Sentinels of New Orleans, Book 1
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Tor Books
Date of Publication: April 10, 2012
Number of pages: 337
Word Count: ~94,000
Cover Artist: Cliff Nielsen
This audiobook is $2.99 through August 9 from all locations.
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.Excerpt:
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.
Friday, August 26, 2005 “Once [Tropical Storm Katrina] moved over the gulf today, it was expected to wheel north, pick up speed and hit the Florida Panhandle on Sunday.” ―The New York Times
A secluded Louisiana bayou. A sexy pirate. Seduction and deceit. My Friday afternoon had the makings of a great romantic adventure, at least in theory.
In practice, angry mosquitoes were using me for target practice, humidity had ruined any prayer of a good hair day, and the pirate in question―the infamous Jean Lafitte―was two-hundred years old, armed, and carrying a six-pack of Paradise condoms in assorted fruit flavors.
I wasn’t sure what unnerved me more—the fact that the historical undead had discovered erotic accessories, or that Lafitte felt the need to practice safe sex.
Nothing about the pirate looked safe. Tall and broad-shouldered, he had dark blue eyes and a smile twitching at the corners of his mouth as he watched me set two glasses and a bottle of dark rum on a rickety wooden table. A tanned, muscular chest peeked from his open-collared shirt, and shaggy dark hair framed a clean-shaven face. A jagged scar across his jaw reminded me the so-called gentleman pirate also had his ruthless side.
He’d arrived by way of a stolen boat at this isolated cabin near Delacroix, a half-hour outside New Orleans, to pursue two of the world’s most timeless pleasures: sex and money. I’d met him here to play the role of a gullible young wizard falling under the spell of the legendary pirate, at least for a while. Then I’d do my duty as deputy sentinel and send his swashbuckling hide back to the Beyond, where he could rub shoulders with other undead legends and preternatural creatures unfit for polite human company.
My hand shook as I poured the rum, sloshing a few drops of amber liquid over the side of the glass. I’d finally been given a serious assignment, and I needed it to go without a hitch. Lafitte’s fingers brushed mine as he took the drink, sending an unexpected rush of energy up my arm. “Merci, Mademoiselle Jaco—or may I call you Drusilla?”
Actually, I’d prefer he didn’t call me anything. Despite his obvious hopes for the evening, this wasn’t a date. “Most people call me DJ.”
“Bah,” he said, taking a sip of rum. “Those are alphabet letters, not a name.”
From beneath the red sash that accented his waist, Lafitte pulled a modern semiautomatic handgun and set it on the table next to the rum bottle. I knew how he’d gotten it—he’d rolled the Tulane student that summoned him, lifted the kid’s wallet and iPod, rode the streetcar to Canal Street, and made a trade for the gun. Enterprising guy, Lafitte.
I pondered the odd spike of energy I’d gotten from his hand. Touching increases the emotional crap I absorb from people as an empath, but Lafitte was technically a dead guy. Still, I’d like to say if he touched me again, I’d demand double pay from the wizards’ Congress of Elders. Triple if it involved lips.
But who was I kidding? My bargaining position was nonexistent. My boss Gerry only sent me on this run because he had something else to do and knew Lafitte might respond to my questionable seduction skills.
I’d pulled my unruly blonde hair out of its usual ponytail for the occasion, loaded on some makeup to play up my teal eyes, and poured myself into a little black skirt, short enough to show off my legs while not offending Lafitte’s nineteenth-century sensibilities.
It must have worked, because the pirate was giving me that head-to-toe appraisal guys do on instinct, like they’re assessing a juicy slab of beef and deciding whether they want it rare, medium, or well-done.
“You really are lovely, Drusilla.” The timbre of Lafitte’s voice shivered down my spine, and I fought the urge to check out the biceps underneath that linen shirt.
Holy crap. This was just wrong. I should not be absorbing his lust.
This is the first book in the Sentinels of New Orleans series by Suzanne Johnson. This book has been on my radar for a while, but I just never found the right opportunity to really look into reading it. The book tour through Bewitching Book Tours finally gave me the incentive to read it. And I am glad it did.
