I think we can all agree that cocktails are a good thing, right? Tasty booze plus comedy names plus an element of craftsmanship equals a fun night of drinking. I’ve certainly had good times with cocktail parties and cocktail inventing bar crawls, one of which ended in my losing a whole city.
But that’s a story for another time. For now, let’s look at a story about magical cocktails – Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger.
This is a fun urban fantasy book whose central premise is that bartenders have two jobs – providing tasty booze and protecting the world from dark forces bent on devouring humans like so many tequila slammers at happy hour. Correctly mixed cocktails can give the drinker temporary superpowers, with their effect depending on the drink. Would sir like ice and telekinesis with that?
Krueger is working well within the comfort zone of modern urban fantasy, and the story openly reflects its antecedents. We’ve got the Chicago setting of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files. We’ve got the smart young graduate stumbling across the supernatural while looking for a career, like in Mur Lafferty’s Shambling Guides. We’ve got Scott Pilgrim style oddball fights. And of course we’ve got references to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the urban fantasy show people who’ve never heard of urban fantasy rave about.
The result is like drinking a long island ice tea made in a high-class bar – it’s enjoyable, it’s well crafted, but it’s not going to surprise you. It’s a fun, frothy book that avoids taking itself or its likeable characters too seriously. Those characters are nicely brought to life and include a good mix of gender, ethnicity and sexuality without making that an issue.
I was wary of this one at first, not sure Krueger had successfully combined the mundane and supernatural elements. But in the end, clear action and fun characterisation won through. It was the perfect palette cleanser after Kim Stanley Robinson’s bleakly substantial Aurora. If you’re looking for something fun, I totally recommend this.
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Disclaimer: I got this book for free after being contacted by its publicist. The opinion above is still my real opinion – as I’ve said before, if I don’t like something I’ll usually just shut up about it.