Ghost Train to New Orleans by Mur Lafferty
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“Zoe Norris writes travel guides for the undead. And she’s good at it too — her new-found ability to talk to cities seems to help. After the success of The Sbambling Guide to New York City, Zoe and her team are sent to New Orleans to write the sequel.
Work isn’t all that brings Zoe to the Big Easy. The only person who can save her boyfriend from zombism is rumored to live in the city’s swamps, but Zoe’s out of her element in the wilderness. With her supernatural colleagues waiting to see her fail, and rumors of a new threat hunting city talkers, can Zoe stay alive long enough to finish her next book?”
The second book in the Shambling Guides series takes the time to expand on the world that we’ve been introduced to, taking readers out of New York and moving the action to New Orleans. I must admit, that’s a great city to use for this kind of novel, because the Big Easy has quite the reputation for ghosts and haunting and vampires and general creepiness. The book also expands on Zoe’s newfound talent as a citytalker, one that will probably be useful to her in the long run, but in this story it seems to get her into as much trouble as it gets her out of trouble.
And speaking of trouble, Zoe’s boyfriend (and burgeoning zombie) Arthur metamorphosed into something of an asshole in this book. While the author did a good job of explaining his motivations for his actions and making them believable, Arthur’s asshole-ish-ness is often communicated to Zoe by phone, and thus he’s not on stage enough for us for to see what’s driving him in this direction. I found myself kind of annoyed with him, and also feeling that perhaps the second novel in a series is too soon to throw that much relationship angst into the mix. In fact, it almost felt like Arthur was along on the New Orleans trip specifically to stir up drama. Certainly Zoe would have gotten to the same places and events without his snarkiness.
I found myself more drawn to the secondary characters, especially a new one named Eir, a former Valkyrie. She has healing powers, which give her a high when she uses them, so she can go from severe to loopy in nothing flat. I wasn’t as thrilled with Reynard, a fellow citytalker and master of not being around when the shit hits the fan. He came across as a little too enigmatic for me.
While I enjoyed this novel, I think Lafferty tried to mix in too much complexity for what the story was trying to accomplish. I would have enjoyed a more straightforward tale better, without the relationship drama that Arthur brought to the table. Ghost Train to New Orleans wasn’t quite as good as the first novel, but the worldbuilding is still developing and I’m hoping to see more of this series.