The story takes place just prior to and following Hurricane Katrina's destruction of New Orleans. Drusilla Jaco is a Green Congress Wizard working for the Wizard Elders as a Junior Sentinel. Drusilla has been working with her mentor and foster parent, Gerald St. Simon, Red Congress Wizard. Most Sentinels are of the Red Congress variety. Reg Congress Wizards have the ability to do physical magic, basically point and click. While Greens are the geeks of the wizard world with rituals and potions. This puts her at a disadvantage for some of the tougher assignments. Gerry took her in as a young child after her mother died and her father and maternal grandmother didn't know how to handle her growing powers and empathy.
When it becomes apparent Katrina is going to hit the NOLA area, DJ is sent by Gerry to her grandmother's place in Alabama to wait out the storm. After the storm hits, she loses contact with Gerry. Then the Elders call her back to the area to find out what is going on and to start dealing with the breaks in the barrier to the Beyond. Upon her return she meets Alexander Warin, Enforcer with the Congress of Elders, an FBI agent and her new partner. He is there to help her, keep an eye on her and find out what happened with Gerry.
The devastation of Katrina is still a pretty vivid memory and to use it as a backdrop and launching point of a new series seems risky. But it works. It works really well. As DJ is running around in a world turned upside down by nature, her old rules go out the window, so we are introduced to them as she breaks old ones, makes new ones and reshapes the future of New Orleans.
Ms. Johnson did an excellent job of world building and setting up for what could be one hell of a ride through out this series. I loved the historical characters we meet from the Beyond, like the pirate Jean Lafitte, Louis Armstrong and Marie Laveau. It seems she is not afraid to take risks and doesn't take the cliched, obvious routes. It was great fun to be surprised where the story led. I am giving this book 4 stars on Goodreads, 3 stars for the story and 1 star for the fabulous way Katrina and New Orleans recovery was portrayed.
Sentinels of New Orleans, Book 2
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Tor Books
Date of Publication: June 25, 2013
Number of pages: 336
Word Count: ~92,000
Cover Artist: Cliff Nielsen
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.Excerpt:
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.
The minute hand of the ornate grandfather clock crept like a gator stuck in swamp mud. I’d been watching it for half an hour, nursing a fizzy cocktail from my perch inside the Hotel Monteleone. The plaque on the enormous clock claimed it had been hand- carved of mahogany in 1909, about 130 years after the birth of the undead pirate waiting for me upstairs.
They were both quite handsome, but the clock was a lot safer.
The infamous Jean Lafitte had expected me at seven. He’d summoned me to his French Quarter hotel suite by courier like I was one of his early nineteenth-century wenches, and I hated to destroy his pirate-king delusions, but the historical undead don’t summon wizards. We summon them.
I’d have blown him off if my boss on the Congress of Elders hadn’t ordered me to comply and my co-sentinel, Alex, hadn’t claimed a prior engagement.
At seven thirty, I abandoned my drink, took a deep breath, and marched through the lobby toward the bank of elevators.
On the long dead-man-walking stroll down the carpeted hallway, I imagined all the horrible requests Jean might make. He’d saved my life a few years ago, after Hurricane Katrina sent the city into freefall, and I hadn’t seen him since. I’d been desperate at the time. I might have promised him unfettered access to modern New Orleans in exchange for his assistance. I might have promised him a place to live. I might have promised him things I don’t even remember. In other words, I might be totally screwed.
I reached the door of the Eudora Welty Suite and knocked, reflecting that Jean Lafitte probably had no idea who Eudora Welty was, and wouldn’t like her if he did. Ms. Welty had been a modern sort of woman who wouldn’t hop to attention when summoned by a scoundrel.
He didn’t answer immediately. I’d made him wait, after all, and Jean lived in a tit- for- tat world. I paused a few breaths and knocked harder. Finally, he flung open the door, waving me inside to a suite plush with tapestries of peach and royal blue, thick carpet that swallowed the narrow heels of my pumps, and a plasma TV he couldn’t possibly know how to operate. What a waste.
