The best thing about this book was the build-up and aftermath of Katrina. I thought it was well done. The rest? Eh. The pacing was a bit slow, picking up more at the end. I don't think any of the main characters Drusilla (whoops! I mean DJ), Jake, and Alex were particularly memorable.
This is the first book in a new urban fantasy series called The Sentinels of New Orleans. I got an eARC for review through NetGalley(dot)com. The second book in the series will be titled, River Road, and is scheduled for a November 2012 release. This was an okay urban fantasy. The story has a unique setting and some of the magic is very interesting, but I found the plot and characters to be a little bland for me.
Druscilla Jaco (DJ) is a Junior sentinel, as a green wizard she spends more of her time mixing potions than confronting baddies. When she finally gets a more important assignment she ends up on the bad side of the dangerous undead pirate named Jean Lafitte. Not a big deal as long as the gates between their world and ours remain closed. Then Hurricane Katrina hits; not only does it tear apart New Orleans it also rips a number of tears in the Gates letting a number of supernatural baddies into the world. DJ's mentor and the lead Sentinal, Gerry, is now missing. To make it worse the Elder's have sent Alex to help out DJ; Alex is a grenade totting assassin and he is more likely to blow things up than ask questions. Now DJ has to close gates, dodge Jena Lafitte, solve a series of murders, and do it all with Alex at her side. Yep, it's going to be a long week for DJ.
There are some things I really liked about this story. The idea of setting it during Hurricane Katrina was an interesting one. It makes the characters deal with a number of real life issues that normally they would never have to deal with. It was also a good way to get a look into how things were in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina went through. The world created here is solid, although not super creative, basically the Sentinels guard humanity from the evil creatures that live on the other side of the Gates. This is kind of explained, but not in great detail.
Making DJ a green wizard is an interesting choice; DJ definitely isn't about flash and bang but more about planning ahead and being resourceful with the small magics she does have. This leads to some interesting scenes, but at times made DJ feel like too much of a victim to me. In face I never really grew to respect DJ as a character. She rushed into bad situations more than once and never seemed to learn from her mistakes. She was very flighty about which guy she liked best throughout the book; she kind of played with both of them and I just can't get into a character that does that.
Alex is a much more interesting character, he adds a lot more to the story than DJ. Still though I had trouble engaging with him. Him and DJ never felt like they had great chemistry to me and they didn't fight well as a team. The romance is thankfully limited in this book, because I don't think it would have worked well to make Alex and DJ any more engaged with each other.
The plot was very predictable. The main storyline involves DJ trying to solve a series of murders that look like they might be the work of a ritualistic serial killer. The way it all wrapped up was very predictable, I guessed it would involve Gerry in a certain way and it totally did. I was a bit disappointed to be right. DJ also spends a lot of time doing research, which really isn't all that interesting to read about. It made the story really drag at certain points.
The books wraps up decently enough with some loose plot threads for future books. The writing is decent and easy to read.
Overall this is a decent urban fantasy. I liked the interesting setting and the world-building that went on here. It's not super creative, but it was interesting to have the whole thing set during Hurricane Katrina. The idea of a parallel type of world that house the supernatural was interesting too but has been done before. I had a lot of trouble engaging with the characters; they were just too vanilla for me and never had great chemistry together. The plot was also a bit too predictable for me. Those things combined kind of left with a "well, I guess that was okay feeling".
I know a lot of people are totally loving this book, but I just wasn't feeling it. There's some good stuff here, but there's a lot of mediocre stuff too. I'd tentatively recommend for urban fantasy fans if you don't have anything else to read. I personally am getting a bit worn out on urban fantasy right now which may be why I just wasn't into this book. I'd recommend Kate Daniels by Ilona Andrews, Elemental Assassin by Jennifer Estep, Jane Yellowstone by Faith Hunter and Charlie Madigan by Kelly Gay over this series. I am not planning on reading the next book when it realease, but I will keep my eye on it just to see if Johnson tightens up her story in future series and delivers something outstanding.