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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Spotlight Series: Sentinels of New Orleans by Suzanne Johnson!

Royal Street
Sentinels of New Orleans Book One
Suzanne Johnson
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Tor Books
ISBN: 978-0765327796
ASIN: B006OM459U
Number of pages: 337
Word Count: approx. 94,000

Cover Artist: Cliff Nielsen

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Book Depository

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 soldiers sent to help the city recover.

To make it worse, Gerald St. Simon 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 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.

A_TiffyFit's Review:
This book was a very unique read for me. I do love paranormal fantasies, but what I liked about this book was the first-person account of the aftermath of Katrina, with each chapter peppered from a dated excerpt from the newspaper. These little insights to what the area went through after Katrina and then Rita, the clean up process, etc., humanized the story in a way you don't see very often. This lent a wistful believability to the magic, the Beyond, the council of Elders, etc., that other authors struggle to achieve. 

Being an outsider (yes, I say New Or-leens!) and having never been to New Orleans, I know from television shows and other books and common "village" knowledge that they have a big voodoo practitioner population. From reading, even I have heard of Baron Samedi! So it was a fun and interesting plot point for me to read the sightings of Baron Samedi.

Drusilla is a likeable character who has magic. I liked the different Congresses of Wizards (Drusilla is a Green, meaning she relies more on potions; Gerry, her mentor, is Red meaning he has firepower/physical magic).  There seems to be a host of colors and each has a strength that the others do not possess. I hope to discover in future books that something like Blue Wizards and Yellow Wizards can blend their magics together like colors and create Green kind of powers when working in tandem! 

When Gerry goes missing, Alex swoops in as her new partner, and with him come a few hottie family members who aren't in the know about the Otherside. Dimpled cutie, Jake, is his cousin and has a heart as big as they come. DJ (Drusilla Jane) finds herself interested by both, and both are interested in her. But she smartly puts this aside and focuses on the task at hand. 

I wish she were a bit more powerful throughout the book. DJ gets her ass kicked at least three times in the book and you'd think that someone who is willing to bend the rules here and there would make some charms or potions or something to keep herself more protected. As an empath, she is more vulnerable and has to keep a mojo bag at hand to help her block. She makes very creative but non-lethal potions. She does have some hidden magical talents she is beginning to find out in this book. I cannot wait to read more in this series and find out what kinds of power DJ has...not to mention which of the three love interests is going to be her love!

River Road
Sentinels of New Orleans, Book 2
Suzanne Johnson
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Tor Books
ISBN: 978-0765327802
ASIN: B00842H5VI
Number of pages: 336
Word Count: approx. 92,000

Cover Artist: Cliff Nielsen

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Book Depository Indiebound

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.

A_TiffyFit's Review:
It's been a few years since we last were with DJ, a Sentinel of New Orleans. We catch up with her as she's settling into her new position with her partner, Alex. Alex has since moved out into a place of his own and they work together via teamwork to solve the issues of the Beyond and the Human world. 

But now a war is brewing between two mer clans. DJ is recruited to help by Jean Lafitte, the pirate captain from the first book who no longer wants to kill her, but seems set on romancing her and making sure they have a lucrative (for him) business partnership as well. 

I loved this book. I loved all of the alpha males, each unique, strong, and not completely overbearing. This Jean Lafitte is so much more likable than the opponent Jean Lafitte from the first book. Alex has calmed down a bit and Jake is finally back in the picture after being angry with DJ for so long. The only problem is: who the hell do you root for?! This isn't a triangle, this is a complicated little nest of hot men, all paranormal, all perfect for DJ in some aspect. Do you go with dimpled and facing personality issues? Do you go with steadfast, shoot first warrior? Or do you go with the dead guy? Also...we finally meet an elf. It's brief, but hooooooboy does it start to set the stage for learning more about her elven heritage, no?

This spotlight series was to focus on the first two books in this series, but looksy at what I found on below: 

Elysian Fields, Book 3
Book 3 will be available in August 2013!!!

The blurb from Amazon:
The mer feud has been settled, but life in South Louisiana still has more twists and turns than the muddy Mississippi.

New Orleanians are under attack from a copycat killer mimicking the crimes of a 1918 serial murderer known as the Axeman of New Orleans. Thanks to a tip from the undead pirate Jean Lafitte, DJ Jaco knows the attacks aren’t random—an unknown necromancer has resurrected the original Axeman of New Orleans, and his ultimate target is a certain blonde wizard. Namely, DJ.

