Having all the depth of a pavement puddle, my attention was caught by the intriguing title and enigmatic cover to this urban fantasy – would I enjoy it?
College grad Bailey Chen has a few demons: no job, no parental support, and a rocky relationship with Zane, the only friend who’s around when she moves back home. But when Zane introduces Bailey to his cadre of monster-fighting bartenders, her demons get a lot more literal. Like, soul-sucking hell-beast literal. Soon, it’s up to Bailey and the ragtag band of magical mixologists to take on whatever—or whoever—is behind the mysterious rash of gruesome deaths in Chicago, and complete the lost recipes of an ancient tome of cocktail lore.
I was a tad concerned that it would lurch into horror, but I needn’t have worried. There is nothing in this fast-paced, enjoyable paranormal adventure to keep me awake, apart from the fact that I didn’t want to put it down… The idea of using cocktails to focus and strengthen the inherent life magic running through the body is a really nifty one and Krueger uses it with deftness in this appealing story.
I enjoyed The Devil’s Water Dictionary, which is the almanac that demon-fighting bartenders use to mix up their magic elixirs, and extracts appear throughout the story. It gives recipes for a variety of cocktails, as well as potted histories of how these have been used in the past – think of the asides J.K. Rowling added about long-dead witches and wizards in the Harry Potter series. This is a more intense version. Did I skim any of these extracts? Yep, near the end, when the action was hotting up and I was keen to know what was happening to Bailey and her companions. But afterwards I flipped back to read those extracts again, because I enjoyed them.
One of the other main strengths of this story is Bailey Chen, the driven, geeky heroine who seems to have hit something of a dead end, when she is offered a job at the rundown Nightshade Lounge and stumbles upon what really goes on there. She is clever, courageous and good in a crisis, but she is also arrogant, judgemental, with poor people skills and I found her immensely appealing. She is supported by a cast of quirky characters, who are all rather eccentric and a convincing villain. I was also pleased to see that her parents turn out to be pleasant and make a real effort to try to help her do the right thing for her own happiness – in YA/New Adult books, I do get a tad fed up with authority figures being psychotically unpleasant.
In short, this is a thoroughly enjoyable romp, with plenty of action, appealing characters and a nicely original twist on the usual urban fantasy trope. If your taste runs to urban fantasy adventures that aren’t unduly gory or steamy, then consider tracking this one down – it will make an ideal summer read. The ebook arc copy of Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest opinion of the book.