Royal Street, by Suzanne Johnson

pages_and_procrastination's review

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adventurous funny mysterious fast-paced
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

vkemp's review

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Drusilla Jaco is a sentinel in training in New Orleans. She spends a lot of time doing minor potion mixing and pixie retrieval until Katrina hits New Orleans; her mentor and trainer goes missing and, suddenly, the Council of Elders is worried about a rift in the time/space continuum allowing incursions from the fae community. The undead pirate, Jean Lafitte, has made it his business to make Drusilla's life difficult and the Elders have sent along a sexy, grenade-toting assassin to help her search for the missing wizard. I will be interested to see where the series goes from here.

cate22's review

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I love the premise of this book. The idea of the Beyond where most of the magical races and historical undead lived was very intriguing. There are so many different characters yhat could show up. I liked Louis Armstrong and Jean Lafitte. I liked DJ. She wasn't afraid to be afraid. I really want to read the next book.

jelouha's review

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Really enjoyed this one. Of course if creatures from the beyond are going to break through, it would happen in New Orleans. Good story, good characters, some interesting twists and turns, and great emotion.

blodeuedd's review

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Yes this seems to be a promising start to a new series. Likable characters, interesting place, and story. Fingers crossed for a new series to enjoy.

The book takes place during hurricane Katrina. And while New Orleans suffers Others come trough from the beyond. It's Dj's job to keep everyone in check as humans can't know about everything that is out there. She is a wizard and sentinel of New Orleans.

Dead pirates, vampires, shifters, Gods, you name it. This world had a lot to offer. And I liked that it took place during Katrina. It showed the catastrophe and what a disaster it was. Also, how it should not happen again.

Drusilla aka DJ was cool. She was not perfect at everything, now she failed and picked herself up again. While trying to maintain order she will get help from a hunky guy named Alex. Aye I hope that turns into something.

The hunt for a murderer, trying to find the man who raised her, taking down supernaturals. This book knows how to keep up the pace. I enjoyed it.

bookertsfarm's review

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Eagerly awaiting the next installment!

oneoflifeslollopers's review

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A secluded Louisiana bayou. A sexy pirate. Seduction and deceit. My Friday afternoon had the makings of a great romantic adventure, at least in theory.
In practice, angry mosquitoes were using me for target practice, humidity had ruined any prayer of a good hair day, and the pirate in question – the infamous Jean Lafitte – was two hundred years old, armed, and carrying a six-pack of Paradise condoms in assorted fruit flavours.

Royal Street is set during the days leading up to, and the aftermath, of Hurricane Katrina when not only did the levees break, but the barriers keeping the paranormal element from the human world is broken.

A borrower at work first brought this to my attention and I was intrigued by the blurb on the back cover. I thought it was a really interesting concept to use a natural disaster as the starting point for a paranormal novel and I really enjoyed reading about the Hurricane Katrina and the effect it has had on New Orleans. You can feel throughout the whole novel how much Johnson loves her city and truly begin to understand the utter devastation felt by those that lost their home and their town. I found the day to day details of the recovery process fascinating and I thought the little snippets from newspaper articles included at the beginning of some chapters was a nice touch.

Unfortunately, the execution of the urban fantasy portion of this novel did not work. I’m not entirely sure why Johnson chose to turn this into an urban fantasy; it’s clear her true love is talking about her city and that is not a bad thing. Perhaps, and I’m being very cynical here, the window for publishing a biography about Katrina has closed, and someone somewhere along the lines did the math on how well paranormal romance and urban fantasy sells, I don’t know. What I do know is that while I felt nothing but love for New Orleans, and the suffering people went through, I felt no love at all for the genre and you can’t write well for a genre you don’t love.

DJ is a Green Congress junior wizard sentinel for New Orleans. If you’re not quite sure what that means, don’t ask me because I read the novel and I still don’t know what it means except that she’s got quite an extensive herb garden in her upstairs spare bedroom. Her job is to fix any “breaches” in the barrier between the Now and the Beyond. These breaches might be a pesky pixie, a thirsty vamp or a lonely Louis Armstrong who just wants to play some music. Hurricane Katrina causes more damage than the destruction of almost an entire city though, because it somehow also breaks the invisible barrier between the human world and the one where all the paranormal nasties got banished, and DJs boss and mentor, Gerry, has disappeared.

