Zoe has moved back to New York City following a disastrous affair with her old boss. When she stumbles into a bookshop one day and sees an advert for a travel writer, she thinks she has found the perfect job. What she didn’t quite bank on was the particular type of client to which the travel books cater, the undead! Zoe tries her best to adapt to her new co-workers and the supernatural haunts they visit, but they aren’t very welcoming to humans. Still, if she can avoid becoming vampire food and save the city from a giant snake demon, it really is the perfect job for her…
‘The Shambling Guide To New York City’ is the first in a series of books by Mur Lafferty following main character Zoe as she prepares supernatural travel guides to different cities. Released in May 2013, this was a book I’d been looking forward to for some time and I have to say it completely lived up to my expectations.
Urban fantasy is usually fairly dark but humorous and more often than not contains a strong male protagonist. The few examples I’ve encountered with female leads sadly have a tendency to turn into erotic fiction far too quickly. **cough** Anita Blake **cough**. I have been waiting for a funny urban fantasy that has just a touch of girliness about it and that’s the niche where ‘The Shambling Guide To New York City’ fits.
Zoe is a pretty ordinary girl. She’s had a failed relationship and is trying to make a fresh start in a city she loves. She takes a job as a travel writer knowing she won’t fit in but determined to make a real effort nonetheless. I admire her perseverance and the cool way she copes with the new things she becomes exposed to as part of this new lifestyle. I also love the way she is totally grossed out by the foods her colleagues eat (brains? Yuck!) and has the decency to faint without turning into a quivering wreck afterwards. Healthy reactions, I’m sure you’ll agree.
It’s funny and dark, but not too dark. There might be a dash of romance and there’s definitely a whole range of supernatural beasties of both nice and nasty varieties. There’s a mad old woman who takes a strange interest in Zoe and there are plenty of zombies, vampires and necromancers to appeal to the traditionalists.
The plot is nothing spectacular but it’s enjoyable to follow through to the end and some of the action scenes are pretty impressive. The blend of urban life and fantasy is just about right and how the undead are kept separate to the humans is quite nicely explained. Ultimately though, it’s a travel guide. Throughout the book are snippets from the travel guide Zoe is writing and these are a really nice touch. They add a distinct style to the book and provide extra details in an inconspicuous way.
I loved ‘The Shambling Guide To New York City’ and I can’t wait to see how Zoe gets on in New Orleans for the next book in the series.
(pub: Orbit. 342 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-50190-1)