Book Review: River Road by Suzanne Johnson

October 28, 2013 Book Reviews 0

Book Review: River Road by Suzanne Johnson

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

River Road by Suzanne Johnson
Series: ,
Genres: Paranormal
Published by Tor Pages: 334
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library

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River Road by Suzanne Johnson is the fun, fast-paced second book in the Sentinels of New Orleans, a series of urban fantasy novels filled with wizards, mermen and pirates.  These novels are perfect for readers of paranormal fiction and “fans of Charlaine Harris and Cat Adams” (Booklist) and RT Bookreviews agrees that “for readers missing Sookie Stackhouse, this series may be right up your alley.”

Hurricane Katrina is long gone, but the preternatural storm rages on in New Orleans. New species from the Beyond moved into Louisiana after the hurricane destroyed the borders between worlds, and it falls to wizard sentinel Drusilla Jaco and her partner, Alex Warin, to keep the preternaturals peaceful and the humans unaware. But a war is brewing between two clans of Cajun merpeople in Plaquemines Parish, and down in the swamp, DJ learns, there’s more stirring than angry mermen and the threat of a were-gator.

Wizards are dying, and something—or someone—from the Beyond is poisoning the waters of the mighty Mississippi, threatening the humans who live and work along the river. DJ and Alex must figure out what unearthly source is contaminating the water and who—or what—is killing the wizards. Is it a malcontented merman, the naughty nymph, or some other critter altogether? After all, DJ’s undead suitor, the pirate Jean Lafitte, knows his way around a body or two.

It’s anything but smooth sailing on the bayou as the Sentinels of New Orleans series continues.

 

Also by this author: Pirate's Alley, Belle Chasse

Second in the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series which revolves around DJ Jaco, the new sentinel. It’s three years after Katrina.

My Take
Johnson has an interesting twist on supernaturals with her sentinel wizard and the Council of Elders (all wizards) who essentially rule their world and police the Beyond between supernatural planes and our Earth.

I am enjoying the give-and-take between Jean Lafitte and DJ. I especially enjoy Jean’s exploration of modern day New Orleans, and his intense focus on business. That pirate is relentless!

If she doesn’t work there, what is she doing there? How did she get in?

How clueless can DJ get about Alex? Her obtuseness is one of the downers about this story. She’s tryin’ hard to be a good Sentinel, but neither her character nor the writing is up to it. And Johnson has fallen into the trope of the willful woman who ignores advice so she can prove herself. It’s rare for this approach with a character to work . Scarily enough, I’m one of those women too! Eeek..! As for her relationship with Jake, she’s been avoiding him ever since that night with the voodoo god.

This is gonna sound mean, but I wish that Jake’s problems had been stretched out more throughout the book. There are patches of drama over what he’s dealing with, and I wish that Johnson had hyped this up more. Increased the tension so it was always present, but more evident in those critical patches. Not melodramatic, but…tense. The storyline is interesting, but there’s still an immaturity to the writing.

Oh, I do like DJ’s original idea for dealing with the water poisoning. Clever, different, with so many possibilities for creating tense dramatic issues and tickling those romantic prospects. Rene does crack me up with his comment about not wanting to be there when DJ and the shifter are gittin’ busy. You’ll know what I’m sayin’ when you get there. Don’t be drinkin’ nothin’ or it’ll just come back up when you laugh.

On the whole, I’m enjoying this storyline with its diverse range of characters and the unique problems that arise. Johnson’s use of the trauma of Katrina is also noteworthy.

The Story
Someone or some thing is poisoning the Mississippi River and tensions are running high. A strain that requires DJ’s negotiation skills and Jean’s intervention. After all, DJ does owe him for his help, and a nice dinner date may be the answer to paying that debt off. One at the original Antoine’s!

Nor is life static for Jake as he’s in training to become an Enforcer with Alex. But Alex worries about how well Jake is handling his new status.

