Mississippi legends

River Road - Suzanne  Johnson

I liked this story, the second one in the author’s series about a young wizard Drusilla Jaco (DJ) in New Orleans. The first novel of the series, Royal Street, dealt with the hurricane Katrina and its aftermath (my review here). In this one, several years have passed since Katrina decimated New Orleans, and DJ has new problems. Something magical started contaminating the Mississippi River, people are getting sick, and it’s DJ’s duty as the area magical sentinel to find the source of the problem and devise a countermeasure. The story is part fantasy and part mystery, plus a bit of romance and a pinch of humor.

Like many urban fantasy novels, this one is set in an alternative version of today’s world. There are wizards and shapeshifters, vampires and other paranormal creatures coexisting with humans on Earth, but this one has an original twist. Some of the paranormals are ‘historically undead’, surviving as long as people remember them. I’m sure Pablo Picasso and Isaac Newton could be found in this world, although they’re not part of the story. The legendary pirate Jean Lafitte (1780-1823, according to wikipedia) is.

The starring role in the novel belongs to DJ. She doesn’t pack super magical powers but she is inventive, and her solutions are always unorthodox, even if not necessarily approved by her magical superiors in the Congress of Wizards. She is a charming young woman with a surplus of compassion. She wants to help everyone and she trusts a tad too easily. Sometimes bad guys can deceive her, but her justice sense is unerring, and her imagination is almost as good as that of her creator. I really like DJ.

She is not a standard sassy female heroine of many modern UF stories. In fact, she is often tired, she doesn’t do any martial art, and she doesn’t wield a sword. Instead, she has an elven wooden stick that follows her around and could serve as a magic amplifier, although she doesn’t use it often. Much more often, she immerses herself in research, ruffling through old books or surfing the internet, and the clues she uncovers blend old myths with the author’s creativity. DJ’s conjectures and verdicts are always entertaining and spicy.

Her other refreshing quality is her ineptness in private life. Three guys seem to be pining for her, and the poor girl can’t chose. One of her beaus is the infamous ‘historically undead’ pirate, and she even goes on a date with him, though she realizes that he always has an agenda. She enjoys kissing all three, but happily-ever-after is far from her thoughts or her plans. She is too busy fighting treacherous nymphs and investigating forbidden spells to contemplate love or family.

Overall, a great story. I’m going to read the next novel in the series soon, and I recommend the entire series to anyone who likes urban fantasy.