*This title will be released on April 10, 2012*
Title: Royal Street
Okay – A few good points, but with significant flaws. Library/swap/borrow if you want.
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.
With it’s gorgeous cover art from Cliff Nielsen, and a sultry sounding description featuring a fledgling wizard in post Katrina New Orleans, ROYAL STREET was one of my Top 12 most anticipated releases for 2012. Unfortunately, it ended up coming in short of my expectations on just about every level. It’s a little like a mix between The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher and the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris, except not as clever as the former nor as sexy as the latter.
The worldbuilding was the real strength of ROYAL STREET, with a fascinating bureaucracy of Wizards governing all the preternatural creatures worldwide and policing the beings who crossover from the Beyond (like sexy, violent pirates who sadly didn’t get anywhere near enough page time), and a really intriguing idea to play off the Hurricane that devastated New Orleans in 2005. Wonderfully realistic and perhaps unknown details are woven throughout ROYAL STREET to convey a high level of authenticity to the setting that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Aside from the setting and worldbuilding, there were too many apathetic elements in ROYAL STREET to win me over. The beginning was a bit slow, and unfortunately DJ’s voice rang a tad immature and a little too antagonistic (without legitimate reasons) towards the guys in her life. The plot also never really grabbed me and I had to fight the urge to skim constantly. There weren’t any obvious pitfalls that I can point to, but there weren’t any real highpoints either. Scenes and setups that could have gone in extremely fun and entertaining directions never did. For example the game of Truth or Dare between DJ, her new partner Alex, and his ex-marine cousin Jake started out promising some juicy revelations, but then just ended. It felt like a tease. Similarly, DJ and Alex have to pretend to be a couple at one point (which I was hoping would lead to Alex taking advantage of the situation, or maybe DJ getting a little too caught up in her role etc.), but again, nothing really came of it. These aren’t criticisms per say, but they are indicative of my overall underwhelming impression of the book.
To be clear, ROYAL STREET isn’t a bad read, and there will be plenty of readers who enjoy it (see ‘Also Reviewed By’ section below). It’s just not as good as it could have been. The worldbuilding was very creative and the time period/setting was tactfully handled and perfectly suited to the urban fantasy genre. But DJ was a little too immature and lacked a strong voice, the romantic entanglements/love triangle was devoid of excitement, and the overall plot was on the staid side. Hopefully, those issues will improve in the next Sentinels of New Orleans novel titled RIVER ROAD when it’s published in Fall 2012.