Review – RIVER ROAD by Suzanne Johnson

February 4, 2013 5 Star Reviews, General, Reviews 11


TITLE: River Road
 Sentinels of New Orleans #2
  Suzanne Johnson
  Nov 13, 2012


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Hurricane Katrina is long gone, but the preternatural storm rages on in New Orleans. New species from the Beyond moved into Louisiana after the hurricane destroyed the borders between worlds, and it falls to wizard sentinel Drusilla Jaco and her partner, Alex Warin, to keep the preternaturals peaceful and the humans unaware. But a war is brewing between two clans of Cajun merpeople in Plaquemines Parish, and down in the swamp, DJ learns, there’s more stirring than angry mermen and the threat of a were-gator.

Wizards are dying, and something—or someone—from the Beyond is poisoning the waters of the mighty Mississippi, threatening the humans who live and work along the river. DJ and Alex must figure out what unearthly source is contaminating the water and who—or what—is killing the wizards. Is it a malcontented merman, the naughty nymph, or some other critter altogether? After all, DJ’s undead suitor, the pirate Jean Lafitte, knows his way around a body or two.

It’s anything but smooth sailing on the bayou as the Sentinels of New Orleans series continues.

**A review copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.**  



She-Wolf Review


RIVER ROAD has to be one of the best books I read in 2012.  I read it as 2012 was coming to a close and it ended the reading year with a bang for me.  Picking up three years after the first book in the series, ROYAL STREET, Johnson continues to bring us a fantastic heroine charged with keeping the supernatural world in line while dealing with romantic confusion and an unwieldy magical staff.  


RIVER ROAD, how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways…


1.    DRUSILLA JACO, a.k.a. “DJ”

DJ continues to be one of my favorite UF heroines mainly because she’s one of the most relatable I’ve come across.  DJ is strong, smart and independent; she’s self-deprecating, a bit geeky, and full of a social awkwardness that makes me smile.  She’s not without her struggles.  DJ doubts her abilities, her work, her romantic life – all issues we can relate to regardless of the fact she’s a wizard.  Different job, same problems.  In the first book, she was very green in terms of being a Sentinel, but now, three years later, she’s starting to come into her own.  She still needs to look things up in her magical tomes and bemoans not knowing enough, but she’s developing a stronger sense of self as Sentinel which makes her a wonderful character to watch develop.



I wasn’t too big of an Alex fan in ROYAL STREET.  I preferred Jake’s easygoing nature and warmth.  But Johnson really flipped the switch on me in RIVER ROAD.  With three years gone by, Alex and DJ have developed a comfortable but layered friendship.  Preserving a working relationship keeps the chemistry to a platonic distance.  And that chemistry is undeniable.  Alex admirably holds his obvious feelings for DJ at bay while his cousin, Jake, recommences his romantic overtures towards her.   Awkward?  You bet.  By the end of the book, I was team Alex all the way and was practically yelling at him to make a move.  What makes this romantic triangle work is its slow development.  DJ has a lot to figure out and Johnson is giving her heroine the time and space to do just that.  It’s going to make the resolution of this romantic conflict all the sweeter because of it.  Oh, and let’s not forget the sexy dead pirate, Jean Lafitte, who also has his eyes set on DJ.  With him in the mix, anything can happen.



RIVER ROAD has a very well-drawn procedural feel to it as well.  Someone is polluting the waters of the Mississippi and it’s up to DJ to figure out the culprit before two clans of mermen go to war and innocent lives are lost.  DJ has her investigator hat on and works through theories and possible magical stopgaps as she slowly makes her way to the final solution.  Walking with her through her investigative steps was fun and suspenseful; it also provided a great backdrop in which to add more to the overall word-building of the series through the introduction of mermen and nymphs, and all the baggage they bring to the politics and history of the supernatural world.



