Tor / $24.99 print/$11.99 digital / November 13, 2012
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.
River Road, the second book in Ms. Johnson’s Sentinel Of New Orleans series, begins three years after the events in Royal Street. Our heroine, Drusilla Jaco (DJ), a fledgling wizard, still acts as sentinel to the Katrina devastated New Orleans with her shapeshifting bodyguard/partner, Alex Warin. The veil between the human world and the Beyond weakened because of the hurricane and now DJ, along with other sentinels, are charged with keeping the peace between mortals and immortals. Someone is now polluting the Mississippi and killing off wizards.
The Elders are still concerned with her novice classification so Alex continues to ‘help’ DJ with her duties. They have come a long way into developing a relationship that works well for both of them. DJ is also still recovering from the duplicity and death of her mentor, Gerry. Her fear of losing another person who matters weighs heavily on her and affects her personal life. The romance is low key, which I appreciate in an urban fantasy. Too often, the romance overshadows the plot lines and we find ourselves suddenly reading a paranormal romance.
DJ shows a maturity in here that wasn't apparent in Royal Street. We see her develop into a more three dimensional character that bodes well for the continuation of the series. I enjoyed the easy going dialogue between DJ and her friends. She is more comfortable in her own skin this time around and it shows. Her dialogue rings true. Ms. Johnson doesn't try to change DJ into a more soft and pliant character. Rather, she explores and defines what DJ already is. I love that DJ is a Law and Order junkie and watches old shows in order to brush up on her investigative skills.
“I’ll do most of the talking,” Alex said. “But don’t be afraid to ask Melinda Hubert questions—trust your instincts.”
My instincts said to stay home and let him handle it. “So, will we play good cop/bad cop? I want to be the bad cop. I’m not the warm. nurturing type.”
He cocked an eyebrow at me. “Really?”
Jerk. “So what should I do?”
“Stop watching cop shows for one.”
DJ has the small problem of acting first and thinking later but she learns from her mistakes. The men in her life are still around though we see a huge difference in their actions too. Jake disappeared for 3 years, but is back and more than adamant that he wants DJ. But that pesky werewolf issue could prove a problem. Alex is...well, Alex. DJ is unsure where Alex stands in terms of their relationship. They are partners professionally and while DJ has feelings for him that straddle the line, she doesn't want to lose his friendship. Alex tries to show her his deepening feelings but they manifest themselves in ways that frustrate DJ; he gets extremely protective and bossy.
Strong hands slipped over her shoulders as Alex joined us, standing so close, I could feel his body heat radiating up my back....He squeezed my shoulders a little hard for it to be a show of solidarity. I’d probably have bruises. He was marking his territory.
Last but not least, we have Jean Lafitte. Oh my! The sexy undead pirate whose attention to DJ leaves her feeling confused and needy.
He’s violent and unpredictable. He hit you once—hard. Oh, sure he saved your life later but it was in his best interests. Plus, you have absolutely no common sense where he is concerned, and we won't even mention the dead thing.
He’s a preternatural being, just like a werewolf and a shapeshifter, so you’re splitting fine hairs by saying he’s not human. What’s more, the pirate is practically immortal, which means he can’t get killed on you, and he’s sexy as hell. Plus, he accepts himself for who and what he is.
DJ likes Lafitte, though she doesn't trust him one inch. And with good reason. Jean wants to stay out of the Beyond permanently. He continues to beguile and anger DJ with his demands and overprotectiveness which results in DJ’s uncertainty of his true intentions.
A plus for this series is that Ms. Johnson uses real life events to build a base for her world and the main conflicts that occur within. New Orleans is not only dealing with the aftermath from Katrina, but also environmental issues that were a direct result of it. We aren't presented with omnipotent heroes and heroines. Though some are supernatural, they use human police procedural to investigate and solve the main conflicts. We are shown that magic can’t solve all your problems. This installment embodies everything that appeals to me in urban fantasy.
One feature of note: Ms. Johnson is donating a percentage of her royalties to the Greater New Orleans Foundation for its Gulf Coast Oil Spill relief efforts.