Book Review + Excerpt: Pirate’s Alley by Suzanne Johnson

I received this book for free from Bewitching Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review + Excerpt: Pirate’s Alley by Suzanne JohnsonPirate's Alley by Suzanne Johnson
Series: Sentinels of New Orleans #4
Published by Tor Books on April 21, 2015
Genres: Science Fiction & Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
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four-stars
From award-winning author Suzanne Johnson comes the fourth book in the smart and sexy Sentinels of New Orleans series.

Wizard sentinel 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.

Review

Although I’d read the first book in Suzanne Johnson’s Sentinels of New Orleans series, Royal Street, a few years ago and made a mental note to check out the next couple of books in the series, the truth is that I lost track of it. So when I was given the opportunity to review Book 4, Pirate’s Alley, I took it—and along with it the chance to reread Book 1 and read through Books 2 and 3 as well. And while I gave Royal Street a solid 3 stars, I found myself enjoying the series a little more with each book.

I think this is because, at the beginning of the series, DJ Jaco is everything a new adult urban fantasy should be: someone who is still in the process of discovering herself, learning how to use her magic, uncovering the secrets of her history well-meaning adults have kept from her. And, of course, saving her city in the meantime. She’s a character who grows with every novel, and I liked finding that, in Pirate’s Alley, she has come into her own: she knows who she is, what she wants in life, who she wants in her life, what she’s willing to sacrifice, and what B.S. she isn’t willing to take anymore.

In Pirate’s Alley, there’s all sorts of nasty stuff hitting multiple fans, and DJ is right in the center of it, thanks to her affiliations and friendships among the wizards, historical undead, and elves. Her powers are stronger than ever, but she’s also acquired some inconvenient weaknesses as a side effect. She’s also a lot more street savvy and better acquainted with her character and those of the people she cares about. This is the novel in which she draws her long, hard line in the sand and finds out who’s going to end up on the same side.

Plot-wise, there’s a lot going on in this novel. So much so that I wouldn’t recommend it for someone who hasn’t read at least the previous book in the series—I was very glad I took the time to reread the first book and to read the second and third book before attacking this one. Certain situations that have been building in DJ’s personal and political lives come to a boiling point and may be difficult to understand or appreciate without some knowledge of prior events.

This novel is a page-turner. It’s chock-full of political intrigue, as you can expect from the formation of an inter-species council made up of delegates who all come from touchy political situations themselves. This time, there’s more at stake than just one city or one species; the characters, and DJ in particular, have to maneuver through perilous situations that could well lead to all-out war. What’s more, while not quite ending on a cliffhanger, there are enough unresolved issues that will have readers tapping feet impatiently for Book 5 in the series!

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Excerpt

DJ, are you awake?

Freaking elf. “Go home, Rand.”

I am home. Where are you?

I frowned and burrowed my face into the soft down pillow. Which wasn’t my pillow.

Holy crap. What had happened?

I sat up and took in several observations at once, none of which made sense and all of which sent my heart rate jack-rabbiting hard enough to send my blood pressure into the ozone.

First, I was lying beneath a heavy bedspread woven in a rich blue-and-cream print. The bed was an elaborate confection made to look like an antique half-tester, and a brass chandelier hung overhead.

I recognized the Hotel Monteleone. I recognized Jean Lafitte’s bedroom in the posh Eudora Welty Suite in the Monteleone. I didn’t have a clue as to how I got here.

Second, I wore only underwear. My clothes were thrown across a chair in the corner. I had no recollection of removing them.

Third, the pillow next to mine still held the clear indentation of a head, and there was water running behind the closed bathroom door.

What in God’s name had I done?

Rand! Where are you? So help me, if that elf was behind this, I’d splay him open like a catfish and watch his guts fall on the floor. Then I’d batter and deep-fry him.

God, Dru. Stop shrieking like an elven shrew. I think you got too cold and went into a survival state.

Survival state? Then I remembered, and shame joined panic. I had gone into hibernation like a bear, right out on Royal Street in front of God and everyone. Quince Randolph, you sonofabitch! Why didn’t you warn me that would happen?

Stop yelling. How did I know you’d be stupid enough to go traipsing through the snow to the point of unconsciousness? I can tell you’re in the Quarter, but where are you?

Catch you later.

I slammed shut every mental door I could imagine and then troweled imaginary caulk in any imaginary cracks around said doors. I was vaguely aware that, off in the distance of my mental stronghold, Rand was yelling at me.

Had Jean hauled me back to the hotel like a sack of pommes de terres? How had he explained a hibernating blonde to the hotel management? At least my dark blue underwear matched. Had he taken advantage of me? No, it wasn’t his style. Which meant I’d consented.

Alex was going to kill me if I didn’t kill myself first. I wasn’t sure hibernation-brain was an adequate defense.

The bathroom doorknob rattled and I dove under the covers, even though I realized it was like closing the barn door after the half-naked cows had escaped.

From my hiding spot, I heard the door open and footsteps cross from tile to carpet before stopping with a rustle of fabric. “Hey, babe. You finally back from the dead? Whatcha doin’ under there?”

“Rene?” I poked my head out and frowned at my buddy the merman, fully dressed in jeans and a Saints sweatshirt. His feet were bare, and he walked around the bed and climbed in as if either one of us belonged here, much less at the same time.

“What are you doing here? What am I doing here? Who undressed me? Where’s Jean?” And, as an afterthought, “Why are we in bed?”

Now that I realize I hadn’t acted like my licentious great-aunt Dru and slept with the pirate, I transferred my anger to the proper place and it wasn’t to myself. I’d kill that sneaky Frenchman if he weren’t immortal.

Rene was not immortal, however, and he was within reach. “You better start talking, fish boy.”

“Aiyeeee.” Rene cackled like the Cajun he was, and fluffed the pillow behind his head. “I told Jean you’d be spittin’ mad. Nothing happened, babe. Your clothes were wet and I was just trying to keep you warm. I’m a shifter, you know. We run hot.”

“Oh, do you now.”

That made him laugh harder.

I threw off the covers and stomped over to my clothes. He’d seen whatever I had and I knew he didn’t want it, so there was no point in hiding. I picked up three soggy layers of T-shirts and sweaters, and cords so wet they weighed about ten pounds.

My breath hitched. The staff; I’d lost the staff. I whirled to Rene, who sat propped against the lush draped fabric that covered the headboard, watching me with a grin. “Where’s my bag?”

“In the living room. Everything’s there, babe, even your magic stick. Jean, he took care of you.”

Yeah, I just bet he did. It was hard to argue effectively in underwear I’d intended only Alex Warin to see, so I went into the living room, dug my room key out of my messenger bag, and stuck my head out the door, looking up and down the hallway.

“I’ll be back. Don’t go anywhere,” I yelled at Rene, and made a run for it, jamming the keycard into my door lock and slipping inside before I was spotted. If hotel cameras caught my mad dash on security footage, well, I’m sure they’d seen stranger things. This was New Orleans, after all.

 

About Suzanne Johnson

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 also is 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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