“You have many assets, Drusilla, but apparently a respect for time is not among them.” Deep, disapproving voice, French accent, broad shoulders encased in a red linen shirt, long dark hair pulled back into a tail, eyes such a cobalt blue they bordered on navy. And technically speaking, dead.
He was as sexy as ever.
“Sorry.” I slipped my hand in my skirt pocket, fingering the small pouch of magic-infused herbs I carried at all times. My mojo bag wouldn’t help with my own perverse attraction to the man, but it would keep my empathic abilities in check. If he still had a perverse attraction to me, I didn’t want to feel it.
He eased his six-foot-two frame into a sturdy blue chair and slung one long leg over the arm as he gave me a thorough eyeraking, a ghost of a smile on his face.
I perched on the edge of the adjacent sofa, easing back against a pair of plump throw pillows, and looked at him expectantly. I hoped what ever he wanted wouldn’t jeopardize my life, my job, or my meager bank account.
“You are as lovely as ever, Jolie,” Jean said, trotting out his pet name for me that sounded deceptively intimate and brought back a lot of memories, most of them bad. “I will forgive your tardiness— perhaps you were late because you were selecting clothing that I would like.” His gaze lingered on my legs. “You chose beautifully.”
I’d picked a conservative black skirt and simple white blouse with the aim of looking professional for a business meeting, part of my ongoing attempt to prove to the Elders I was a mature wizard worthy of a pay raise. But this was Jean Lafitte, so I should have worn coveralls. I’d forgotten what a letch he could be.
“I have a date after our meeting,” I lied. He didn’t need to know said date involved a round carton with the words Blue Bell Ice Cream printed on front. “Why did you want to see me?”
There, that hadn’t been so difficult—just a simple request. No drama. No threats. No double- entendre. Straight to business.
“Does a man need a reason to see a beautiful woman? Especially one who is indebted to him, and who has made him many promises?” A slow smile spread across his face, drawing my eyes to his full lips and the ragged scar that trailed his jawline.
I might be the empath in the room, but he knew very well that, in some undead kind of way, I thought he was hot.
I felt my face warming to the shade of a trailer- trash bridesmaid’s dress, one whose color had a name like raging rouge. I’d had a similar reaction when I first met Jean in 2005, two days before a mean hurricane with a sissy name turned her malevolent eye toward the Gulf Coast. I blamed my whole predicament on Katrina, the bitch.
Her winds had driven the waters of Lake Pontchartrain into the canals that crisscrossed the city, collapsing levees and filling the low, concave metro area like a gigantic soup bowl.
But NBC Nightly News and Anderson Cooper had missed the biggest story of all: how, after the storm, a mob of old gods, historical undead, and other preternatural victims of the scientific age flooded New Orleans. As a wizard, I’d had a ringside seat. Now, three years later, the wizards had finally reached accords with the major preternatural ruling bodies, and the borders were down, as of two days ago. Jean hadn’t wasted any time.
This is the second book in the Sentinels of New Orleans series by Suzanne Johnson. I was lucky enough to start reading it almost immediately following Royal Street, so I didn't have a chance to forget anything from the first book. The recap summaries of what happened in the first book were well done and didn't delay the story at all.
This story starts out a few years following the events of the Royal Street. The city is rebuilding and the concessions wrung from the Elders at the conclusion of book 1 have affected how the DJ and her partner and Enforcer Alex do their jobs. DJ is getting ready to go into a "meeting" with the pirate Jean Lafitte. Basically she is answering his summons and hoping against all hope that he isn't about to start demanding some of the more outrageous things she had promised to him for his aid 3 years ago. Luckily for her, he just wants her official assistance with a problem.
It seems that someone or something is poisoning the waters at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Two mer-clans are ready to duke it out, each blaming the other for the problem. When DJ and Alex go to investigate, they find something even more worrisome - dead wizards. But are the two cases connected or is it just circumstance that has them finding 2 dead wizards near the poisoned waterways? DJ takes the poisoned water issue and Alex starts working the dead wizards, really hoping the cases don't cross.
