The Shambling Guide to
New York City
I came really, really close to giving this book a four star rating because it was really, really good. At first, I was not sure if I was going to like it because I tend to avoid most Urban Fantasy series in general. They just have a tendency to get too romance heavy and never in a good way. I’m okay with romantic plots but the ones in Urban Fantasy novels just have a tendency to come off a bit heavy, be way too sexual right away, and it distracts from whatever story they are trying to tell.
Which is why I thought The Shambling Guide to New York City was pretty much the perfect departure from the norm. Yeah, sure, there are the very sexually active vampires, incubi, and succubi. But our heroine Zoe wants absolutely nothing to do with romance or sex or anything. It’s gotten her into plenty of trouble and she’d like to avoid it for a while if she can. See, Zoe is a travel book editor and a very good one at that. But after an affair with her boss (her married boss) she wound leaving her old, pretty awesome job and found herself looking for another one. Que the Shambling Guide to New York City. Just by chance she sees an advertisement for a book editing job working on a very… unique guide to New York City. Everyone keeps telling her that it’s not her kind of job and that she never should have seen the advertisement in the first place. But as a spunky, bad ass early thirties heroine, Zoe isn’t taking that kind of sass.
Though, maybe she should have. Because suddenly, in just a day, her world changes completely. The guy she forces to give her an interview for the book? He’s a vampire. Her co-workers? Zombies, vampires, and death goddesses among other things. Zoe goes from just a regular editor to suddenly realizing that the undead and supernatural? They’ve been living all around her without her – or the rest of the human world – being any the wiser. What I love about Zoe, though, is that she doesn’t jump right in and act all, ‘OMG THIS IS AWESOME’ or turn and run away. She takes it all in, processes it, and then just sort of accepts that in this economy a job is a job and damn it she’s not going to be scared away by the fact that the things that go bump in the night are real.
Honestly, I kind of loved the world that Zoe found herself suddenly immersed in. And I LOVED the venue through which we got to learn about it. We sort of learned along with Zoe as she went about trying to prep herself so she could write this pretty awesome book which would cater towards the needs of clients she really hadn’t even thought about before. The Shambling Guide to New York City packs in a lot of stuff in a short period of time. While she may be new to this whole world of the supernatural, she pretty quickly finds herself at the cent of a lot of pretty peculiar activity. She finds this old ninja lady looking after her, is shocked to find a familiar face popping up unexpectedly, sorta kinda flirts with the cute neighbor, and in the end finds herself facing an old nemesis that she never would have even thought capable of the things she winds up doing.
It’s crazy how much happens and how naturally it all flows from one point to another. Zoe really comes into her own and makes a place for herself in this whole crazy world, too, which is fantastic. She never just runs away from the issues. She powers through. Even with those issues could, you know, kill her. Very easily.
There were some really great characters in this book, too. Besides Zoe – who is basically the best female urban fantasy main character I’ve come across in a long time – I really thought Granny Good Mae was pretty cool. I also liked a lot of Zoe’s co-workers though not really John. Paul was cool. I’ll be honest, some of the secondary characters were a bit ‘meh’ and forgettable but for the most part they were all pretty cool and well developed. Like, Ben! He was actually really cool as a ‘zoetist’ who creates gollems and what not. The author just does a really great job of working in characters, species, and everything and making it all mesh together.
And I’m totally shipping Zoe and Arthur forever, by the way. Just because I really need to say that.
Also, I think one of my favorite parts of the whole book was Public Works. The paranormal/supernatural underground is often actually underground and who better to deal with it all than the sewer workers and blue collar folks who never seem out of place in a city like New York? I thought that was incredibly clever. I also liked that Public Works served as a well known, official sort of regulatory body. Too often in these sorts of stories there are a lot of just random hunters or there are shadowy organizations that, honestly, I just can’t see managing to keep the peace on their own in modern, urban areas. Public Works, though, makes sense. Really, I just thought it was cool. I’d totally join Public Works.
So, the real problem I had with this book? My eARC copy was terribly formatted. It was hard to read it because of how bad the formatting was with big gaps between sentences and random spacing issues. Also, the excerpts from the actual Guide at the beginning of the chapters? Totally unreadable. For whatever reason the formatting melded together paragraphs so one sentence would be from one paragraph, the next from the other. It was impossible to figure out exactly what they were saying. So that was a big disappointment because I think that would cool to read. I’m going to have to track down an actual print copy at the Tempe library at some point because I really want to get the full experience! Hopefully the actual eBook versions that went on sale didn’t have these problems.
Get this book and read it! Don’t think that it’s just your usual sort of urban fantasy, romance fanfare because it’s not. It’s sort of paranormal chick lit at it’s best in my opinion. Zoe is a real, hardworking, relatable heroine who I think embodies the best in most people. She makes mistakes, she knows she makes mistakes, and she deals with them the way anyone would deal with them. The story is awesome, the premise is great. Really, this is a solid book that I think most people will enjoy. Well, female fantasy fans anyway. I’m just saying, Zoe and Arthur? Adorable. Shipping it so hard.