I found DJ to be a fairly weak character, more supporting role than leading lady material. I was never able to get a good grasp of her character – what are her interests, hobbies, passions, deepest darkest fears? I know she feels abandoned by her family and I know she’s some kind of wizard, but apart from that very little about her is developed. Not only was she a poorly developed character, but also a poorly executed one too. DJ is never in control of the situation or her surroundings, and she barely feels in control of herself and who she is. Even when walking into dangerous situations, I never got the feeling that DJ herself wanted to be there, she was only there because that’s what a main character would do in that situation.

I wanted nothing more than to run out of the cemetery with them, but that wasn’t an option. I was so not cut out to be a hero. A hero wouldn’t shake and feel like throwing up. A hero would whip out a staff or a gun and take charge of the situation. I picked the tallest guy still among the onlookers and wedged in behind him.

The wizarding element of the novel is also poorly developed; there are different colours of wizards but there is very little attempt to explain the difference and absolutely no attempt to explain how wizards came to be and why it is up to them to keep the paranormal element out while they stay in. It would have been nice to get some of the backstory of DJ’s training, in order to gain a better understanding of what it is she does but also to allow some attempt at bonding with her.

The supporting cast didn’t fare much better than DJ – they are also fairly underdeveloped characters, though there was potential to make them more substantial. DJ’s new partner is Alex, an “enforcer” who appears to do the dirty work for the Sentinels and has an impressive collection of weapons. He seemed to me to fill the job of Ranger in the movie version of One for the Money; there to teach DJ all the ways in which she was inept and then to rescue her when she needed help. Alex’s cousin, Jake, has some potential to be an interesting character in future books but I’m glad that DJ didn’t establish a romantic relationship with either character at this stage.

By far the most interesting character for me was the undead pirate Jean Lafitte. He was the one character that had personality and a sense of humour. Though I’m not really sure whyhe kept hopping across into the human world, I certainly hope he keeps on doing it in the rest of the series. However, despite the fact that I knew he was obviously a very famous person in history, I don’t know why, and a little bit of his back story would have been really nice.

As I mentioned at the beginning, it’s clear that Johnson has a lot of love for New Orleans and a lot to say on how much people suffered during Hurricane Katrina. What is less clear is why she chose urban fantasy as the medium to explore that suffering. Admittedly, I may not have picked up a book exclusively about Hurricane Katrina, but I can’t help but wonder if Johnson’s intentions wouldn’t have been better served in a novel exploring Hurricane Katrina through the eyes of a woman who has lost a family member and must piece her life back together while still trying to search for her loved ones. What she really wanted to say is no more obvious than on the last page, where the paranormal barely even warrants a mention – the emphasis is all surviving Hurricane Katrina.

I wish Katrina had never happened, that the city I love so much hadn’t been so broken, its spirit so damaged, its naïve joy replaced by sorrow and cynicism and anger. Yet I know a lot of things I;ve come to love since the storm would never have been in my life without the pain.
Katrina took, and she gave.

hstone's review

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I loved the world-building for this book, particularly with regards to the historical undead. What an awesome idea! (Also, mmmm, Jean Lafitte. Sorry, I'm a sucker for a good pirate.) I thought the Katrina-era New Orleans setting was unique, and a good choice for the plot. I'd have liked more emotional depth from some of the secondary characters; at times, Alex and Jake both suffered from feeling like archetypes. I kept waiting for more from both of them.

In short, while the book treads well-worn Urban Fantasy tropes, it still manages to feel fresh. I'm interested in seeing what direction this series takes, particularly since the world Johnson has created seems ripe with story possibilities...

... including more Jean Lafitte. I did mention him, right? ;)

kateshaw's review

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These characters are all dumb as hammers. Every single event in the book (except Katrina) leads directly from their various poor choices. There was no need, for instance, for DJ's mentor to hide from her that he was, in fact, her biological father and that she has lots of extra magical oomph from his bloodline as well as her mother's. There was simply no rational explanation for him to keep the elven staff from her when he had acquired it twenty years before in hopes that she could use it. If he had given it to her and taught her to use it, she wouldn't have spent 300-some pages sitting around wringing her hands wondering what she should doooooo.

