By Suzanne Johnson
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication Date: April 10, 2012
Genre: 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.
I don’t think there could be a better setting for a book that includes supernatural creatures and spirits coming back from Beyond than New Orleans – can you imagine all of the historical characters available to pick from? What sold me was when I saw the author was using Hurricane Katrina as an integral part of the plot and that it was a source of healing her own experience with Katrina. I haven’t read anything set during that period and couldn’t imagine why not considering all of the storyline possibilities.
Drusilla Jane “DJ” Jaco has been chafing under the restraints her mentor Gerry St. Simon has placed on her duties as junior sentinel. She’s tired of tracking the odd fae here, undoing a spell gone wrong there, so when he’s busy elsewhere and gives her an assignment to meet with pirate Jean Lafitte so she can push him back through a portal into the Beyond where he belongs, she jumps at it. She just happens to be a pretty blonde, he’s the kind of guy that likes women a lot and anticipated more than a business meeting (waggles eyebrows). He’s really not happy when he gets sent packing and vows revenge.
When DJ checks in with Gerry, there’s news that Katrina is headed towards the Gulf. He stays alone to keep an eye on things, never expecting a direct hit on New Orleans. By the time DJ reaches him again, the levees have begun to give way – then suddenly all contact with him is gone. Her next directive comes straight from the wizard Elders: get back to New Orleans immediately and take over for Gerry because he’s completely disappeared.
Back in a devastated New Orleans, DJ doesn’t even have time to unpack before she’s met in short order by a very angry, armed Jean Lafitte and a new “partner” she didn’t ask for, the very macho, even better-armed FBI agent Alex Warin, who saves her bacon then annoys the hell out of her just by standing around smirking in his tight black t-shirt. Alex isn’t there just to drive DJ up a wall – he’s investigating what look like some ritual murders in New Orleans and he was sent by the Elders to assist DJ as needed in her new job as sentinel. His aid could, maybe, sort of, possibly include helping her search for Gerry, who the Elders think might be up to no good since he’s butted heads with them over their rules for years.
This was such an exciting story, I flew through it. It was packed with so many elements that I love reading, from witches and wizards with potions, shifters, undead showing up but in real form again, voodoo murders, the Big Easy and a big strapping Alpha male in black with a lot of weaponry. DJ got overshadowed sometimes by the story – it sort of told her where to go and what to do and she spent a lot of time exhausted – but I’m hoping because of some events near the end, in the next book she’ll be a little more kick-ass.
There were little flashes of a potential love triangle with a relative of Alex’ – maybe even one that could continue in the next book, but my money’s on Alex. He’s like an immovable brick wall – in a black t-shirt – but once he loosened up he was funny, loyal and yowza, sexy.
Most of DJ and Alex’s investigation takes them through the ruins of New Orleans, first by muddied roads and boats, then later over dried mud, dodging abandoned appliances and debris. They’re in homes contaminated by mold wearing breathing masks and in a makeshift morgue, looking for a body. There’s a sense of sadness but not hopelessness although sometimes DJ gets pretty ticked off when one of her antique doors gets a hole blown in it by a stray bullet.
While I loved all of the sections of the story that explored the city, they slowed the story down a bit. There was a lot of running around with not much happening in the middle of the book except a beautiful documentation of New Orleans, some pieces of what had withstood the storm and things that were lost. I think they made the story powerful to me emotionally but I don’t know that they contributed to the plot particularly.
My Summary: If you’ve read this far, you deserve a medal. I tried to condense my thoughts as much as I could and well, this was as close as I got. I haven’t really read any urban fantasy in a while because there hasn’t been anything new that’s interested me in taking the plunge for a long ride. I really, really like the setup for this one – both the location and the characters have a ton of potential just for plot ideas and I haven’t even gotten to how terrific the author’s writing is. This is one of those first books that may not be perfect because it has to set up the world and establish relationships but the promise of it has me absolutely hooked.