This is still one of the major strengths of this series.  Johnson really excels at creating a layered supernatural world full of magic, power, and politics.  The idea of the historical undead – the continued existence of past historical figures whose immortality is fueled off the collective memory humanity still holds for them – is still one of the most original ideas I’ve seen in a UF.  Johnson adds to this world by bringing the fae to the forefront towards the end of the book.  This is obviously where the next in the series is heading as DJ’s staff and bloodline have brought her to the attention of the effectively frightening fae.  I’m intrigued by where RIVER ROAD leaves us in terms of this storyline.  I have a feeling DJ is going to be pushed beyond her boundaries in the next book.



In some books, the city in which the story takes place can often be just a backdrop and easily replaced by any other city in the world.  Not so with the Sentinels series.  New Orleans is a character in and of itself.  While Katrina played a major role in the first book, its aftermath plays an equally important role in this book.  The city is rebuilding, dealing with neighborhoods that haven’t been able to bounce back and people who’ve decided not to rebuild.  Furthermore, the magical pollution of the Mississippi was also a timely reminder of troubles in the non-fictional Gulf region.  And it’s this reminder that keeps the story of mermen, wizards, dead pirates, shapeshifters, and all the magical mayhem and excitement of DJ’s world, grounded and relevant to our own in a very thoughtful way.


I finished RIVER ROAD in the wee hours of the morning and my first thought was, “Damn, this was good.”  Honestly, if you’re looking for a strong UF series with a very relatable and likeable heroine, a unique world and well-developed magic system, then you would do well to pick up RIVER ROAD and it’s predecessor, ROYAL STREET.  Hands down, RIVER ROAD was one of my favorite books last year.  Read it.  Now.



My Soulmate. May not be perfect, but it’s perfect for me.



About the Author

Suzanne Johnson is the author of a new urban fantasy series beginning with ROYAL STREET and RIVER ROAD, both coming in 2012 from Tor Books, and ELYSIAN FIELDS, coming in 2013, also from Tor. A longtime New Orleans resident now living in Auburn, Alabama, Suzanne is a veteran journalist with more than fifty national awards in writing and editing nonfiction. She is a graduate of the University of Alabama, and a native of Winfield, Alabama.

During her daytime job, Suzanne is associate editor of Auburn Magazine, the quarterly magazine of the Auburn University Alumni Association. She has also worked at Tulane University in New Orleans, the University of San Diego, Rice University in Houston, and at the University of Illinois. Awards include: the Robert S. Sibley Award for the best university magazine in the U.S. and Canada, for the Rice University Sallyport; feature writing awards in 2009 and 2010 from Writer’s Digest magazine; and more than 50 awards in writing and editing from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education.

Suzanne is an active member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, and is a member of the Georgia, Southern Magic, and Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal chapters of RWA.


Please visit SUZANNE at her favorite spots:


11 Responses to “Review – RIVER ROAD by Suzanne Johnson”

  1. Opal

    This sounds so good. Suzanne Johnson is one of my Women of Genre Fiction authors. I cant wait to get to her.

    I really like the new format you have for doing reviews. It’s very clean!

    • shewolfreads

      Opal, I think you’ll like this series. I really liked Royal Street – it’s a great start. River Road…so good. Fantastic follow-up.

  2. Timitra

    I got my copy of Royal Street last week, now I’m impatiently waiting for River Road to get here so I can read them one after the other!

  3. Braine

    I tel so guilty because I have book 1 and still haven’t gone beyond 11% and that was a year ago. I’m not sure what happened but at that time, I was probably in one of my mercurial moods, and I didn’t fell in love with it. I think I chose Downside over reading his. But since I’m in a PNR/UF kick, I should give it another whirl. Hopefully I will like it this time around

    • shewolfreads

      Braine, read it! It’s great UF. Really interesting magic system and supernatural politics; the focus is really on wizards so no vampires (I know you aren’t into them!); DJ is funny and smart. You’ll like it. You must read River Road!

  4. fishgirl182 @ nite lite

    not another love triangle! i feel sorry for poor alex already. haha but really, this sounds like a really good series. i do like a slow build up. it’s more fun when it’s not insta-love and things have time to develop. i am definitely going to pick this series up soon. thanks for the review!