I actually really liked Lafitte’s character. He was the sort of baddy that you can really root for as the reader. For a while I even entertained the prospect of him as a potential romantic interest. He might be several centuries dead, in it for himself and a reprobate (he’s a pirate – what pirate isn’t a reprobate?) but he was quirky and fun. Hey, I’ve read books where the romantic interest was much worse than Jean Lafitte in Royal Street! He wasn’t the romantic interest, but he was still a fun character.

It was also interesting to view hurricane Katrina through the eyes of a local. I don’t think it really packed the emotional punch that the author was aiming for, but it was certainly a very different experience to the one I went through at the time. Still, I didn’t really feel complete despair at the loss of human life or the death of a beloved city. I was, however, able to build these emotions up for myself through what was not said in the narrative. The quotes from the newspapers were a good touch as well.

DJ was a good character, if slow at times. She so desperately wanted to reach that happy ending where she’d get her mentor back and no one gets hurt that she was willing to overlook some blindingly obvious evidence. This said, I have to admit that she did often allow herself to get distracted by her feelings towards her new partner, Alex, and his cousin, Jake. It meant that sometimes the plot would stagnate as she floundered in waters that she tried very hard to pretend didn’t even exist. She was frustrating at times, but in the long run I liked her and I suppose that’s what’s most important.

All in all, I found this book to be an interesting introduction to a new series that I want more of. Apparently the next book is going to be about undines (mermaids) – I can’t wait!

Style: I liked the dry sarcasm of the style that would rear its head from time to time. Just little things like when DJ mentions that luckily she got hit on the other shoulder to the one that was already bruised because she likes to have symmetrical bruises.

Final verdict: I really enjoyed this book! I had some minor issues with it but they were so minor that they didn’t affect my enjoyment of it in the least. I’d definitely recommend to fans of this style of urban fantasy. 5 stars

Extra notes: Bad language is present. Sex is not.


  1. AAAh you've read it! I'm so glag you enjoyed this one as much as I did. It was an amazing book and I can't wait to read river orad!!!

  2. @Melliane Totally! At least the sequel is out later this year so we don't have to wait a full year to find out what happens next!


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