Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “Until you stop dating the undead Pirate Of The Caribbean, you have no room to laugh.“
River Road begins three years after the events in Royal Street. Drusilla Jaco (DJ), our fledgling wizard, still acts as sentinel to New Orleans with her shapeshifting bodyguard/partner, Alex Warin. The Elders are still concerned with her novice classification so Alex will continue 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 father and mentor, Gerry. Her fear of losing another person who matters weighs heavily on her. Hurricane Katrina did more than just devastate New Orleans, it weakened the veil between the mortal and spiritual worlds. DJ and Alex find themselves submerged in a dual mystery filled with magic and death as wizards start dying and the waters of the Mississippi are being poisoned, causing war among the merfolks who live along its coastal waters.
I wasn’t impressed with the first book in this series, Royal Street. I adored the lush world building and overall premise, but the character development and revealing of the storyline was not a smooth transition. However, River Road more than makes up for all that and I found myself engrossed in this second installment. Ms. Johnson’s Sentinel series is a fast paced urban fantasy with plenty of humor and suspenseful action to keep you glued to your seat. Heavily character driven, there is a nice balance between the magic and the police procedural investigative means DJ uses to solve the mysteries. The world building continues to expand and evolve, giving us more insight into this world of magic in a modern, mortal setting. Supernatural entities coexist with humanity in a comfortable relationship. Two main storylines develop at a steady pace, merging at key times without overpowering one another. I especially enjoyed that Ms. Johnson downplayed the romance in this story, choosing to keep it low key and not make it a major plot line. I felt that was a huge mistake book one had to contend with.
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 her easy going banter. 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. She and Alex are hilarious together.
“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 still has the small problem of acting first and thinking later but she learns from her mistakes and they lessen as the storyline continues. The men in her life are still around though we see a huge difference in their actions too. Jake, who became a werewolf after helping DJ defeat the evil in Royal Streets, disappeared for 3 years but is back and more than adamant he wants DJ. But that persky shapeshifting could prove a problem. Alex is…Alex. Both the reader and DJ are unsure where Alex stands in terms of their relationship. They are partners professionally yet DJ has feelings for him that straddle the line. Alex tries to show her his deepening feelings but they manifest themselves in ways that frustrate DJ-he gets extremely protective and bossy. Needless to say, there is some steamy chemistry and sexual frustration between these two.
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. She likes him 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 over protectiveness which results in DJ’s uncertainty of his true intentions.
He’s violent and unpredictable. He hit you once-hard. Oh, sure he saved your life later but it was in his beat 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.
The main plot is a delicious mixture of mystery, suspense, intrigue, and humor. Strong and well written, I laughed throughout this book. Ms. Johnson writes some devious twists into the investigation which helps to further the arc. Using realistic themes- the continuing problems that New Orleans is experiencing after Katrina and some very serious environmental problems that plague us all-Ms. Johnson appeals to us on more than just a fictional level. We meet some new interesting characters through the investigations that I hope remain central to the series. Rene, a merfolk, is a saucy fellow while the Nymphs, whose day jobs cracked me up, had me shaking my head ruefully.
The ending leaves us secure in DJ’s future as a sentinel and provides us with some more clues to DJ’s background and her romantic entanglements. As I stated earlier, I enjoyed River Road tremendously and am looking forward to reading more in this series. 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 it’s Gulf Coast Oil Spill Fund.
Overall Rating: B+