Augustine lives the perfect life in the Haven city of New Orleans. He rarely works a real job, spends most of his nights with a different human woman, and resides in a spectacular Garden District mansion paid for by retired movie star Olivia Goodwin, who has come to think of him as an adopted son, providing him room and board and whatever else he needs.
But when Augustine returns home to find Olivia’s been attacked by vampires, he knows his idyllic life has comes to an end. It’s time for revenge—and to take up the mantle of the city’s Guardian (Goodreads)
Finding a really good Urban Fantasy book can be like trying to find the Holy Grail. So when I find a hidden gem, I feel that little bit of joy and excitement come rushing back to me. House of the Rising Sun by Kristen Painter is one such book, as it has reignited all the things that I love about this genre.
Painter has crafted a book that pulls you into the world immediately, meshing what we know about our world, while mixing it up with her own lore. Vampires, fey and witches are present in our world, or more specifically New Orleans. At present, the Fey seem to be the ones who are the governing body, though they are in an uneasy alliance with the local Coven. This fragile peace, due to a murky history between the two species is put to the test when it appears that a witch has been helping Vampires move undetected through the city. In their wake there is death and destruction, which just isn’t good for the tourist trade.
Enter Augustine, a recently returned fey from a self-imposed sabbatical due to breaking the Fey laws by taking a human into one of the Fey planes. After only one day back, Augustine manages to plough head first into this confrontation, by getting into a fight with the local nest of vamps. He knows that this will come back and haunt him, but the way in which it does has far reaching repercussions, not just for him, but for those around him.
With the need to find vengeance for what the nest of vamps has done, Augustine takes the recently vacated job of Guardian of New Orleans. Just like it suggests, this job involves Augustine protecting all inhabitants of the city from any evil forces. It kind of comes across like being the Slayer in Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire series world. The expectation of a long life is one you shouldn’t have, since the gig is very dangerous. Augustine isn’t under any illusions, but his need for justice and vengeance outweighs the risk and so the book takes a slight twist with it becoming more of a mystery.
As each chapter unfolds, the plot thickens with who is behind this scheme. Painter never tells you outright who is behind the Vampires coming to New Orleans. Hints of who it could be are scattered throughout the book, but even by the closing chapter I wasn’t completely convinced on the person who was hinted at being most likely the culprit. It is clear that this is the beginning of a series of books and although this is the first in the series, you are given enough closure with the eradication of the nest of vamps, you are teased with many unanswered questions. It left me wanting to find out more about what is going to happen in this world. The last time I really felt like this with an urban fantasy book has to be with Kim Harrison’s Hollows series.
Like any book, you can have a brilliant plot, but if you don’t have the characters to back it up, then you are left disappointed. As you can tell from above, Augustine is one of the main, if not the main character in the book. From the opening flashback, I instantly fell for him and was invested in his story from the get go. As we find out, he has such a tragic backstory, with a mother convinced that he is evil. This could have taken him down the path of villainy, had it not been for a kindly Fey film star named Olivia who took him in and helped him get on the right path. Yes, he still has those dark moments, but his love and affection for Olivia has helped him keep on the straight and narrow. (Well, mostly except for his love of the ladies).
Augustine has an interesting arc in the book and this responsibility of becoming Guardian really does show a new side to the cocky male. Yet, he still has a weakness which comes in the form of Olivia’s estranged daughter Harlow.
Although Harlow comes across as lead female character in the book, I found it difficult to really warm up to her. Yes, it is clear that both she and Augustine has a sexual attraction between them and I do expect this to be further explored in the later books, I just couldn’t seem to empathise with her for much of the book. Yes, I did feel sorry that she wanted to find out who her father was, yet her mother refused to tell her, but I just didn’t become invested in her arc, unlike Augustine or Giselle’s, the daughter of the Leader of the local Coven. Maybe, this will change as the series goes on, but right now her story is one that I am least invested in.
Meanwhile, I can’t wait to see what happens with Giselle. Though she is a side character, I found her arc to be intriguing. Her desire for the Witches to take back control of New Orleans from the Fey, appears to have clouded her judgement. She has inadvertently been drawn into this plot. Her choices and actions, in an attempt to hide this involvement will no doubt have serious repercussions. The one I am most interested in finding out about has to be the deal she has made with local Voodoo High Priest. I like Giselle and, maybe controversially, I found her more interesting than Harlow. I will be following her story with great interest in the next instalments
House of the Rising Sun is everything you really could want in Urban Fantasy. Painter has crafted a book that hooks you from the beginning, painting a world that you can easily picture. The plot sucks you in with so many plot twists and red herrings that you are still unsure who is behind all this by the last page.
This looks like it could be the series that the Sookie Stackhouse series wishes it was. Just from the first book, we have a good mixture of romance, mystery and the paranormal to give you a highly enjoyable read that still leaves you wanting more. So if you enjoyed The Hallows Series by Kim Harrison, The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher or The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne, I highly recommend making this your next read.
BOOKS IN SERIES ORDER
1 House of the Rising Sun
2 City of Eternal Night