ROYAL STREET (Sentinels of New Orleans #1)
by Suzanne Johnson
RELEASE DATE: April 2012
FORMAT: Advance Reader Copy, 336 pages
GENRE: Urban Fantasy
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. (Goodreads)
ROYAL STREET slowly sucked me in. The first 100 pages did take a while to get going, but the tension building as well as the inclusion of a real life natural disaster was cleverly done.
Set in New Orleans just as hurricane Katrina is about to hit, many chapters are prefaced with a real-life news headlines from the disaster. This should of made me feel uneasy, but I thought it was an interesting and powerful writing technique. This combined with the inclusion of the local’s belief that Katrina was going to amount to nothing gave me chills.
“…the weather guys always freak everybody out and then the storms pass us by.”
Then, after those first 100 pages though, I was totally addicted! It was one of those books where I just NEEDED to know what was going to happen next! As a consequence, I found myself sneaking in pages when I shouldn’t have been. Obsessively devouring the pages until I ended up finishing it in less than a day.
Our heroine is Drusilla Jaco (DJ) a junior wizard and deputy sentinel for New Orleans. In the opening scene we see her tricking notorious ghost and rogue pirate Lafitte back to the beyond. Which set up very quickly some great characterisation. As well as plenty of supernatural creatures, Johnson also writes in some clever ‘real-life’ ghosties including Jean Lafitte, Louis Armstrong and Marie Laveau. She certainly has a sense of humour.
ROYAL STREET is a really well written debut. I enjoyed Johnson’s writing style, it’s smooth, easy to read, and I loved the descriptions of New Orleans. I totally agree with Laura in that the descriptions of hurricane Katrina and the devastation she caused were excellently written and I could see, smell and hear everything through Johnson’s words.
I found for the first few chapters I zoomed along and thought they were very exciting and pulled me into the story with ease.
And with an opening such as this, I was definitely intrigued.
A secluded Louisiana bayou. A sexy pirate. Seduction and deceit. My Friday afternoon had the makings of a great romantic adventure, at least in my theory.
Nothing about the pirate looked safe. Tall and broad-shouldered, he had dark-blue eyes and a smile twitching at the corners of his mouth as he watched me set two glasses and a bottle of dark rum on a rickety wooden table. A tanned, muscular chest peeked from his open collar, and shaggy dark hair framed a clean-shaven face. A jagged scar across his jaw reminded me the so-called gentleman pirate also had his ruthless side.
Ok, so who’s with me in thinking this pirate sounds sexy and dangerous? Perfect combo!
I was hoping for the same with this novel… thinking this could possibly be one hell of an urban fantasy. However, after a while the pace started to lag and ROYAL STREET lost all its momentum.
The story read like a supernatural mystery. As DJ returns to New Orleans post Katrina devastation, she is set the task of finding her missing mentor Gerry and also becomes involved in what looks like a Voodoo serial killer case.
Having only watched the devastation of Katrina through my TV screen, it was gut-wrenching and poignant watching it retold by a writer who had witnessed the events first-hand. Even if it was wrapped up in an urban fantasy novel.
As she’s only a deputy, against her wishes and much to her consternation DJ gets assigned an FBI partner – Alex. This is where things started to get interesting! Alex is a whole load of yum, as his cousin Jake whom we meet shortly after.
There is chemistry between them in spades and plenty of snappy banter.
“The fight wasn’t over,” I said through gritted teeth. “I’d have won it.” Probably.
“Right,” he said. “And something just flew past your window. It was oinking.”
The mystery is paced nicely, I certainly didn’t have time to get bored! Mixed in with the spicy chemistry and some painful self discoveries for DJ the book really is a page turner. It also pulls together some strong and powerfully portrayed emotion, from grief and tragedy to jealousy and attraction. I felt each in the pit of my stomach. Which is all accentuated by the fact that DJ is an empath.
I agree with Laura, in that the mystery aspect to the story was good. There was a little twist I didn’t see coming with regards to DJ’s mentor and boss, Gerry. I liked the twists and turns along the way, which kept me reading.
I also liked the addition of DJ being an empath as well as a green congress wizard (‘the geeks of the magical world, hell on rituals and potions but always last to get picked for wizard dodgeball, so to speak’). It gave her depth that she would have otherwise lacked.
Ah yes there was a definite geekish quality about her, which is always a good thing in my opinion! It was actually the characters that made this story for me. DJ is a great heroine. I wasn’t sure if at first I was going to find her a bit lacking in the butt-kicking department. I wanted her to have some slightly better powers, her ritual magic seemed to be lacking on the cool side. But as the book develops I fell for her ingenuity, sense of honour and resilience.
I thought I had become bored of love triangles, feeling that with recent trends particularly in YA, they had been done to death. So this one totally took me by surprise and I loved it! Both heroes are dark, handsome and broody yet individual in their own way. I also found that, again to my surprise, I didn’t have a favourite. It gripped me in a way that I was desperate to see how it concludes, my heart breaking for the guy who doesn’t succeed. Sadly I think I may have a few books to wait yet!
Interestingly, like Carolyn I did fall for Lafitte and his super dark sexiness, but I was more drawn into the Alex and Jake love story. I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about a human/ghost love story.
After such a great opening with the cheeky, undead pirate, Jean Lafitte, who also oozed sex appeal and fun, I was anticipating a wild ride, well in the romantic department anyway. Unfortunately, Lafitte, wasn’t actually in the book very much at all and I felt that one of the most interesting characters wasn’t given enough page time.
When Alex, a hunky FBI agent, was introduced I thought, I can see a potential love triangle happening – a sexy agent and an undead pirate makes it very interesting indeed, but then along comes Jake (Alex’s cousin). For me, this is way too many potential love interests in a first book of a new series. I can just about deal with a love triangle, but a love square – overkill.
That being said, all three men are gorgeous 😉
DJ is a witty, interesting, and occasionally, feisty character, with an intriguing backstory. So with such great characteristics why didn’t I love her? Well, she just didn’t stand out enough for me. With so many strong urban fantasy heroine’s in the urban fantasy genre, I felt she wasn’t strong enough a character. Along with a slow pace there’s also not enough action – I was hoping that DJ and Alex would kick some serious butt, but unfortunately nothing much happened.
Also, DJ’s relationships with Alex and Jake are formed far too quickly. Within a matter of days both men are vying for her attention and DJ is undecided which of the two guys she likes the most. And that’s not forgetting the sexy pirate (who I seriously hope has more of a role in the next book).
Lastly, I just have to mention Charlie, DJ’s magical staff that follows her around, I hope we see more of him, (it?) too 😉
Overall I absolutely loved this book. I was very close to giving it a 9 and I plan to buy book two as soon as it’s released. There’s nothing more exciting than a new series that completely hooks you in! “Royal Street” will be going on to my favourite urban fantasy shelf.
Oh and I forgot to mention the staff, I want to see more of Charlie too! 😉
ROYAL STREET was an enjoyable read, although not a stand out urban fantasy for me. There’s potentially a great cast of characters, especially with rascal pirate, Lafitte, which I hope will be further developed in ‘River Road’ the next book in the series.
BOOKS IN SERIES ORDER
1. Royal Street
2. River Road
3. Elysian Fields (2013)
BUY THE BOOK