Combating an undead serial killer as troubles pile up around her isn’t easy. Jake Warin’s loup-garou nature is spiraling downward, enigmatic neighbor Quince Randolph is acting weirder than ever, the Elders are insisting on lessons in elven magic from the world’s most annoying wizard, and former partner Alex Warin just turned up on DJ’s to-do list. Not to mention big maneuvers are afoot in the halls of preternatural power.

Suddenly, moving to the Beyond as Jean Lafitte’s pirate wench could be DJ’s best option.

About the Author:
Suzanne Johnson writes urban fantasy and paranormal romance from Auburn, Alabama, after a career in educational publishing that has spanned five states and six universities. She grew up halfway between the Bear Bryant Museum and Elvis' birthplace and lived in New Orleans for fifteen years, so she has a highly refined sense of the absurd and an ingrained love of SEC football and fried gator on a stick.

Publisher Page:

Guest Post from Suzanne Johnson!
From Shifter to Wizard: Breaking the Glass Ceiling
Suzanne Johnson

Back in 2009, when I sat down to write the book that would eventually become Royal Street, the first book in the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series, my heroine, DJ, was going to be a shapeshifter. She wasn’t going to be a spectacular wolf or bear or lion shifter. She was going to be a terrier, patterned after my own “Irish terror,” Shane O’Mac.

But a funny thing happened about halfway through writing the first chapter (thank God). I stumbled across the transcript of a speech given by fantasy master Sir Terry Pratchett called “Why Galdalf Never Married.”

Was Gandalf too ornery? Did the pointy hat frighten women away? Were the ladies not turned on by that whole “You Shall Not Pass” thing with the Balrog?

No, Gandalf never married because there were no female wizards, Pratchett says. And I realized he was right, at least to some extent. Oh sure, the Dresden Files series has a few. But women are usually relegated to “witches” a la Harry Potter, as if their gender makes them incapable of actual wizardry. Now, Hermione is undoubtedly smarter than Harry—no question about that. She’s also powerful in her own right…but not as powerful as a wizard. Harry, with his pure heart and courage, will always be the stronger one.

I started digging around a bit and yes, wizards have been primarily male. And when you have male wizards and female witches, the wizards are always more powerful. Wiser. Stronger.

That kind of pissed me off.

So DJ shed her shapeshifter persona (again, I consider this divine intervention) and became a wizard. She’s not the strongest wizard on the block, but she’s got some skills. Her magic tends to be more of the geeky variety than flashy poof and zap. Her ritual magic is strong, but she has to work at it.

The male wizards always sell her short—always—especially the bureaucratic men who form the Congress of Elders (patterned after the U.S. Congress, which should tell you they talk a lot but do little).

But DJ is gradually getting them to take her seriously. In Royal Street, she was untested and flying by the seat of her pants (because, not being a witch, she had no broom), struggling to survive in a New Orleans that had just been slammed to rubble and drowned by Hurricane Katrina.

The reason I limited her physical magic and made her specialty ritual magic is because I didn’t want to make post-Katrina life easy for her. Like the rest of us living in NOLA during those sad, scorching, soggy days of Katrina, she has to do without electricity. No air conditioning in hundred-degree weather. No reliable drinking water. No phone. No Internet. “Coffin flies” swarming out of the sinks.

Oh, and an undead pirate Jean Lafitte hot on her trail, an undead Louis Armstrong acting as a spy, and a preternatural power play in the making. And did I mention her new alpha-male, monosyllabic partner Alex?

By the time River Road came along, DJ had matured and become more comfortable in her role as a wizard sentinel—sort of a border guard between the modern world and the preternatural world Beyond. (The timeline moved ahead three years to allow New Orleans to recover from Katrina so this didn’t become a disaster series. Thus, River Road can stand alone.)

Now, our DJ is starting to flex her muscles as a Green Congress wizard, using her ritual magic more creatively and with more confidence. She still (and always will) follow her heart more than her head, but she’s better able to think outside the wizard box and handle herself with more skill.

By the time she’s thrown into the maelstrom of the third book (Elysian Fields, coming August 13), she is finally learning to trust people. She’s learning that asking for help doesn’t make her weak. And she’s learning to use her magic even more confidently. DJ’s growth arc is far from complete, but she’s becoming the wizardly woman she always had the capability to be.

Female wizards? You bet. Throw out that glass ceiling, Gandalf.

Have you read books featuring female wizards? Share them with us! I’ll choose one commenter to receive a signed copy of Royal Street or River Road in a swag pack.

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