Review: Royal Street by Suzanne Johnson

Title: Royal Street (Sentinels of New Orleans #1)

Author: Suzanne Johnson

Published: Tor April 2012

Synopsis: 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. Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from April 09 to 10, 2012 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

Royal Street is an enjoyable urban fantasy series debut from Suzanne Johnson. The devastation of Hurricane Katrina has caused breaches in the border between this world and the Beyond and Drusilla Jaco, a Green Wizard, is charged with banishing the undead back to the ether. DJ though is distracted by her missing mentor, Gerry, who is suspected of betraying the Elder Wizard Council, an undead pirate seeking revenge and the Enforcer, Alex. With a voodoo God and a serial killer on the loose the new Sentinel of New Orleans has her hands full.

What I particularly like about Royal Street is the world building. Set in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, Johnson sensitively incorporates the tragedy into her story. The devastation makes an interesting background throwing up natural obstacles like a lack of electricity and transport which her protagonists have to work around.
New Orleans history is rich with iconic characters which Johnson works in to the story including voodoo gods, pirates and even musicians. While there is mention of vampires, fae and werewolves it is the historical undead that feature in Royal Street. Known in general as Pretes, the otherworldly beings reside in the Beyond in ‘Old Orleans’, a historical alternative to the modern city.
The magic system of Royal Street focuses on wizardry with a system that is headed by the Elders and then tiers of wizards with different abilities. As a Green Wizard, DJ is only able to wield potions, spells and charms, Red Wizards have mastery over physical magic while Yellow Wizards have psychic abilities. Enforcers are the muscle for the council dispensing justice where necessary.
Unfortunately Royal Street was let down by the protagonists of the story, especially DJ who lacks the smarts I prefer in my urban fantasy genre. There are too many instances where she makes poor decisions,  ignores obvious clues or acts so slowly as to put herself or others in danger. This is particularly true at the climax when she inexplicably fails to act to prevent injury to her allies. The romantic element of Royal Street includes Alex, the Enforcer sent to assist DJ, Alex’s cousin Jake, a war vet, and the pirate, Jean Lafitte. DJ is attracted to all three men but I didn’t like the way in which she seemed to be toying with Alex and Jake in particular. The relationships are another example of DJ’s immaturity.

While I think the characters of Royal Street need to be stronger, I did enjoy the book. There are often teething problems for a new series and ultimately I think the original aspects of the world building and potential of the story outweigh the flaws. Royal Street is a promising debut and I will be interested to see where Johnson takes it.

Available To Purchase

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Visit Suzanne Johnston’s blog for free short stories set in the world of Royal Street.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. melliane
    Apr 13, 2012 @ 22:11:07

    I’m glad you enjoyed the story, I understand your problem with the characters though it wasn’t like that for me I think. Maybe it will improve with the sequel, or I hope so.

    Reply

  2. Trackback: Review: Elysian Fields by Suzanne Johnson | book'd out

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