Today I wanted to write a review of ‘The Shambling Guide to New York City’. I picked up this book on a whim from a jumble sale, and I really enjoyed it! I’d never heard of either the author or the novel, but I thought it was a really interesting read.
‘The Shambling Guide to New York’ is a book that’s hard to categorise, but I would call it lifestyle, mixed with fantasy- and sprinkled with a bit of romance. The book follows the life of Zoë, a woman who has just left Raleigh in search of a new start, and who wants to escape the scary wife of her boss. She finds her perfect job at the Underground Publishing Company, and she starts to help write and edit a travel guide for the company.
This may sound like a completely normal, if ‘typical’, lifestyle novel. However, when Zoë applies for the job, she is introduced to the ‘coterie’ world that operates in New York. The ‘coterie’ are basically ‘monsters’ such as vampires, goblins, and demons.
It turns out that the publishing company is run for the coterie world. The boss of this company, Phil, is actually a vampire- and various other ‘monsters’ work at the company already. Zoë sticks out like a sore thumb, and also appears to many of her co-workers as a source of food, rather than a fellow worker.
Despite being introduced to this weird and wonderful world, however, she still needs the job too much to turn down the offer, and therefore enters herself into a whole world of crazy goings-on. Her first idea is to write a travel guide for coterie (monsters) who come to New York, to be used much in the same way as human travel guides about New York.
However, she soon gets dragged into the conflict between the coterie and human world and this takes up more priority than the travel guide meaning, for the most part, her job as an editor is somewhat side-lined by the coterie/human conflict.
I enjoyed reading this novel, and I thought the mixture of fantasy and lifestyle was very interesting. It was one of those books that was impossible to put down, and so the fact that it kept me reading well into the night shows that it was a very engrossing book!
I really liked the parallels Lafferty drew between the human world the reader knows, and the world of the coterie. For example, after the 9/11 terror attack Muslim coterie were hunted, showing the parallels between the world Lafferty has created, and the real world.
I also really liked the details of this world that was created, and clearly a lot of thought had gone into this book.
For me, I thought the characters used in the novel were also great, and this made up for the fact that the plot itself wasn’t full of action. I thought Zoë’s character was brilliant as she was clearly very strong, but she was also human. She made mistakes, she judged people, and she recognised her own weaknesses.
I also loved the other characters in this novel: John, the incubus, who sucks sexual energy and plays a funny role within the novel; Morgen, the water sprite, who also adds a sense of comedy and lightness to the book; Phil, the sarcastic vampire, who is also clearly a rounded character, showing his distrusting attitude, but also his ability to give Zoë a chance; and Arthur, Zoë’s neighbour, who introduces an element of romance.
Other sub-characters such as Gwen- a death goddess- were also really interesting to read about. I just loved to immerse myself in the coterie side of New York that Lafferty created using her characters.
I would say that the only thing I wasn’t that keen on in the novel was the final ending. I found the big ending a bit confusing.
To me, Lafferty seemed to drag out the final scene, with the protagonists fighting against the villains, but then she didn’t go into much detail regarding the intricate details of this final plot ending, such as what a citytalker really is, or what happens to Granny Good Mae. I really didn’t like the way the novel left Morgen either, which was disappointing for me, as I really liked her character!
Overall, however, I really enjoyed reading this book, and I managed to finish it super fast. I thought the characterisation and creation of a detailed, exciting coterie world was brilliant, and each of the characters added something great to the novel, with each and every character appearing rounded.
What did you think of my review of ‘The Shambling Guide to New York City’? Would you consider giving this book again? Have you read anything by Mur Lafferty?
Let me know all your thoughts in the comments below 🙂
Happy reading x
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