Monday, September 9, 2013

The Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty: Book Review

Last month I finished The Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty and I thought it was high time I did a review.  
Urban Fantasy is one of my favorite genres, and I was excited to find The Shambling Guide book. It struck me as something different.  UF tends to take itself way too serious at times.  I love finding quirky, tongue-in-cheek books to smooth out the dark and devious ones I so often read.   Lafferty’s book definitely did that for me.


The Hero of the story is a human, Zoe, who stumbles into the hidden world of monster (coterie) hidden among us. We get to follow her as she applies for a job to edit a travel guide for the coterie, and learns all about the world most normal people are unaware exists.   This helps transition the reader into the world Lafferty has created without it being too forced. 

High Points:

What I find most refreshing is that, while not without ‘skills’ of her own, Zoe isn’t a kiss ass ‘strong independent woman’.  She’s fairly normal; with a list of screw ups that has landed her back home in NYC.   I really appreciate this. Not only is the character relatable, she can be strong without having to be bad-assed.  I give Lafferty very high marks for this.
Nothing says: 'strong, independent woman' like a skin tight leather suit and high heels.
I also enjoyed the dialog.  Lafferty style is face pace and cheeky.  There were several places I laughed out loud. The story moved along at a nice pace and the characters were entertaining.
I would be amiss not to mention the ‘guide’ itself. The idea that and URBAN fantasy be centered on a series of guide books is genius!   Between chapters there are short excerpts from the Shambling Guidebook.  They made for fun and reveling asides between the narratives….

Low Points:

…however, near the end of the book I found the excerpt to be intrusive.  I wanted the story to move on and found the little asides slowed the pace.
Speaking of the end of the book, this is where things started to come apart.  The Big Ending revealed a villain that is a bit to inconvenient.   By the end of the book ALL the loose ends get tied up too neatly. (heck even Zoe commented about how tidy this was).  Outside of that the events were way too big to just be missed, and somehow they all get rationalized in the media.  I found that to be the hardest to swallow. I would have liked it more if the author used some of the standby tropes of the genre (mist or veils… the fog of the human mind to ‘forget’ the supernatural).
But as it stand, the humans are stupid and will buy what most media tells them…Okay, so maybe it’s not that farfetched.  Just saying!

picture credit: ~victormancuso


I really enjoyed the book and have plans to put the next guide (New Orleans) on my reading list.  While it has some issues, there’s nothing I couldn’t overlook, and I LOVED the premise.  I can’t wait to see where Lafferty take this!


On a side note: I listen to the audiobook.  It was narrated by the author herself, and while I’m usually weary of self-narrated titles (come on authors… you’re writers not actors, leave the narration to the professionals) I didn’t hesitate with Mur Lafferty.  Lafferty, geek girl, essayist, and longtime Podcaster, is well suited for the job. She’s been working with voice recordings for years, and I thought her narration was done well.  

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