With the quantity of bad paranormal fiction books in the young adult, romance, urban fantasy, and general fiction spaces, I had begun to lose hope that anything original, substantial, or entertaining could still be eeked out of the relentlessly picked over tropes, stereotypes, and plots of the genre. Mur Lafferty, however, challenged me to rethink this sense of despair.
A work of urban fantasy with a paranormal twist, The Shambling Guide to New York City earns extra kudos, first, for its highly original yet deceptively simple premise. Down on her luck travel editor Zoe migrates to New York City desperate for a job. She stumbles upon a mysterious start-up travel guide company called Underground Publishing, where she wrestles her way into a position as managing editor.
Underground Publishing, however, caters to a select clientele. The owner, an ancient vampire, aims to publish the first set of travel guides crafted specifically to meet the needs of the supernatural set, a population still hiding in plain sight.
As one of the lone humans in this wild wild west of supernatural “coterie,” Zoe finds herself gripped with an almost anthropological curiosity and a gnawing sense of her own shortened life expectancy. Still, both Zoe and the reader can not help but be drawn to the fascinating worlds of the modernized supernatural subcultures that Lafferty slowly unveils in their increasing complexity.
From alternate histories of some of New York’s most famous monuments to favorite restaurants and hangouts frequented by zombies, succubi, vampires, werewolves, and more, Lafferty weaves a world that is both intriguingly foreign and at the same time conceivable in a what-if-the-supernatural-really-did-walk-among-us sort of way.
A strong but flawed heroine and a cast of likeable, equally empowered female sidekicks give The Shambling Guide to New York City the edge missing from many other paranormally-oriented books. Add in a well-timed dose of adventure, a humorous, rollicksome authorial voice, and a solid cliff hanger and you have the recipe for Lafferty’s smashing debut in the traditional publishing world.
I await The Shambling Guide to New Orleans with great anticipation. The Shambling Guide to New York City is a fantastic summer read–fun, light, and witty–that could be savored any time of year.