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I Belong

Early Review: Royal Street by Suzanne Johnson

Title: Royal Street

Author: Suzanne Johnson

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Series: Sentinels of New Orleans (Book 1)

Publication Date: April 10, 2012

Format: Paperback, 336 Pages

ISBN-10: 0765327791 (Tor Books)

ISBN-13:  978-0765327796 (Tor Books)

Reviewed by: Sheila


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.

Quick & Dirty: A story of a woman that is in over her head in the devastated city of post-Katrina New Orleans.  Lots of magic and testosterone thrown in for good measure.

Opening SentenceA secluded Louisiana bayou.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

When Hurricane Katrina hit, I watched it from the relative safety of my living room, far removed from the path of destruction.  I live in a town that is relatively natural-disaster free.  Watching the levees break was like watching a movie; completely unreal.  Royal Street brings the reader into the emotional and physical trauma of watching your beloved city turned inside out.

Dursilla Jaco, better known as DJ, is a junior wizard sentinel that helps guard this world from the creatures and spirits from the Beyond.  Her job, until now, has been relatively simple. Since Katrina’s appearance however, the line between Here and the Beyond are in flux; allowing more creatures to travel to our world.  During all this, DJ is valiantly searching for her missing mentor and friend, the Sentinel of New Orleans Gerald St. Simon; one of many who have gone unaccounted for since the break in the levees.  Until Gerald is found, it is up to DJ to keep the supernatural peace.  With the help of a gun happy Enforcer, Alex Warin, DJ must learn to balance between personal mission and professional duty.

Alex has been sent to New Orleans to help out the new Sentinel to keep the peace in the now hectic town.  He knows how to kill and is there to help clean out any “undesirables” trying to take advantage of Katrina’s timing.  Being a shapeshifter helps him be successful at his job, even though he doesn’t advertise that fact.  So when the Elders give him his new assignment, he has no idea that the woman he meets would tie his emotions up like a knot.  He didn’t come to New Orleans to fall in love, no matter how much DJ intrigues him.  But just because it isn’t planned, doesn’t mean it won’t happen.  Though he tries, he can’t help but be jealous of the attention DJ gives to his cousin.  Is Alex willing to make the effort it will take to secure DJ’s heart?  Or will he allow his sense of duty get in the way?  What will he do if she chooses his cousin over him?  Is he willing to just be her co-sentinel or will he leave because he wouldn’t be able to cope?

Even though there is the potential, the overshadowing story is not about love; it is about magic and sacrifice.  When there is a string of murders of some of the soldiers that have been sent to help the city recover, DJ and Alex discover that it is tied to beings from the Beyond trying to gain a foothold in our world.  An old Voodoo god wishes for sacrifices of people with magical abilities, and he has his sights set on DJ.  Can she and Alex stop this loa from entering our world, or will DJ die for a god’s rebirth?

Within DJ’s personal story, the metaphor of life-altering changes cannot be better represented than by Katrina’s similarities.  Her feelings of betrayal by her mentor and friend can be mirrored by the feelings of betrayal by the government’s lack of foresight and slow response for help.  Like the people affected by Katrina are left to deal with losing everything, DJ must make do for herself without relying on others to provide it for her.

It is a story of loss and renewal; a time of change, both good and bad.  DJ must move on or be swallowed whole, just like the survivors of Katrina.  A truly heart-wrenching tale of struggle and triumph, leaving the readers with a sense of a brighter future ahead, for both DJ and her town.

Notable Scene:

“So, boy, we’re going on a field trip,” I said, scratching the top of his head between his ears, which made him zone out in some kind of doggy stupor.  I liked having a dog.  He let me speak my mind, and never talked back or argued.  He thought I was the smartest, coolest person on earth, and didn’t cast judgment because I didn’t have a lot of experience and couldn’t shoot a gun.  He like to share my junk food, protected me while I slept, and didn’t eat as much as one might think.  The stupid cat even liked him.

Best of all, he had no emotions I needed to protect myself from and I could babble at him to keep my mind off where I was going and why.

“I wish you were my partner,” I said.  He grinned at me and drooled on the passenger seat.  “Yeah, I know, really.  It would be great.  I can’t get a read on Alex, ad that drives me crazy.  You’re easy to read.  You’re a sweetheart.”

Another good think about dogs.  You can sound like a complete idiot when you talk to them because dog’s don’t care.  Dogs love idiots.

The Sentinels of New Orleans Series:

1. Royal Street

2. River Road

FTC Advisory: Tor Books books provided me with a copy of Royal Street.  No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.  The only payment received came in the form of hugs and kisses from my little boys.

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Early Review: Royal Street by Suzanne Johnson, 10.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating
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