Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Tour Review/Giveaway!! Pirate's Alley, by Suzanne Johnson

Welcome to this stop in the 
Pirate's Alley Blog Tour,
sponsored by
Bewitching Book Tours!!

I'm featuring a review of the book,
and BBT is also sponsoring 
an AWESOME giveaway!!

Pirate's Alley
(Sentinels of New Orleans, Book 4)
Suzanne Johnson
Hardcover, 352 pages
Tor Books
April 21, 2015
Fantasy, Humor, Paranormal Romance, 
Urban Fantasy


  Wizard sentinel Drusilla ("DJ") Jaco thought she had gotten used to the chaos of her life in post-Katrina New Orleans, but a new threat is looming, one that will test every relationship she holds dear.

Caught in the middle of a rising struggle between the major powers in the supernatural world—the Wizards, Elves, Vampires and the Fae—DJ finds her loyalties torn and her mettle tested in matters both professional and personal.

Her relationship with enforcer Alex Warin is shaky, her non-husband, Quince Randolph, is growing more powerful, and her best friend, Eugenie, has a bombshell that could blow everything to Elfheim and back. And that's before the French pirate, Jean Lafitte, newly revived from his latest "death," returns to New Orleans with vengeance on his mind. DJ's assignment? Keep the sexy leader of the historical undead out of trouble. Good luck with that.

Duty clashes with love, loyalty with deception, and friendship with responsibility as DJ navigates passion and politics in the murky waters of a New Orleans caught in the grips of a brutal winter that might have nothing to do with Mother Nature.

War could be brewing, and DJ will be forced to take a stand. But choosing sides won't be that easy.

Thanks to the author for providing me
with an ARC of this novel, in
exchange for an honest review.

The plot of this novel drew me in right away, so, on impulse, I decided to review it. I don't normally  review books in PDF format, and this one was an ARC, on top of that. But that certain something just pulled me right in, so I went with my intuition. 

Although I had seen the first book in the series, Royal Street, on several book blogs some time back, I hadn't gotten around to reading it, so it turned out that Pirate's Alley was my introduction to the series.

Not only was I not disappointed, but was, indeed, richly rewarded. Drusilla Jaco (otherwise known as "DJ"), Green Congress wizard and sentinel of New Orleans, is one great character! Aside from her impressive magical skills, she's a very funny lady. She narrates her own adventures in a very lively, snarky, and, at times, totally hilarious manner. The novel revolves mostly around her, and how she deals with the crazy politics of the preternatural world created by Johnson.

Here are some samples of her snarky humor:

"Jean Lafitte looked great for a 230-year-old pirate who'd recently died for at least the fourth time that I knew of."

"Rand was starting to look a lot like the Mona Lisa. I never trusted her little smile, and if Mace had any sense he wouldn't trust Rand's."

"Funny how being soaked made people more compliant."

"I forced Sebastian into sharing a few minutes of quality wizard-feline time."  

I must give kudos to this author for creating such a vividly realistic set of non-human characters (they're known as 'pretes', which is short for 'preternatural'). The world-building is so fascinating! Johnson has all of these magical creatures seamlessly fitting into the real-life setting of New Orleans, and the humans never do catch on. The prete world is made up of elves, wizards, vampires, shapeshifters, merpeople, gremlins, and faeries. Each of these groups has its own idiosyncrasies and quirks, with those of Quince Randolph being the most comical. Rand, as he's usually called, is the most arrogant, overbearing, manipulative, and yet hilariously ridiculous elf in existence. Yet, it's dangerous to underestimate him. Beneath the 'spoiled brat' demeanor lies a very cunning mind indeed....as the reader finds out, especially toward the end of the novel.

Another very obnoxious individual -- one without a hint of redeeming humor in his behavior -- is Willem Zrakovi, one of the Elders. He's politically ambitious, callous, and a true believer in Machiavelli's principle that "the end justifies the means".

Moving on to more pleasant matters, I love two other characters that are also vividly drawn: Alex Warin,  a shapeshifter who changes into a dog, and Jean Laffite, sexy undead pirate. 

Alex is DJ's boyfriend, and he's just adorable! Johnson expertly weaves his and DJ's romance into the story; the tensions in their relationship play against the political intrigues going on in the prete world. Alex is an enforcer, and has a very firm commitment to duty that often sparks arguments between him and DJ. Still, his heart's in the right place, and when things get to the nitty-gritty, he ends up doing right by DJ.

Jean Lafitte was an actual historical figure -- a  French-American pirate and privateer, who was born in 1776 and died in 1823. Johnson had already introduced him in previous installments as an immortal (I will have to read the previous books to find out how he became one) who continues his pirate activities and has his headquarters in a place called "Old Barataria". He's a very charming and courtly personality, calling DJ "Jolie", which means "pretty" in French. He, too, is a source of humor, especially in the way he interacts with 21st-century gadgets, and always takes modern slang literally.

