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Royal Street (Sentinels of New Orleans) Paperback – April 10, 2012
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“Equal parts paranormal romp and homage to NOLA, I raced down Royal Street. Not only is this book an enchanting urban fantasy debut, but it's also one of the most sensitive and honest depictions of post-Katrina NOLA I've read.” ―Nicole Peeler, author of Tracking the Tempest
“Rarely has an urban fantasy so moved and entertained me on the very same page! Royal Street offers an insider's view of post-Katrina New Orleans, in all its heartache--and all its heart. A witty, resilient heroine and an irresistible cast make this a sure hit with fans of Charlaine Harris and Jim Butcher.” ―Jeri Smith-Ready, award-winning author of the SHADE and WVMP RADIO series
About the Author
SUZANNE JOHNSON is a magazine editor and feature writer with more than fifty national writing and editing awards. A longtime New Orleans resident, she helped rebuild for two years after Hurricane Katrina. Royal Street was her first novel and is the first book in an urban fantasy series about the Sentinels of New Orleans, wizards who guard the storied city against preternatural dangers. As Susannah Sandlin, Suzanne is also the author of The Penton Vampire Legacy, a series of popular paranormal romances.
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The worldbuilding is excellent in this one, as is the integration of the paranormal elements with Real Life- notably the aftermath of the devastation Katrina wrought in New Orleans. Not only does this book make it all immediate, but the premise that the storm also weakened the boundaries between the worlds to allow freer transitions between the preternaturals who are normally walled out, and us in the mortal realm- to the chagrin of the wizards whose job it is to keep these realms separate!
The magical systems are interesting, too, and reasonably well-thought-out and coherent. I like that a lot!
The plot is pretty good, too: due to the wakened boundaries, some entities get into our world who do not belong here, but who are eager to battle to carve themselves a niche. The main one we encounter is definitely Very Bad News!
The problem is the character-building. DJ is, somewhat understandably, mostly reactive rather than active, but she also does some utterly brain-dead stunts that even she ought to have seen were not good ideas- and often because otherwise she'd be bored just waiting. Not a great motivation to put yourself and others in mortal peril!
She also has a habit of grabbing an assortment of potion vials with various effects, and sticking them in her pocket, then quaffing (or throwing) one at random, with NO idea what it does. Fortunately, she was lucky in the the ones she took were the defensive ones, while the ones she threw at opponents were aggressive... but what if SHE had randomly ingested "arctic" and thus froze to death? She had 4 vials, 3 of which were offensive magic... and she just happens to draw the defensive one? More than once? Um, no, not the way to bet.
And the worst for last: while I am rather sick of romantic/sexual triangles, I am even more bored when Our Heroine has 3 people panting after her, and willing to do all kinds of stuff to stay in her life, while she blows hot and cold on them all. It's bad enough with the "enforcer" dude, and his cousin the more approachable Jake... but it gets stupid fast with Jean Lafitte, an undead historical figure who DJ finds inordinately attractive even as he regularly tries and threatens to rape her, to allow his minions to rape her, and also beats her up. NO. Generally, people do not think that way... and if they do, it's a sign of a far deeper trauma and/or kink, not something to treat casually as it is here.
I did really like the world-building, though, and will probably try #2 in the series (currently at 4 books).
What I Liked:
*I was craving a book that would deliver something unique, and I got what I wanted with Royal Street. This is a highly entertaining read that brings you wizards, shape shifters, voodoo, undead pirates all plastered against the terrifying back drop of the real life Hurricane Katrina. If you are in the mood for something original and absorbing, grab this series!
*My favorite aspect of this book was Hurricane Katrina. It has been eight years since that mighty storm ravaged the South and it seems not so long ago. I was completely glued to my tv day in and day out as I watched the horrific events that followed the storm. I enjoyed learning more about the hurricane and the aftermath from someone who obviously had first hand experience. There was so many things presented in this book that were new to me. I have never been to the South, nor visited New Orleans, even though I have been there countless times vicariously. This book brought New Orleans to life as it died and then as it began to slowly come back to life. I absolutely loved the setting.
*Aside from New Orleans, Royal Street also presents some of the most famous citizens in undead forms. Jean Lafitte, Marie Laveau, The Baron Samedi and even Louis Armstrong make appearances. I loved that this book gives you a famous historical setting along with its most notable citizens.
*The main character DJ is also original in that she is a Green Wizard. Think someone who is proficient in witchcraft as she can brew plenty of herbal potions and throw a few spells. DJ, in the beginning, is struggling a bit with her identity and powers. As a Green Wizard, she is rather low in the hierarchy, but as the book rolls along she starts tapping into new powers and abilities and by the end she is a formidable wizard. I liked watching her grow and cannot wait to see what she does with her new found powers and elven staff next time out.
And The Not So Much:
*As much as I loved having all the famous historical undead in the picture, I never had a complete grasp on what it means to be undead. At first, I was thinking along the lines of ghosts, but it was apparent that even a normal human could see the undead. They also ate, drank and from what I gathered were even capable of sex. I just wished that there was a bit more explanation and detail on the undead. I also would liked to have seen a bit more history on Jean Lafitte. I am not familiar with this famous pirate and it would have been nice for a bit more information on this popular pirate. What was his claim to fame? When did he live and die? What were the most notable things he did during his lifetime? Why is he still remembered?
*The romance is a bit frustrating. There are two apparent suitors and DJ is obviously attracted to both. She wavers back and forth, and I was hating that it felt like this was straying into the dreaded love triangle territory. The triangle never materializes because the romance never takes off either way. There is plenty of groundwork laid for a romance, but no heat yet. If you are looking for a romance, there are only hints and sparks in this one.
*I was excited that this book features wizards, but like the undead, I felt like I was missing something. The details on the wizards are scant and I wanted to know much more about all the different types of wizards and their abilities.
*I was just a tiny bit disappointed over how everything ended. There is and isn't a happy ending. In the end, though, it felt realistic. I wanted a bit more resolution with DJ and Gerry, and to understand if he acted completely on his own accord or was he partially glamoured and seduced?
Royal Street is an exciting beginning to a great new paranormal series that has plenty of originality. I loved the New Orleans setting and liked learning more about Hurricane Katrina. The inclusion of the historical undead spiced things up as well. This is certainly a series I plan to continue as soon as possible!
"I took a deep breath. The alligators were halfway up to my ass. Might as well let 'em keep climbing."
"I hate it when life forces me to be mature."
"An iron? Was he kidding? God made knits so people didn't have to iron."
I purchased a copy of this book. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review."
Rainy Day Ramblings.
The author’s love for New Orleans is apparent. I think she takes an event that holds horrible memories for many people (Hurricane Katrina) and handles it with finesse and respect. She does a terrific job of blending fantasy, history, and the paranormal into a believable world of magic.
I enjoyed the different variety of characters that we meet in book one (vampires, ghosts, fae, shifters, wizards, gods, and more). DJ is a great narrator and character. She is a tad bit on the impulsive side but I feel like she is someone that I would like in real life. She is down to earth and seems to have a good sense of right and wrong. I’m looking forward to seeing her grow as a character.
I would say that the book moved along at a moderate pace. There is a mystery, suspense, and a light introduction to romance and the possibility of a love triangle, which I personally hope doesn’t play out.
I enjoyed Royal Street and plan to continue reading the Sentinels of New Orleans series. I think Royal Street lays a firm foundation for future books. The world building is well established, the struggle has been identified, love interests have sparked, and DJ’s character is obviously in for a lot of growth . I have a feeling that the books will only get better as we move forward and I’m looking forward to reading book 2, River Road, this month.