I don’t think there’s any other way to say it: Suzanne Johnson created pure amazingness out of one of the worst tragedies America has ever suffered, with her debut novel, Royal Street. Royal Street had everything I love in a book: an inexperienced but eager heroine, magic, mystery, lots of sexy men and intense fight scenes, all set against the horrific backdrop of New Orleans after Katrina nearly destroyed the city. It was true love from the first word to the last word, and it still hasn’t let me go.
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 adored DJ. She was just starting to come into her own when Katrina hit and she was suddenly forced to take charge. Of course she was full of self-doubt but she rarely let that stop her from charging ahead. She would do what she thought was right, even if it didn’t exactly coincide with the Elders’ laws. I can’t say much more without giving away parts of the plot but she would usually come up with some hare-brained idea that any sane person would know it could never work yet she would do it anyway. Much to the dismay of her partner Alex.
Alex was totally drool worthy as the epitome of tall, dark and lethal. He was stubborn, secretive and sarcastic – be still my heart! On the outside, he was the polar opposite of his cousin, Jake. Jake was actually friendly and smiled as he helped DJ. Yet, both of them had the same dominant, protective streaks. There was a bit of a love triangle between DJ, Alex and Jake. It was only an undercurrent to everything else they had to deal with because all three of them were far too busy to even think about romance. To me, a self-proclaimed romance junkie, it was perfect. I don’t want to say too much and give something away, but had there been any more romance it would have been too much for the plot. That being said, if the romance doesn’t get amped up in River Road I’m going to be very upset.
As I said in my intro, Royal Street gave a real, first-hand account of what life was like after Katrina hit. In that, there were times when DJ and Alex had to go clean a house because there was mold growing on the floor, walls, ceiling and everything in between. No, it wasn’t exciting or glamorous or even productive to the rest of the plot. But it was something nearly everyone had to deal with, post-Katrina. That being said, when they weren’t busy cleaning there was more than enough action. Royal Street started off with a nail-biting fight scene between the sexy yet creepy undead Jean Lafitte and DJ . Katrina hit shortly after that, and from then on it was the perfect blend of research, cleaning and fighting.
I know I’m supposed to critique at least one aspect of each book I review, but I honestly cannot think of anything that I would change about Royal Street. The tone, the pacing, the plot, the characters, the style of writing itself – I loved it all. Royal Street was, hands down, my favorite debut novel of 2012. Oh yes, Royal Street was my kind of perfect. Yet, it was humbling too, because it gave such a detailed, heart-wrenching account of Katrina’s destruction that no news coverage was ever able to convey.