Kelly's Reviews > Royal Street

Royal Street by Suzanne  Johnson
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May 01, 12

Read from February 16 to April 23, 2012

Royal Street, by Suzanne Johnson, is the first in a new urban fantasy series set in New Orleans. Drusilla Jaco, a.k.a. DJ, is one of the city’s two wizard sentinels, which means she’s assigned to keep an eye on paranormal trouble in town. The other sentinel is Gerry, Drusilla’s mentor and father figure. With Hurricane Katrina on the way, DJ evacuates while Gerry stays behind. When the storm passes, DJ returns to a devastated New Orleans to find Gerry missing, new breaches opened between this world and the Beyond, and a serial killer who leaves voodoo paraphernalia at the scenes of the crimes.

Johnson’s world-building is great — both the real and the invented. She takes us right into New Orleans immediately pre- and post-Katrina and gives us an idea of what it was like to be there. As for the invented, there are some original touches here in terms of the magic. Johnson introduces the “historical undead,” who are kind of like ghosts, only corporeal, and live in “Old Orleans” in the Beyond unless summoned to our world — or unless, as in the aftermath of the hurricane, the barrier between the worlds is damaged. This is a really creative way to incorporate some iconic New Orleans personalities into the novel without going the cliché route of making them all vampires.

Another element I liked is the division of the wizards into color-coded “Congresses.” DJ is a Green Congress wizard, which means she deals mainly in herbal potions, while Gerry is Red Congress so he can do flashier, more immediate effects. Each approach has its strengths and weaknesses. DJ’s magic takes longer and is more subtle, but sometimes this is an advantage in a situation where Red Congress magic would just blow everything up. There are references to a couple of the other Congresses as well.

Even with these promising elements, though, it took me a long time to read Royal Street. It moves at an extremely slow pace until almost the very end. Part of this can be chalked up to Katrina, and delays caused by having to borrow a boat, not having power, etc. help to illustrate just how great a blow the hurricane struck. But the book also slows down for avenues of investigation that prove fruitless, for an unnecessary love triangle, and for arguments between DJ and her new partner, Alex. Lots and lots of arguments. Some of this dialogue is funny, and would probably be even more fun in an audio edition. Much of it, though, is just annoying and makes me like both DJ and Alex less. The murders don’t gut-punch us the way they should, either, because the victims are not fleshed out at all. When the momentum finally does pick up, the story is over almost too soon. It’s a little anticlimactic.

I also had trouble understanding DJ. Part of it is the way she caroms back and forth between the two love interests. I also just didn’t get why she made some of the decisions she did. One example that can be explained quickly and doesn’t spoil much of the plot: DJ sets wards around her house to keep out supernatural threats, particularly the pirate Jean Lafitte. The password to get past the wards is Lafitte. This made no sense to me, as I could think of several different ways that he or one of his minions might speak his name while trying to get in… and then voila, they’d be in. This never actually comes back to bite DJ, but I kept expecting it to.

I had some issues with Royal Street, but I found Johnson’s New Orleans and her supernatural world compelling enough that I will probably read further in the series. I just hope that the love triangle is resolved quickly and doesn’t overshadow the rest of the story.

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Reading Progress

02/16/2012 page 1
0.0% "Bumping this out of order because I'm paranoid of not getting it read before the galley goes poof."
02/21/2012 page 44
13.0% "Good grief, this is some wonky formatting."
02/22/2012 page 68
20.0% "Still not really grabbing me. I was hoping for more NOLA and less magical bureaucracy; hope the balance will tilt soon."
42.0% "Your brain, Drusilla! Use it!"
53.0% "Finally past the point I got to the first time I tried to read this..."
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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Rane What publisher is the title under Kelly? Wanna see about the requirements ^^;;

Kelly Tor

message 3: by Sarah (new)

Sarah So...not very good, I take it?

Kelly Meh.

Tracy I liked it a star more than you did, Kelly, but I absolutely agree with just about every point of dissension you listed. My biggest issue was that the "investigative" portion of the book...and I use that term loosely...was very, very slow. And unfortunately, that was a good portion of the middle.

I also scratched my head at the Lafitte password for the same reason you did, so it felt contrived to point a finger at Gandalf.

MB (What she read) I too thought the Lafitte password was a dumb idea.

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