Royal Street by Suzanne Johnson
Tor (April 10, 2012)
Trade: $14.99; ebook: $9.99
Favorite Lines: “Mortals view death in terms of black and white–you are either alive, or you are not. But between them–between live and death and eternity–there is a small gray area, one that the humans have no knowledge of. That is where we reside, vampires and rabids and a few of the older, inexplicable creatures that still exist in this world. The humans cannot understand us, because we live by a different set of rules.” (p. 94)
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’ve been reading reviews of Royal Street and it seems people are bothered by the setting and time. I did not live in the area, nor was I personally impacted by the events which took place during Hurricane Katrina. Yes, I cared and I was sad and horrified by the effect the hurricane had on the area, but it did nothing to dim my appreciation for Suzanne Johnson’s latest book, Royal Street.
The story started off pretty slow. However, once the action started it just got better and better. I guess it’s similar to a hurricane. You know how first you hear news of a hurricane on the way and the wait about kills ya? But when it hits there’s debris flying everywhere. Nothing is safe until it passes and it’s time to pick up the messy pieces left by the hurricane. Johnson uses that same technique.
The story slowly picks up speed as more elements are introduced. More story lines and characters add to the fast rotation. It begins to get dirty as the truth tries to force its way out and the mystery is investigated. The story whips round and round until it stops allowing the reader to take stock of who (or what) survived.
No, I’m not going to tell you what happened. I will tell you that I enjoyed the story and hope–if you decide to read it–you will too. Why? No it’s not a deep story filled with hidden meaning. I don’t care about that stuff. I’m interested in being entertained and transported to another world. Johnson did that for me with Royal Street.
From a sexy ghost to shapeshifter determined to keep his ability secret, the paranormal aspects of Johnson’s world have been added to New Orleans like a clear overlay on a projector. It makes the city richer by creating a hidden depth. The heroine is low on the magical totem pole, but she is smarter than most people give her credit. Okay, maybe she’s a little bit lucky too. I didn’t love her, but I still l managed to get excited about the book, even though it isn’t a romance.
The romance thread is pretty iffy, but the mystery aspect of the story kept things chugging along. Expect to be introduced to the political world of magic users found in the urban fantasy world of Royal Street. Don’t look for an overtly romantic story cause you won’t find it. Sure there’s romance and sexual tension, but there is no happily ever after. On the other hand, there is a book two (River Road) which will be released in hard cover in November.