This was an amazing book. The pieces are all in place from the first book, and now the author expands on them. We get new creatures - like the merpeople, nymphs and even were-gators (though we never actually meet one), plus a return of characters introduced already - like Jake, Alex's cousin and Eugenia, DJ's neighbor and of course, our favorite pirate Jean Lafitte.
The action was much faster paced in this book and started sooner. I was kept on my toes because I already knew the author had no problem killing off characters and there were plenty of dangerous situations to be had. For me, this book was even better than the first. I can't wait for book 3, Elysian Fields to come out, especially with the ending of this one. 4 stars on Goodreads.
The Sentinels of New Orleans Style Guide: No Leather Allowed
There’s a reason it’s a cliché—leather clothing in urban fantasy and paranormal romance, especially for alpha males, is de rigueur. So my characters are not allowed to wear anything made of leather (and please, let’s not even talk about pleather) that doesn’t go on one’s feet or attach itself around one’s waist via a belt buckle. Well, maybe gloves.
For one thing, well, it’s cliché. For a much more practical reason, however, I look at climate. My books take place in New Orleans. For two months of the year—January and February—New Orleans is surprisingly and miserably cold. The temperature rarely plummets below freezing at night, but a typical day might be in the forties with bone-chilling humidity and wind. Winter is windy. One might get away with leather in January and February.
The other ten months of the year? I don’t want to smell those worn weathers. Ewwww. And did I mention it’s a cliché?
My heroine, DJ, is not a particularly girly-girl wizard, despite the best efforts of her friend Eugenie, who’s a hairdresser (and a human). When my publisher asked what I really didn’t want to see on my covers, the first words out of my mouth were: black leather bustier and tattoos. I love a tattoo, but DJ hasn’t gotten up the nerve to get one yet. She has commitment issues.
So on the covers, you’ll find her decked out in jeans and tank tops. Not that she wears nothing else (she goes out to dinner with the undead pirate Jean Lafitte in a mankiller dress and clearance-sale Manolo Blahniks, after all), but in the first book, Royal Street, she was in immediate post-Katrina New Orleans…without air conditioning…in early September, one of the hottest periods of the year. Other than running around naked, it was the best she could do. The “uniform” stuck for the covers, even though the cover model flashes way more boobaliciousness than DJ ever would.
She wouldn’t flash so much boobalism in the books because she works around so many guys, human and otherwise. Well, mostly otherwise. And she wants them to take her seriously. Sure, she leads with her heart rather than her head a lot of the time, but her job as sentinel is important to her. She’s the first Green Congress wizard (i.e., geeky ritual magic wizard) to hold the position and she’s not about to lose it by dressing in smelly leather.
As for the guys, well, they’re practical. Alex, a shapeshifting enforcer who likes guns and is a walking alpha cliché himself, as DJ often points out, dresses in black. But he tends to wear combat pants and t-shirts, which he fills out quite nicely, thank you. He wore khakis and a button-front shirt one time and DJ almost didn’t recognize him.
Jake, who owns the Green Gator bar on Bourbon Street and has a few wolfish control issues, is a jeans guy. In the winter he’ll wear flannel shirts in earth tones that look good with his streaked blond hair and amber eyes. And dimples. Well, anything looks good with dimples.
As for the other series regulars, there’s mostly the French pirate Jean Lafitte, who ruled an empire of real pirates of the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico in the early 1800s from his kingdom below New Orleans. Jean, who lives on in immortal form via the magic of human memory, dresses in a combination of early 19th-century gentleman (suits and tall leather boots dyed to match) or early 19th-century pirate (tight legging-style trousers, linen tunics, wide belts with various knives and pistols tucked inside). Note that the pirate can wear leather. The pirate can wear whatever he wants.
Rene Delachaise, fast becoming one of DJ’s best buddies, tends to stick with jeans and muscle shirts…when he wears anything at all. He is a merman, after all, and when one is an aquatic shapeshifter, there’s no room for a big caudal fin in most pants. He does have a tattoo of a diving bottlenosed dolphin on…well, we won’t go there. Let’s just say Rene has no body issues.
And there you have it—the Sentinels of New Orleans style guide. It’s built for comfort…and fighting off misbehaving preternaturals.
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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.
To connect with the author online:
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