Review: River Road

Posted: March 19, 2013 by in Books We Like (4/5 single_star) Meta: Suzanne Johnson, Urban Fantasy

It’s been a few years since Hurricane Katrina, and all the paranormal goings-on in ROYAL STREET (EBR Review). DJ has been settling into her role as the New Orleans sentinel, a wizard who keeps the preternatural denizens from running amok. At her side is Alex Warin, previously an enforcer for the Council of Elders, and now co-sentinel and best friend–even if she’s not above admiring his good looks and muscular physique.

The boundaries with the Beyond and the human world were cracked by Hurricane Katrina, but things seemed to have settled back to normal–well, the new normal, anyway. At least until the historically undead Jean Lafitte asks DJ for her help intervening in a dispute between two tribes of Cajun merfolk. Merfolk along the Mississippi River have been falling ill and each tribe blames the other for poisoning the water. It won’t be long before humans become affected.

DJ and Alex go to investigate and come across a dead body in the marsh…who turns out to be a wizard.

DJ is a great narrator and Johnson’s crisp and creative prose is fun to read. We follow along as she puzzles out the behaviors of the people around her–despite some elven blood which gives her empathic abilities, she still has trouble understanding why people behave the way they do. Her style of magic, Green Congress, means she’s limited to incantations and potions, so no fancy lightening bolt zaps for her, she has to do it the hard way. DJ, however, is resourceful and determined. She needs to prove to the Elders that assigning her as sentinel was the right decision.

While the entire book is told from DJ’S PoV we learn a little more about Alex and how well he really understands his co-sentinel–and to her surprise still likes her despite all her quirks. There’s the love triangle with Jake, Alex’s cousin, and newly minted enforcer for the New Orleans area. Johnson has fun with the romance (even making us wonder about Jean Lafitte’s motives–what would that be, a love quadrangle?) and it’s entertaining to watch DJ’s bewilderment with the men around her.

Of course there’s another main character of RIVER ROAD: New Orleans itself. Here we get to see less of the main city and more of a wider area, with its marshes, rivers, and back country. We still see the aftereffects of Katrina and what the new life in NOLA means, and not just for the magical community.

DJ has been settling into her role as the New Orleans sentinel, a wizard who keeps the preternatural denizens from running amok in RIVER ROAD.

From page one the pace is strong, clear until the end of the book, much like in ROYAL STREET. The investigation is revealed bit by bit, some clues obvious and others not so obvious. Johnson weaves the love story, the mystery, the mythology together with a deft hand. I love the interaction between the magical species, their prejudices, behaviors, and motivations. There are some minor plot inconsistencies and the big action scene at the end could have been less contrived, but it still worked with the narrative.

I can’t wait until the next installment.

  • Recommended Age: 16+
  • Language: A handful
  • Violence: A few fights; one semi-gruesome corpse scene
  • Sex: One steamy scene that ends before anything happens


  • ritika says:

    This book sounds like Dresden files. Wizard, council of elders(white council) , enforcer ( warden)etc. Should I read it or skip it? I like your taste in books.. please suggest..

    • Vanessa says:

      It's like Dresden files, only with a female lead and a little fluffier. Her books are pretty short, too, so they're quick reads. So summertime pool reading? Yes, definitely.

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