8 June 2013

Review: The Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty

Zoe is out of a job after becoming involved with her married boss, and has returned to her home town. In a nice twist, said home town isn't Nowheresville but is New York City itself. Answering an advert she sees in a café, Zoe finds about a new job editing a city guide - a job for which she is eminently qualified. But this is a guide with a difference - it's aimed at visiting monsters - vampires, zombies, fey, minor deities. (But you mustn't call them "monsters", they are "coterie".)

Mur Lafferty spins this premise into an entertaining take on urban fantasy. The plot, once it begins, is actually paper thin - someone, or something, is coming to New York to do Bad Things and upset the balance between humans and coterie - but this doesn't matter much as the book is so entertaining. Also, it's the first in the series, so Lafferty is doing a great deal of setting up and an undemanding plot is probably fair enough. The setting up, by the way, is done very well. She's taken great pains to make the characters and their situation credible (there is a calculated balance between humans and coterie, not a zombie apocalypse; the interactions between Zoe and her colleagues are credible, up to and including the problems of having an incubus on the team; the "economics" of how coterie find their food without (generally) hunting down humans are done convincingly). The only flaw was that, perhaps, there are rather too many different types of coterie in Zoe's office and for a few chapters I had trouble remembering who was who.

A couple of loose threads are left to be developed in future, notably, what is the source of Zoe's ability to remain cool and collected in the face of coterie?

I'm looking forward to the next book, The Ghost Train to New Orleans.

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