Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) 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: This is one of those books that made me wish that I gave half-points on rating. 3/5 seems a touch too low, but 4/5 seems a touch too high. I settled on 3; it seemed the most fair.
Royal Street, the first book of the Sentinels of New Orleans series, is billed as an urban fantasy, and doesn’t take many breaks from standard urban fantasy fare. Right down to the romance aspect, which was just a little too heavy for me to fully enjoy. Perhaps I’m not the best example, but I always find it very hard to relate to characters who are in dangerous situations who still take a moment to stop and admire how well-built their stoic male companion is. It didn’t help that the male romantic lead was the type of person who tended to be a bit misogynistic, and spent a good chunk of the book making snide remarks about the main character and how inept she was. They grow closer as they work together, but their relationship felt forced and flimsy to me, and I couldn’t get into it as much as I felt that I was supposed to.
Though the plot itself was fairly predictable (not completely transparent but there were plenty of hints to lead the reader along so that very little came as a surprise), it was still enjoyable. Urban fantasy tends to be one of those things that I can take or leave, but this one kept me reading. It was definitely well-paced, the characters had some depth to them, and I particularly enjoyed DJ’s sarcastic introspection. It may have been fluff, but it was pleasant fluff, and it certainly had more than a few moments of creativity. Info about the supernatural and magic wasn’t just handed over in a great big infodump but instead revealed bit by bit in a way that still felt unforced, which is something that plenty of authors haven’t been able to manage. This book isn’t going to revolutionize the genre, but it’s certainly a welcome addition to it.
Of particular interest was how the author handled the destructive force of Hurricane Katrina. I think that aspect of the book was done well. It was part of the story without being overwhelming, and was a factor that couldn’t be overlooked without it being the primary focus on every character’s thoughts and actions. Johnson painted a vivid picture of New Orleans after the event, and for a recent disaster that people are still struggling with the aftermath of, I think it was done justice.
Fans of the urban fantasy and paranormal romance genres will probably enjoy Royal Street quite a bit. It had its issues, but was overall a fun read. Even if it didn’t hold much that set it apart from other urban fantasies, it’s still one that managed to interest me enough to make me think that if I have the chance, I’ll continue reading further books in the series as it goes on.
(Received for review from the publisher via NetGalley.)