Royal Street. Book Review

ROYAL STREET by Suzanne Johnson

Headline, p/b, £7.99

Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins

Drusilla Jaco is a junior wizard sentinel with the added gift of being an empath, that is, she can absorb the emotions of people around her. And when you consider that right now she is in the company of a dangerous, not to mention, lustful undead pirate, that particular talent is becoming quite an inconvenience. Mind on the mission Drusilla. Gerry, her mentor, would not be impressed if he knew she was placing herself in danger.

Once back in New Orleans, her beloved home, news is not good. Hurricane Katrina is threatening to strike the area and despite her native cynicism at the danger, Drusilla agrees to evacuate whilst Gerry remains behind. That way one sentinel is protected, just in case.

Unfortunately, despite what Drusilla expected, Katrina did hit, and she hit hard. The border between the mundane world and the Beyond is compromised and the biggest challenge of the young wizard’s life has arrived.

Royal Street blends the real world with elements of supernatural fantasy that play out against the backdrop of Hurricane Katrina and its subsequent devastation and recovery efforts. The result is a book that engages the reader on a deeper emotional level; we know some of this really did happen and the reminder is poignant.

But it is not all heavy-going, tear-jerking stuff. Shapeshifters, wizards, elf magic, voodoo, the glorious historical undead and a truly creepy antagonist of an old god combine with the threat of many other supernatural creatures to create a story that is packed full of twists, excitement and excellent visual action, as well as the usual love triangle and mystery elements of this kind of young adult fiction.

The pacing is slower than average, but that actually works well in allowing time for the emotional scale of events to digest and letting those revealing moments of self-discovery for the protagonist really play out. This truly is urban fantasy grounded in our own modern reality and executed with just the right balance of real life and the supernatural.