The Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty

The Shambling Guide to New York City (The Shambling Guides)
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(Description nicked from B&

“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.”

Lafferty describes one of her biggest influences as the late Douglas Adams, and I think her love of his writing shows through.  This novel is quirky and fun, with a sly sense of humor that oftentimes catches you unaware.  Even in the midst of action sequences or moments of tension, little nuggets of humor slip into the narrative and surprise you into a giggle.

I liked seeing some different supernatural species than the ones we’ve all come to expect as “usual”.  Of course, there’s a vampire and some zombies, but there are some creatures not so common in fantasy fiction.  My favorite was the death goddess, who is constantly followed around by birds and who is nonetheless one of the friendlier people in the novel.  I also found the zoetists interesting, as it’s a nod to the Frankenstein mythos without actually taking it in that direction.  Zoetists give life, and they aren’t confined to simply dead bodies.

Despite all the great characters, I think that Lafferty is strongest at worldbuilding.  She’s put a lot of thought into creating ways that the supernatural people (or “coterie”, as they call themselves) can co-exist with humans in a large city.  In fact, large cities are the prime setting for them, as they can more easily blend in with crowds.  The author has also given coterie a connection to local government by having them overseen by the always-present Public Works department.  There are agreements between the groups and methods of policing and surveillance, all of which suggests a long-standing relationship that I hope the author continues to explore.

This is a novel that balances its humor with its action and comes up with a thoroughly entertaining story.  The Shambling Guide to New York City should bring Mur Lafferty to the attention of urban fantasy readers that want something beyond the normal fare.

This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on June 10, 2013.

Series: The Shambling Guides
ISBN: 9780316221177
Publisher: Orbit
Page Count: 368
Publication Date: May 28, 2013
Acquired: Provided by the publisher as an e-ARC through NetGalley
Author Website
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