The Characters
Drusilla “DJ” Jaco, a.k.a., Jolie, is a Green Congress wizard with elven blood from both sides and some of those elven powers include empathy and an affinity for an elven staff, Charlie, which she found in Gerry’s attic. She has taken over her old mentor’s position as Sentinel of New Orleans, although she is sharing it with Alex. Sebastian was Gerry’s cranky chocolate Siamese cat. Letitia “Tish” Newman, a Green Congress wizard, was Gerry’s, DJ’s father’s, girlfriend.

As an Enforcer for the Congress of Elders, Alexander Warin is more inclined to shoot first. If that first bullet doesn’t work, he’ll try different types of ammo until it does. The police believe he’s with the FBI. He’s also a shapeshifter—turns out he’s Gandalf, the stray dog from Royal Street, 1—AND DJ’s partner and best friend. Alex’s cousin, the oldest of three, and a formerly limping, discharged Marine, Jacob “Jake” Warin, was bitten by a lycanthrope and has become a loup-garou, a lone wolf, literally. Loup-garou don’t do well in the Now. As a human, he runs a bar called the Green Gator with Leyla‘s help (she’s dating Alex); Alex lives in an apartment over the Gator. Don and Juli (Corey is her oldest) Warin are some of Alex’s older siblings. Norma Warin is Alex’s mother and sounds like one scary woman! She’s expecting Alex to bring his girlfriend for her birthday party. Thomas is her husband. Liz and Ed Warin are Jake’s parents.

Captain Jean Lafitte, the pirate who aided New Orleans against the British, may be dead, but he exists in the Beyond on the strength of the beliefs and memories of the living. A lovable schemer—count your fingers and toes when you leave his company! He’s intrigued by DJ and she does owe him for his help in Royal Street.

Rene Delachaise, a friend and business partner of Jean’s, leads the Delachaise merpeople clan, which holds a stretch of territory at the mouth of the Mississippi River and has been there for years. Robert is Rene’s twin brother. Touissant Delachaise is the official merpeople representative.

The Villere mer clan is led by Denis, and they are encroaching on Rene’s territory. Seems too many weregators were moving into their old place. T-Jacques is Denis’ son.

Blueberry Muffin is the head of the Greater Mississippi River Nymphs and runs an escort service where Libby answers the phone and volunteers to come diving.

Eugenie Dupre is DJ’s neighbor and operates Shear Luck, a hair salon across the street. Quince Randolph is serious about saving the Earth and has bought the old Cool Beans and is opening a new nursery, Plantasy Island. He’s already asked Eugenie on a date.

Detective Ken Hachette is with NOPD Homicide, a former Marine, and a friend of Alex and Jake’s.

Elder Willem Zrakovi, a Green wizard, is the head of the Elders for North America. Adrian Hoffman is the Speaker of the Elders and always answers the Elders’ hotline…a very poor choice for anyone’s first contact with the Elders, as he’s such a jerk!

Jeffrey Klein is a professor with the biology department at Tulane University and a Green Congress wizard as is Doug Hebert; both are working on wetlands preservation. Melinda is Doug’s mundane wife.

The Congress of Elders rule the wizards and the rest of the supernatural community. If an ability or power isn’t something they can wield, it either doesn’t “exist” or they make it illegal. Green Congress wizards are “the geeks of the magical world”, using potions and ritual magic. Red Congress wizards do physical magic—the flashy stuff. Yellow Congress specializes in mental magic. The Blue Congress is in charge of reconstructing crime scenes—if it turns out the crime is not supernatural. Sentinels are wizards in charge of cities or regions and keep an eye on the boundary between the Beyond and our world, the Now. Enforcers are part FBI prete team and part assassin. Witches are considered less than wizards. The Beyond is where the Realms of Vampyre, Faerie, and some lesser territories are located.

The Elven Synod has become aware of Charlie (known as Mahout by the elves—and belonging to the Fire Elves clan), and they’re not happy about a wizard who can wield elven powers. Mace Banyan is their leader.

The Cover
The cover is DJ in a khaki green tanktop facing the bayou but looking out at us, her long blonde hair blowing in the breeze. She’s holding Charlie, her elven staff, and orange rings of magic are circling it.

The title is the road that DJ must follow, the River Road.

Reviewed by Kathy Davie

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