DJ is not interesting enough or strong enough to anchor this book. Nor is her partner Alex, whom I couldn't stand from the very beginning and who never gave me any reason to like him. DJ likes him because he's hot, and hotness apparently means a guy can be as sexist, insulting, and controlling as he likes and it's okay. I almost gave up on the book when Alex finally admitted (after lying to DJ for days) that he was a shapeshifter and was staying in her house at night as the 'stray' dog she adopted. So: he lied to her, betrayed her trust completely, and did so because he didn't think she could take care of herself. And her reaction? She's embarrassed that she'd bared her heart to the stray dog, and now Alex knows she thinks he's hot because she told the dog and the dog was Alex. I would have thrown his ass out and tossed one of his grenades after him.

And then they play truth or dare. See 'dumb as hammers,' above.

I could (almost) forgive the stupid characters if the plot was good. But it's very, very slow, and nothing in the plot surprised me. Most of the book consists of DJ and Alex waiting around for someone to call and tell them what to do. Sometimes they argue, with Alex blustering and pulling the idiotic 'alpha male pack leader' card and DJ snarking immaturely. Oh, how I hated those two. There's very little action until the very end, about 35 pages of DJ trying to figure out how to use the staff she's had for, what, a month at that point? Long enough that anyone with half a brain should have realized it packs a wallop and maybe she should, you know, figure out how to use it. But not only is DJ not very bright, she's extremely passive. Bless her heart. No wonder she needs an alpha male to tell her what to do.

The biggest conflict in the book, actually, is DJ feeling torn between her attraction to the hot Alex and Alex's equally hot cousin Jake. I did not care. I did not care about DJ, her attractions, or either of the hot cousins. I did not care about anything in this book except the one single character that saved me from having to give the book a one-star rating: the ghost of the pirate Jean Lafitte.

Lafitte was awesome, he was nuanced, he was interesting, and he had an agenda that went beyond "this man is so hot, but so is this other man, how do I choose? I guess I'll sit here and feel sorry for myself for a while until another character comes to smack me around and Alex saves me again." I was so disappointed when Lafitte dropped from the plot after the first couple of chapters. He was such a great character that I had expected him to end up as DJ's unwilling partner. But then Alex showed up and shot Lafitte back to the Beyond, and the hotness games began and I got bored.

The only way I will read the sequel is if Lafitte kills Alex on the first page to get him out of the way. Maybe he can take out everyone else too and we can start this series over with a more interesting set of characters.

bibliotropic's review

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This is one of those books that made me wish that I gave half-points on rating. 3/5 seems a touch too low, but 4/5 seems a touch too high. I settled on 3; it seemed the most fair.

Royal Street, the first book of the Sentinels of New Orleans series, is billed as an urban fantasy, and doesn’t take many breaks from standard urban fantasy fare. Right down to the romance aspect, which was just a little too heavy for me to fully enjoy. Perhaps I’m not the best example, but I always find it very hard to relate to characters who are in dangerous situations who still take a moment to stop and admire how well-built their stoic male companion is. It didn’t help that the male romantic lead was the type of person who tended to be a bit misogynistic, and spent a good chunk of the book making snide remarks about the main character and how inept she was. They grow closer as they work together, but their relationship felt forced and flimsy to me, and I couldn’t get into it as much as I felt that I was supposed to.

Though the plot itself was fairly predictable (not completely transparent but there were plenty of hints to lead the reader along so that very little came as a surprise), it was still enjoyable. Urban fantasy tends to be one of those things that I can take or leave, but this one kept me reading. It was definitely well-paced, the characters had some depth to them, and I particularly enjoyed DJ’s sarcastic introspection. It may have been fluff, but it was pleasant fluff, and it certainly had more than a few moments of creativity. Info about the supernatural and magic wasn’t just handed over in a great big infodump but instead revealed bit by bit in a way that still felt unforced, which is something that plenty of authors haven’t been able to manage. This book isn’t going to revolutionize the genre, but it’s certainly a welcome addition to it.

Of particular interest was how the author handled the destructive force of Hurricane Katrina. I think that aspect of the book was done well. It was part of the story without being overwhelming, and was a factor that couldn’t be overlooked without it being the primary focus on every character’s thoughts and actions. Johnson painted a vivid picture of New Orleans after the event, and for a recent disaster that people are still struggling with the aftermath of, I think it was done justice.

Fans of the urban fantasy and paranormal romance genres will probably enjoy Royal Street quite a bit. It had its issues, but was overall a fun read. Even if it didn’t hold much that set it apart from other urban fantasies, it’s still one that managed to interest me enough to make me think that if I have the chance, I’ll continue reading further books in the series as it goes on.

(Book received in exchange for an honest review.)