by Suzanne Johnson
Series: Sentinels of New Orleans #1
Genres: 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.
Royal Street is the first in a brand new urban fantasy series entitled Sentinels of New Orleans by author Suzanne Johnson. The tale takes place against the backdrop of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. Johnson beautifully captures New Orleans, some of its most famous citizens and creates a fresh new fantasy world. While this first novel deals a lot with establishing this new world, I found the tale and the characters to be delightful. This tale contains wizards, assassins, Fae, elves, vampires, shape-shifters and more. With Kim Harrison’s series the Hollows winding down, I am excited about this new series.
The protagonist is twenty-five year-old Drusilla Jane Jaco.( DJ for short.) She is a junior wizard and empathy. She is employed as the deputy sentinel in New Orleans. Gerald St. Simon has been her mentor and father-figure since the age of seven. DJ is a Green Congress wizard who specializes in rituals and spells. She is eager to learn more and take on more responsibilities. She gets her first chance when Gerald asks her to send pirate Jean Lafitte back to the other realm after he was summoned. Jean Lafitte offers DJ a deal, one she refuses. After trapping him she sends him back to the Otherworld. As he leaves he swears revenge. When warnings start coming in of a hurricane bearing down on New Orleans, Gerry orders DJ to head out of town to her grandmother’s in Alabama. Gerry stays behind to watch the borders of the Beyond. When fluctuating barometric pressure happens during a hurricane, it opens doors that keep the Pretes (supernatural beings) in their world. Left unchecked they would begin crossing over and causing problems for the humans who reside in New Orleans. Reluctantly she agrees, but when Gerald ends up missing, she is ordered back to New Orleans. DJ returns home, to find her home spared and Jean Lafitte in her home seeking revenge. Without time to invoke a spell, DJ has to use her wits to save herself, and just when it looks like she might have the upper hand, Alex an enforcer for the Elders rushes in like Rambo and shoots Lafitte, sending him back to the Otherworld. She learns she is now the Sentinel for New Orleans and the Elders have sent Alex to assist her. DJ’s main concern is finding Gerry and GI Alex is not about to stop her. The tale that unfolds is actions packed, as DJ and Alex search for Gerry and try to stop a killer using voodoo.
The characters in this novel are interesting and unique. I easily connected with DJ. She is bright, feisty and determined. The thoughts that pop into her head were a riot and reminded me of a younger Charley from Darynda Jones fantastic Charley Davidson series. I cannot thank Johnson enough for creating a heroine who isn’t winey and doesn’t need a man to make it all better. DJ is not a kick-ass in this novel. In fact she spends almost the entire novel in various shades of black and blue. Johnson hints of DJ’s untapped powers and we learn some unique things about her that have me excited to watch this young protagonist grow into a kick-ass warrior. Combine that with her ability to piece things together, negotiate with those in the Otherworld and think outside the box, DJ has the potential to be one of my favorite heroines. Alex is a likeable guy and while his FBI training can make him act like a neanderthal, he respects DJ and listens to her. We learn a little about his history, but I have a feeling there is more. His buddy Jake owns a bar called Gators and is ex-military. Watching the two of them try and stake a claim on DJ was delightful. Jean Lafitte is a giant flirt and a true pirate. I laughed at some of his antics. While there was sexual tension all the way around and it made the tale highly entertaining, no real romance developed and it was refreshing. Other characters from both sides were interesting and they all made the tale feel genuine.
Johnson’s world-building is wonderful, and I feel like I have a true sense of this world. Filled with every kind of supernatural creature the Otherworld is kept in check by the Elders and their sentinels. Johnson captures New Orleans beautifully, and the fact that she once resided there is apparent in her attention to detail. The way she wove historical facts and famous people in to this story made the tale seem genuine. I loved that the tale was narrated by DJ, and the humorous voice that Johnson gave her. I am truly looking forward to the next installment of this series.
Be sure and check out Johnson’s website as she shows a detailed chart and explanation of the Wizard’s World and hierarchy in Royal Street.
I highly recommend Royal Street to fans of urban fantasy. Fans of New Orleans and its history will also find this tale delightful. Royal Street will be published on April 10, 2012 by Tor Publishing. It will be available in paper and eBook formats. The second book in the series River Road will be published in the fall of 2012. Johnson’s other published work is entitled, Summer Gothic: A Collection of Southern Hauntings. It’s a collaboration of ghost tales with other authors. I am looking forward to reading more of her work.