Sentinels of New Orleans #1
Published April 10, 2012 by Tor/Forge (Macmillan)
ARC from NetGalley
Suzanne Johnson's new urban fantasy is a off to a good start in Royal Street. It's not perfect, but UF fans will enjoy the world and the action in this book.
Royal Street takes place immediately after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, which is certainly a setting made for interesting circumstances. Although there's definitely an atmosphere of loss, particularly whenever the narrator, DJ, observes the condition of her city, the focus of the book is on a missing wizard and ritual murders, and the hurricane mostly just makes investigation difficult and provides and opportunity for supernatural shenanigans.
Although Royal Street started off a bit slow, the more I read, the more I enjoyed it. It turned into a highly suspenseful book. The world, while not a huge change from anything in recent UF, did have some interesting features such as the different groups of wizards and the historical undead, kept alive in the Beyond by the world's memories of them.
The characters lacked the big personalities of many UF leads, but that isn't a bad thing on its own. For the most part, it just meant that it took longer to really get to know them. However, in DJ's case there was a slight disconnect between the way she was described and the way she actually behaved. There were a couple of situations where she should have been furious with someone, and she started out that way in her head, but by the time they were at a point where she could shout freely, they were yelling at her, which bothered me a little.
For probably the same reason, the relationship between DJ and Alex didn't quite click. I am a huge fan of "hate-at-first-sight" relationships, which seemed to be what the author was trying for here, but DJ was too nice to really pull that off. She thought of cutting things to say to Alex but spent more effort on keeping the peace than antagonizing her new arch-nemesis – probably a very normal thing to do, just not quite as fun.
Overall, despite the slightly discordant characterization, I enjoyed the book more than enough to check out the sequel when it's released. This will be a good read for fans of UF, as long as you're willing to be light on the romance. And since a lot of really great series start off a little rocky, there's a good chance we'll see a lot of character improvement in book two.
PNR or UF?
GARS Score: 1.33 (1/3/2/1)
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