Monday, September 2, 2013

Review: The Shambling Guide to NYC (Mur Lafferty)

The Shambling Guide to New York City
Title: The Shambling Guide to New York City
Series: The Shambling Guides, Book 1
Author: Mur Lafferty
Publisher: Orbit
Release Date: May 23, 2013
Genre: Adult Paranormal Contemporary
Told: 3rd Person Singular (Zoe), Past Tense
Content Rating: Adult (strong continuous language, graphic sexual situations and innuendo, violence, zombie attacks, monsters feeding)
Movie Rating Comparison: R for strong language, sex, and violence
Format Read: Paperback (Library)
Find It On: Goodreads

A travel writer takes a job with a shady publishing company in New York, only to find that she must write a guide to the city - for the undead!

Because of the disaster that was her last job, Zoe is searching for a fresh start as a travel book editor in the tourist-centric New York City. After stumbling across a seemingly perfect position though, Zoe is blocked at every turn because of the one thing she can't take off her resume --- human.

Not to be put off by anything -- especially not her blood drinking boss or death goddess coworker -- Zoe delves deep into the monster world. But her job turns deadly when the careful balance between human and monsters starts to crumble -- with Zoe right in the middle.

*          *          *

Three Words: Monsters. Playful. Explicit.

Writing: Laid back and engaging. The Shambling Guide excerpts were fun and informative.

Setting: Normal New York City, but with a coterie minority living among us - vampires, fae, zombies, demons, gods, zoëists, sprites, etc. It was nicely interwoven, and the alternate explanations for landmarks were a lot of fun.

Story: Easy and interesting, but had its problems. It seemed longer than it needed to be - short scenes of everyday goings-on cluttered the beginning, and the end battle scenes were drawn out as every step was thoroughly described. The book had a lighter feel with a narrator like Zoe, but her nonchalance about the whole situation held back the tense bits of the story. The buildup to the climax and the climax itself just weren't very intense - it was actually very anticlimactic, really.

The concept of a travel guide for monsters (excuse me, coterie) was definitely interesting, but there was very little of it in the book, so I was rather disappointed. If I'd wanted a story about a girl who fights monsters and saves the world, I could've easily looked elsewhere (and found many with less language and sex). I wanted some originality with this one, and I really didn't find enough.

Characters: I typically love Zoe's type of character - shocked and unbelieving at first about monsters among us, then learns to accept it quickly and moves on. But instead of rendering the story unto satire like the semi-comedy that it was (i.e. "Dude with a tail and horns? You mean that dude with a tail and horns, in the plaid suit? Nope, don't see him."), it became simple indifference ("Dude with a tail and horns? Whatever.") And indifference can be boring. I would've liked to see her fight against her situation a little, to add some much-needed tension. All that aside, Zoe was an interesting-enough character to follow, I guess, but I wasn't particularly impressed with her.

The employees of Underground Publishing were intriguing and diverse, but their names were so simple that I constantly got them mixed up - even the important ones (John, Morgen, Gwen, Phil - they're monsters, for heaven's sake, unique names would be okay!). As individuals, though (the important ones, anyway), they were interesting and different - Morgen the water sprite was probably my favorite, and Gwen, death goddess heralded by sparrows, was definitely cool. John the incubus gave me the creeps, as he should've, and Phil the vampire boss was good at what he did.

Romantic Relationships: As with a series of this type, there were several possible people for Zoe to sleep with (not fall in love with, but sleep with - which is, unfortunately, the creed of most modern adult novels). These included an incubus, a coterie hunter, and, in my opinion, her vampire boss. She sort of ends up with one of them at the end, but there is no doubt in my mind there's still a possibility for the other two in later books.

Content/Personal Note: I have a weak stomach for graphic sex and a lot of language - this is one of the reasons I stick mainly to Young Adult (and cleaner YA at that). But I was doing all right with this book...until Chapter 14. They go to a 'bus bondage club, graphic sex ensues (which I tried to skip over without much success), and my excitement for the book turned queasy. This tainted my opinion of the book from then on, but overall I tried to be very objective with this review.

Conclusion: I had high hopes for this book, but it didn't quite live up to my expectations. Although I am interested to see where the series goes, I doubt I will continue it for fear of the sex and language to come.

Scribble Rating
3 of 5 Scribbles

1 comment:

  1. Maybe I'll give this one a miss. Cool review, thanks! :-)