Review: Royal Street by Suzanne Johnson

Royal Street (Sentinels of New Orleans #1)
by Suzanne Johnson
Editions: ebook, paperback
Published April 10th 2012 by Tor/Forge
Source: netgalley
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 Blurb

Oh, wow! I had such a memorable experience reading this! I feel sort of bad to say I loved reading it because, well, you know, the whole Katrina thing wasn’t exactly a pleasure spot, but there was so much emotion and feeling into this book, I just loved that.

Let me begin by saying that I truly loved the fact this urban fantasy included such a sensitive and delicate topic as the whole Katrina horror; the way the plot worked around that was really gripping and because we were floating around a really dramatic, real event, I was just that much more into the book. But I’m an outsider to the Katrina thing, though believe it or not there’s a lot of flooding going on in my country, and it basically happens just like in New Orleans all the time, meaning stuff is destroyed and more or less, you’re on your own. I’m not saying it was as bad as the Katrina aftermath, but it gets very bad often. And the fact that you’re on your own and no one is coming isn’t so shocking to me, that’s the regular state of things. So I could really connect with the disaster state of mind, though I haven’t been in that position myself – so far. Moving on.

The characters were sort of cool, but Drusilla felt somewhat strange to me, she sort of has the habit to make questionable decisions at crucial times. MC’s tend to be more decisive in urban fantasy, and Dru felt sort of…real, as opposed to steel-panties heroines. She was vulnerable in places, made somewhat less inspired decisions, froze up here and there…she was very human. I loved that about her, in fact, just because I’m not a fan of the steel-panties characters. Strong characters aren’t afraid to botch things, they’re not infallible and they have their bad moments. I loved Drusilla because she was real, not some toughened up action hero.
Gerry was sort of cool, and Alex and Jake were real sweethearts. I liked Lafitte too, did I mention that? 😀 Perhaps because of the whole dramatic vibe of using a real event, the characters really popped and they felt very real and easy to relate to.

Of course, a lot of the merit goes to the writing for that, I just loved the writing. The dramatic moments felt tense but overwhelmingly crushing, though I did have the same response I have to images of wiped out cities, so the writing was really strong.

The world building was my favorite, I totally loved this Elders spin and the whole wizards-organization approach to the Otherworld. Really, really awesome and imaginative, I had a great time following what was going on. I felt some of the New Orleans charm I sense in movies and such, that mix of old and new, the buzz of it, I dunno what it is but I felt it here. Of course I’ve never actually been to New Orleans, so it might just be a very misguided impression, but for me this book just did awesome.

All in all, I say you should definitely read this novel, it’s a very strong start to a new series and I love the fact it has this distinctive feel to it, this special air of sorts. Give it a try, I had a great time reading it.

Do you like reading UF revolving around real and dramatic events? Or do you prefer them to steer clear of such brutal realities and instead make up everything?

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