Book Review: The Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty
Visiting a new city can be so hard. How do you know if a hotel is right for you? What are the must-see attractions? Which restaurants serve entrails and hedgehogs?
Fear not, Underground Publishing is here to help! In Mur Lafferty’s delightful The Shambling Guide to New York City, there’s another side to the city — and the about-to-be-published guide book covers it all.
Zoe Norris, travel book writer, has moved home to NYC after leaving her previous job in disgrace after a disastrous affair with her boss — who left out little details like being married when he seduced Zoe. Now unemployed, Zoe stumbles across an ad for a job opening with a new travel publishing company. Sounds perfect — except every time she tries to apply for the position, she’s told that she’s not right for the company. Indignant, Zoe pursues the job with even more determination (Hey, is this discrimination? What about Equal Employment Opportunity laws?), but gets a shocking awakening when she lands the job and learns the truth: Underground Publishing caters to the supernatural world, here known as “coterie” (watch out — the term “monsters” is considered highly offensive), and Zoe will be the only human employee.
Zoe’s coworkers are a veritable menagerie of coterie: Her boss Phil is a scary vampire, the writers are zombies (who are pretty great guys so long as they have a steady supply of brains), and then there’s the water sprite and the death goddess who become Zoe’s strongest allies at the office.
As Zoe navigates her new work life, it’s an eye-opening experience, to say the least. Coterie are all around, but most humans are too oblivious to see what’s right in front of them. And as if “normal” supernatural life wasn’t enough to take in, a new threat has emerged, and the zombies are getting a little… hungry.
Plus, Zoe’s next-door neighbor is awfully cute but seems to be keeping secrets, and unfortunately, has seen Zoe in some rather compromising conditions. (Important to note: The coterie workplace doesn’t have sexual harassment laws, so if your coworker is an incubus who makes you want to rip off your and/or his clothes whenever you’re in the same room, you’re pretty much on your own.)
Meanwhile, Zoe isn’t just the helpless (and potentially tasty) human that her boss and colleagues believe her to be, and with the help of a strangely agile homeless woman, she’s getting a crash course in defensive weaponry and learning to kick coterie butt… just in case.
The Shambling Guide to New York City follows Zoe through her initiation into the hidden world of coterie, with selections from the guidebook interspersed between chapters. The writing is light and tongue-in-cheek, with the ironic, hip attitude that signals a fun romp through urban fantasy.
Early on, I commented that “there is a fine line between funny and dumb, and the book I’m reading is teetering on the brink.” Fortunately, the plot takes off fairly quickly, and it’s easy to become engaged in Zoe’s crash-course in survival among the coterie.
“Um,” she said, cursing her awkwardness. She should have been smoother, but she had never before stood in a sewer, dirty and bloodied, covered in demon gore, and attempted a first kiss. She didn’t know the etiquette.
With breezy humor and plenty of action, The Shambling Guide to New York City is an engaging and entertaining romp. There’s some serious sexytime in the mix (remember that incubus I mentioned?), quippy repartee, and an amusing array of creatures, demons, Public Works employees (you’ll see), and all sorts of undead and the otherwise non-human.
In terms of tone and pacing, I was reminded most of Nicole Peeler’s Jane True series (which I adore). If you’re a fan of urban fantasy, and like the idea of a human rising to the occasion in a non-human world (and really getting her grrrl power on), check out The Shambling Guide.
Meanwhile, I’m all in… and really looking forward to getting my hands on the newly released book 2, The Ghost Train to New Orleans. More Zoe and the gang? Yes, please!
Title: The Shambling Guide to New York City
Author: Mur Lafferty
Publication date: 2013
Length: 350 pages
Genre: Urban fantasy