Aside from Lafitte, another famous figure (these are known as  'the historical undead' in the novel) makes a cameo appearance in the story: Truman Capote. He and Lafitte even become friends, and he also meets DJ.

There are other interesting characters in the novel, although they are less fleshed out. One of these is Eugenie, DJ's best friend with the heart of gold, whose rather uncomfortable situation is pivotal to the plot. Another is Rene Delachaise, a merman shapeshifter. Jake Warin, Alex's cousin, is another character I liked. From the clues given by the author in this installment of the series, he was a more central character in one of the previous novels. He's a loup-garou, which is a werewolf that changes shape at will.

I love the magic used in this novel, too! DJ has a magical elven staff to which she has given the name of "Charlie", and she sometimes speaks to it as if it were an actual person. All the pretes in the book use 'transports', which are magical circles drawn with salt on the floor or ground. These are created by the wizards. DJ uses "Charlie" to give power to the ones she creates. The transports are teleportation 'devices', the fantasy equivalent of the transporter used in the original Star Trek series. 

Longtime fantasy fans will also appreciate Johnson's sprinkling of references to the work of J.R.R. Tolkien. For instance, Rand calls the transport he uses "Rivendell", which is the name of the ethereal home of the elves in Tolkien's immortal The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Although there's some action in the story, especially toward the end, the real activity lies in all the political machinations that go on throughout the novel, such as elven conspiracies and sneaky planning, in order to avoid an insterspecies war. Therefore, Johnson concentrates on dialogue, and thus, descriptive passages are kept to a minimum. This works really well for this particular novel, and the wit displayed in the dialogues is razor-sharp.

To sum up, Pirate's Alley is a delightful urban fantasy novel with touches of paranormal romance. It's a fun read; yet, it also contains enough serious elements, such as suspense, danger, and the imminence of war, to keep the reader on the edge of their seat, eagerly turning pages. The novel does end on a bit of a cliffhanger, which is fine by me; I definitely want to go on to the next installment! Furthermore, I have already ordered my own hardcover copy of this book from Amazon, and am getting the previous books, as well. I have found a new series to love!!



Purchase Links

Suzanne Johnson writes urban fantasy and paranormal fiction from Auburn, Alabama, on top of a career in educational publishing that has thus far spanned five states and six universities—including both Alabama and Auburn, which makes her bilingual. She grew up in Winfield, Alabama, but was also a longtime resident of New Orleans, so she has a highly refined sense of the absurd and an ingrained love of SEC football, cheap Mardi Gras trinkets, and fried gator on a stick.
Writing as Susannah Sandlin, she is also the author of the best-selling Penton Legacy paranormal romance series and The Collectors romantic thriller series. Elysian Fields, book three in the Sentinels of New Orleans series, won the 2014 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence while her Sandlin-penned novel, Allegiance, is nominated for a 2015 Reviewer’s Choice Award from RT Book Reviews magazine. 


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  1. A great review, thanks. Pirate's Alley is a wonderful continuation of Suzanne's series. I enjoyed your review very much, especially since you hadn't read the others. I recommend them whenever I can. The complete set, Royal Street, River Road, Elysian Fields, and Pirate’s Alley. Next, Belle Chasse [2016].

    1. Hi, Roger!

      Thanks for the compliment, and you're very welcome for the review!

      This is indeed a TERRIFIC series, and I'm so happy I get to read more about DJ, Alex, Jean Lafitte, Jake, and all the other great characters! (Heck, I even like Rand, lol.) And then we're getting "Belle Chasse" in 2016! AWESOME. Thanks for the heads up!! Well, I need to start catching up.....

      You know, I LOVE printed books, so I just have to own the hardcover of "Pirate's Alley". I will be getting the printed editions of all the others, as well.

      Thanks for such a WONDERFUL comment!! : )

  2. Love this series and I can't wait to read this one. Enjoyed your review! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi, Eva!

      Oh, now that I have read this book in the series, I love the series, too!! Ihave to get to the previous books.

      You're very welcome for the share. Thanks for complimenting my review, and for the nice comment!! : )

  3. this is really one of my favourites series and i'm so happy you enjoy it too especially while not having started with book 1 ( because really when you start with book 1 you see how each book get better than teh last, it's addictive^^)
    you can also hope for a collection of novellas for teh end of teh year but look on suzanne website she has one you can read for free for a limited time..... i can't resist more jean lafitte and suzanne humour

    1. Hi, Miki!

      You arre SO right that these books are addictive! I've only read one, and I'm already hooked!

      I'll be sure to check Suzanne's website for that free novella! Thanks for letting me know, and thanks for the comment!! : )

  4. Enjoyed your review very much. I'm happy to see your enthusiasm without having read the previous books. This is one of my favorite series. I highly recommend it!

    1. Hi, Liz!

      Thanks for the compliment!

      You know, just from reading this one book, I can see that this series really ROCKS!

      Thanks as well for commenting!! : )

  5. Replies
    1. Hi, Aleksandra! Glad you like this series! Thanks for the comment!! : )


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