I have seen Orbit Books marketing this book since before it got published last year, but I never got around to reading it until now. Thankfully, I’ve put it on my 25 reads list, so I was eventually going to get through it this year if nothing else!
The Shambling Guide to New York City
by Mur Lafferty
Orbit Books, 2013
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.
WHAT I LOVED ABOUT THE SHAMBLING GUIDE
The cover. It’s a pretty cartoonish cover, one that I usually see in those lighthearted modern romances for adults. So it was cool to find it in an urban fantasy that’s mostly about monsters (or “coterie” for the more polite term) and less about sex (though with incubi around, it’s kind of hard to avoid sex altogether…).
The gay incubus. Let me backtrack a bit here. Incubi–for those unaware–are male sex demons that prey on women. So imagine my glee when an incubus outright flirts with men and doesn’t feed on sex at all, but on the love men–and women–have for his baked goods. Apparently he also makes kickass Danishes. I’d totally be his bestie.
The shamblers. And I mean zombies in this regard. I don’t know how Lafferty did it, but while I’m reading about some of her zombie characters, I’m just thinking how adorable they are. How on earth could anyone find rotting corpses adorable? They’re not attractive, and I sure as hell hope they’re not meant to be romantic interests later on (just…ew), but I actually liked the zombies on-staff at Underground Publishing.
Zoe’s inner thought processes. The beginning chapters gave me lots to laugh over, because Zoe’s quite a character when she’s thinking to herself. It was doubly funny to see her struggle mentally over working in a company of coterie, but hey, occupational hazard and all.
The city. ‘Cause, duh, New York, New York. The opening chapters made me relate to Zoe’s love for cities, particularly the one she’s in, because I adore NYC, and reading speculative fiction of coterie living within the city is kind of neat!
MY LOVE/HATE RELATIONSHIP WITH THE SHAMBLING GUIDE
The shambling excerpts. On the one hand, I loved reading the short snippets from Underground Publishing’s Shambling series because they fleshed out the places and history of the coterie in NYC. But at the same time, I thought some of the excerpts were a bit disjointed and didn’t make much sense in between certain chapters. Also, a couple of them kept referring to the ending scenes of the book, which I thought was a bit overkill.
Zoe. Not gonna lie, Zoe kind of annoyed me. She was often reckless for no reason at all, and there were times where this recklessness wasn’t even necessary in plot or character progression. Other times I admired and respected her reactions in certain situations, especially since she’s thrown into a pit of batshit crazy.
WHAT I DID NOT LOVE ABOUT THE SHAMBLING GUIDE
The forced coincidences. There was a lot of that happening in the book. I find it hard to believe that it just so happens Zoe moves into the city and just so happens to walk into a coterie bookshop where she finds a job posting of Underground Publishing just as the head of the company is putting up flyers. Sure, I can certainly chalk this up to a moment of serendipity, but the head of Underground Publishing makes it clear that Zoe’s not the type of “employee” he’s looking for. Yet somehow she manages to get the job because of her vast experience as a human managing editor. In a city filled with millions of people and probably thousands upon thousands of coterie, there doesn’t seem to be one single coterie member with any editorial background. What are the chances? And what about the humans who already know of the coterie? Surely there is someone in their ranks with the know-how and the experience that could very well fit Phil’s job requirements. The chances of this and the fact that Zoe somehow manages to be personally involved with the chaos about to occur in the city are, to put it in Phil’s words, “astronomical.” But enough of this rant. Moving on.
The romance. It was kind of boring at its best, and grating at its worst. Arthur was interesting for maybe one or two scenes, but he quickly turned to Mr. Bland by the second half of the book, so eh. At least the hungry incubus scenes brought a bit of interesting seduction in certain chapters.
The final action sequences. The last chapter or two were hard to follow. It was difficult to imagine what the golem sequences looked like, and even now it was still unclear to me how anything was resolved past the victory over the main antagonist.
So, I guess I liked the book because it was a fun and light romp into the imaginary coterie world of New York. I did, however, overestimate by how much I’d like it.
3 out of 5 Goodreads stars