Last Call at th Nightshade Lounge

Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge: A Novel - Paul Krueger

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley and Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.]

An original enough idea (powers granted through cocktails), although in the end the story didn't stray much into uncharted territory as far as “typical urban fantasy” goes.

Bailey, freshly graduated from Upenn, is struggling to find the career of her dreams. In the meantime, she's had to take a job as a barback at the Nightshade Lounge, where her old high school crush, Zane, is now working as well. Typical? Not so much, because after whipping herself a pretty wicked screwdriver, she suddenly finds herself embroiled into a world of demons stalking unsuspecting preys at night, and of hunters granted super powers through... cocktails.

So the basic idea is pretty fun, and I must say, much to my dismay, it made me feel wanting to try my hand at mixing cocktails, too. (Much to my dismay because, uh, it's pretty expensive. But that's a story for another day. ^^) And I say, “why not”? It has the rules of magic stamped over it, after all: you need to mix in precise, exact quantities, using very specific alcohol brewed in very specific ways, and since the users can't “imbibe” more than one sort of cocktails at a time, it doesn't advertise the idea of getting completely pissed either.

I also really liked the recipes after each chapter (well, almost each), mirroring pages from the “Devil's Water Dictionary” (kind of the novel's mixologist's book of magic recipes). I have no idea if they're accurate, but having a recipe + some background story after it, tied to the world-building, was neat.

On the other hand, speaking of world-building, I would've liked to see a few things more detailed. For instance, the tremens are attracted to people who've had one drink too many. OK. However, this was a bit too vague. Where are they coming from (parallel world, Hell...)? Is someone sending them? What was the Blackout exactly? Since this doesn't seem like a series so far, I'm not sure there'll be a way of finding out. And I do like my detailed world-building...

The other thing I don't liked much were the characters, as Bailey and a couple of others seemed rather... immature. Regularly enough, I thought they were teenagers, rather than people in their twenties (Bailey is 21-22). This didn't fit too well in my opinion with the sort of stylish tinge brought by cocktails (it's not cheap lager, come on, especially when another character – Zane – is described as wearing what I may call “bartender suits”).

Conclusion: not exactly convincing, nevertheless I did enjoy the story and atmosphere when it dealt with magic/powers and recipes. If this novel was a bit more polished, it could definitely shine.