Paperback, 352 pages
Published March 4th 2014 by Orbit
Source: Net Galley
Could you find a museum for a monster?
Or a jazz bar for a jabberwock?
Zoe Norris writes travel guides for the undead. And she’s good at it too—her new-found ability to talk to cities seems to help. After the success of The Sbambling Guide to New York City, Zoe and her team are sent to New Orleans to write the sequel.
Work isn’t all that brings Zoe to the Big Easy. The only person who can save her boyfriend from zombism is rumored to live in the city’s swamps, but Zoe’s out of her element in the wilderness. With her supernatural colleagues waiting to see her fail, and rumors of a new threat hunting city talkers, can Zoe stay alive long enough to finish her next book?
I really enjoyed the first installment in this new urban fantasy series though perhaps calling it an urban fantasy (though that’s what it really is) series is wrong because it conjures up images of strong, ass kicking heroines who more often than not wear leather and have fatally sharp wit that allows for fun dialogue and riposte. Mur Lafferty’s series brings a new type of heroine to the fore, one who is an editor though she doesn’t seem to do too much of her job as more often than not she is riding dragons or battling badass supernatural creatures. Also, she is a bit nerdy.
Okay, she is a lot nerdy. But that’s okay. Zoe is not physically ripped and I doubt she knows how to handle a sword but she is brave and does not back down from a fight. She’s also more realistic and relatable than other protagonists who fight supernatural creatures on the side. Like before, I was impressed by how supernatural creatures were juxtaposed with mundane and prosaic items and situations. This works really well for me because it gives the narrative a different flavor. Zoe could be seen as underwhelming by readers but I think her charm is in her human-ness.
This installment has them going to New Orleans in a ghost train and being stopped by ghost train robbers. Zoe meets more city talkers and learns more about her powers and she even gets to “meet” New Orleans who won my love even when she was like a smothering mother. Lafferty expresses the spice and life flavor of New Orleans very well and even though I have never been there, I could easily picture the settings (though of course I’m not certain whether these settings are really or imagined).
It is the plot of the story that gave me some pause. Arthur turns out to be a dud and he’s pretty much lost all the charm that he had in the first novel. Obviously, one cannot blame the guy entirely as he is struggling to overcome a zombie bite but as a romantic interest, he is severely lacking. There is an odd moment at the climax where Zoe’s romantic future is concerned and I don’t think I want to go where Lafferty seems to want us to go. We’ll see how the story shapes up though. I could have misread the hint. The denouement of the novel, too, is a bit underwhelming as characters I didn’t think were important turned to have major roles to play in the narrative. Still, it was interesting seeing Zoe’s growth as a person and the gradual cohesion of a relationship between her and the two women she adopts as friends. What is also amazing is the world building Lafferty has done, the thought she has put into the different species of supernatural creatures.
So while this installment didn’t enchant me as much as the first one, I liked it a lot more than many other books I have read. If you are in the market for a new kind of heroine and a brand new world of monsters, this series should be a must-read for you.