Genre: urban fantasy.
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. Her 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 other world crumbled. Now the undead and the restless are roaming the Big Easy, and a serial killer is using ritual magic to murder soldiers sent to help the city recover.
Making matters worse, Gerald St. Simon has gone missing, the wizards' Elders have assigned a grenade-toting enforcer as DJ's new partner, and an undead pirate Jean Lafitte wants to make her walk his plank. The search for Gerry and the 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 roux.
DJ is a green congress wizard, meaning she has to use magic by making spells and potions, and not like her friend and mentor Gerry, who is a red congress wizard, and can just point his finger at things and release his magic. But she is good at what she does. On the eve of hurricane Katrina, which is not really a threat at that moment, she is sent on a mission. Undead pirate Jean Lafitte has returned to New Orleans, and she needs to banish him to the Beyond again. Lafitte is wary of wizards of course, he has been banished often. So she uses a bit of seduction, and a potion in his rum. Which of course makes him furious and wanting revenge for their next encounter. (Undead famous persons are NOT zombies in this book, but rather the memories people have of them come back to life. And memories of famous people are a plenty in a city as old as New Orleans).
When reporting back to Gerry about the mission, they discuss Katrina. Even though the threat does not seem real yet, one of them should leave New Orleans, as the city can not afford to lose both its protectors at once. If Gerry falls, she needs to be able to take over the job of protecting the city. Supernaturals like the vampires and the fey are always trying to cross the border, and they need to be kept in check to protect humanity. When Katrina becomes a real danger, DJ goes back to her family in Alabama. The same family who did not want her as a child, and foisted her of on Gerry. When her mother died, her father gave her to her grandmother, who also did not want to keep her. And so, at a young age, she became the ward of the Wizards Council, and living with Gerry. As an empath, it was a relief. Feeling her grandmothers dislike of her, the grieving for her daughter, who was DJ’s mother of course, was hard on a child. And Gerry could shield his feelings, making her life in peace for the first time in her young life. And of course she loved learning about the magical world and doing magic herself.
Stubborn Gerry stays behind while the city is evacuated, and DJ is safe with her grandmother. For weeks she will have to stay there, until she is allowed to come back home. Her house is in the 20% of the city not demolished by the hurricane or the flood waters, but Gerry’s house was in a bad part of town, and is flooded. And then Gerry goes missing, and DJ is frantic to go back and find him. Why didn’t he use the transport they set up for him? He would have be save at her grandmothers as well!
The council also needs her back in New Orleans as soon as possible, as the border between this world and the Beyond has been breached in many places, and she needs to start repairs and send the supernaturals who have crossed over, back. They also assign her a new companion, who comes in rather handy as he saves her of Jean Lafitte in the nick of time. The pirate was waiting for her in her own home, her wards destroyed.
DJ is not happy when Alex tells her he is send to be her co-sentinel, and to protect her. The Elders seem to believe that Gerry disappeared on his own, making him a traitor. DJ refuses to believe that, and she will prove Gerry’s innocence. Sure, he was unhappy with a lot of the Council’s politics, but that does not mean he has gone rogue!
As Gerry’s place was badly flooded, the whole ground floor has become uninhabitable. DJ and Adam rescue Gerry’s cat Sebastian, who really hates DJ, and take as much of his papers with them as possible, to find out a clue to his latest actions and perhaps his whereabouts. Adam also finds a strange wooden staff with runes on it, they take home. He also insists on staying with her in her house, to better be able to protect her. And of course, DJ thinks, to spy on her.
As Adam is also a member of the FBI he is asked to help by the local police to help with a serial murder case. Someone is using voodoo to kill soldiers, leaving strange runes behind. They will have to find out what those symbols mean, and fast. Because whoever is making those sacrifices, will not stop until his or her master is powerful enough to leave the Beyond. And finding things out is not so easy without the internet, as electricity is still down. Soldiers and engineers are working hard to repair the levee’s and the water is draining away, leaving mud and garbage and hurricane debris all over the city. It will be a long time before it is habitable again, if ever. It really hurts DJ to see her beloved city ruined like this.
And when all signs point to Gerry working with someone from the Beyond voluntarily, DJ will have to figure out where her loyalties lie. To the man who has always been like a father to her, or to the Wizards Council, and New Orleans. Which is now her city to protect. Whomever Gerry I working with, it will not be good for New Orleans. DJ will have to make some tough decisions, but luckily, she is not alone. There is not only Adam to help her, but his cousin Luke, a wounded war veteran. And she really likes them both. And one of the greatest legends of New Orleans is helping them…
From the moment this beautiful book reached my house, signed and all, I wanted to read it. But unfortunately, I had read some reviews that were not so enthusiastic, and I needed to get that out of my head first, and start totally blanc on this book. And I have only one verdict: I love this book, Suzanne Johnson is a great author. I love her sense of humor and sarcasm, I love her heroine and her attitude and her way of handling things. She does not rely on a protector to help her, make her decisions for her. She has her own conscious and does as she knows is necessary. Even if that means sacrificing herself to safe a loved one.
What really made me sit on the edge of my seat, were the reports on hurricane Katrina, first how they thought of her, it will blow over … and then when she actually is there, and DJ is listening to the news reports, and then, the slow rebuilding of the city, finding survivors after weeks, the tragedy, the destruction of one of the most famous cities in the world. For me in Holland, the actual happenings were far away, but now, reading it like an eyewitness account (which Suzanne Johnson is as she lived in the city at that time!) was something else. Captivating, and bringing it very much alive for me.
The plot of the book is very original, and her take on supernatural creatures and especially the undead famous persons, is unique. I loved it all. And I am really looking forward to reading the next books in this series. I never managed to guess what would happen next, and I love that in a book. Suzanne Johnson has a great way with words, mixing action and humor and emotions and suspense all together in a very enjoyable read.
With this lovely debutbook, Suzanne Johnson has placed herself on my autobuy list, something not many authors manage to do with the first book.
© 2012 Reviews by Aurian