In this sharp and funny urban fantasy novel, booze is magic, demons are real, and millennial Bailey Chen joins a band of monster-fighting Chicago bartenders instead of finding a “real” post-college job.
Bailey Chen is fresh out of college with all the usual new-adult demons: no cash, no job offers, and an awkward relationship with Zane, the old friend she kinda-sorta hooked up with during high school.
But when Zane introduces Bailey to his monster-fighting bartender friends, her demons become a lot more literal. It turns out that evil creatures stalk the city streets after hours, and they can be hunted only with the help of magically mixed cocktails: vodka grants super-strength, whiskey offers the power of telekinesis, and rum lets its drinker fire blasts of elemental energy. But will all these powers be enough for Bailey to halt a mysterious rash of gruesome deaths? And what will she do when the safety of a “real world” job beckons?
This sharp and funny urban fantasy is perfect for fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, and grown-up readers of Harry Potter. Includes 14 recipes from a book of ancient cocktail lore.
Krueger's enjoyable light contemporary fantasy novel will satisfy fans of bars and bartenders. Bailey Chen is fresh out of business school, but she has no plan, so she's living with her parents in Chicago and working at a bar where her lifelong friend Zane with whom she shares emotional baggage that isn't quite in the past is a bartender. When Bailey kills an attacking demonic creature called a tremens, she learns that bartenders have a far deeper history than most people know, and that drinks mixed with a specific brand of booze can temporarily give her magic powers to fight the monsters. Nobody believes her when she notices supposedly impossible things the creatures are doing that could signal an oncoming tremen apocalypse, and some of those she trusts may be more dangerous to her than demons. The rare action scenes are brief but intense, but even a flood of tremens takes a backseat to Bailey fighting her way through the shadowy bartenders' world. The climax seems a little too easy, but the winning main characters and the occasional histories of the drinks provide plenty of fun.
Enticing and Intriguing
I would like to thank Quirk Books & NetGalley for a copy of this e-ARC to review. Though I received this ebook for free, that has no impact upon the honesty of my review.
Goodreads Teaser: "A sharp and funny urban fantasy for "new adults" about a secret society of bartenders who fight monsters with alcohol fueled magic.
College grad Bailey Chen has a few demons: no job, no parental support, and a rocky relationship with Zane, the only friend who's around when she moves back home. But when Zane introduces Bailey to his cadre of monster-fighting bartenders, her demons get a lot more literal. Like, soul-sucking hell-beast literal. Soon, it's up to Bailey and the ragtag band of magical mixologists to take on whatever—or whoever—is behind the mysterious rash of gruesome deaths in Chicago, and complete the lost recipes of an ancient tome of cocktail lore."
Bailey Chen is someone that any twenty-something can identify with on some level, regardless of how recent or distant that commonality may be. Many of us have suffered through that post-graduation confusion, the one that leads to the big questions. Questions like what do I want to do with my life? What can I actually do with a degree in fine arts or philosophy that will keep me fed and sheltered? So right there the book starts off on the right foot. Or is it the left foot in this case? Either way it starts off well.
Having majored in Business at UPenn, Bailey chose fairly well, for she's very analytical and detail oriented. These personality traits serves her well in the stop-gap job Zane helped her get as a barback at the Nightshade Lounge. Of course she may have forgotten to mention to Zane that she was only planning on working there until she could land a 'real' job. But until she could land that job, Bailey made an excellent barback, since she always anticipated bartenders needs before they happened. Though the Nightshade is shabby, it's comfortable and unpretentious. And in this case, like all other bars, it serves dual purposes; as a place for bartenders to serve their customers, and to secretly protect them at the same time.
I found the concept of alcohol fueled magic entertaining, and well thought-out. Once indoctrinated into this secret society Bailey is given a manual of all the drink recipes and powers each bestows, a manual she studies rigorously. The idea of such a manual may sound odd, and admittedly is rather odd, but it works in this case. Although she accepts the lifestyle rather quickly, it doesn't damage the flow of the story; if anything, her easy acceptance of the unexplainable helps lubricate the flow of the story. As do the other characters we meet. Bailey's childhood friend Zane plays multiple roles much to Bailey's stunned surprise, Bucket is pretty much a "what you see is what you get" kinda guy, and Mona is, well, Mona. Though there are certainly other players, I have to say one of my favorites is Vincent Long. Owner of the 'Long & Strong' bar, Vincent is a no nonsense, tell it like it is kinda guy. Ex-military and abrupt, he is a tough taskmaster. Yet gruff as he is, Vincent is an ideal transitional teacher for Bailey, helping her shed her ingrained collegiate teacher/student mentality and step into the real world.
Krueger does a good job of taking an outlandish concept and keeping it grounded in the minutiae of an unemployed recent college grad's life. The details of Bailey's presumed regular life help balance the insanity of this otherworldly situation she's stumbled into, and make the story that much more believable for us readers. Take Bailey's reaction to accidentally walking in on a situation between her parents. Her response is classic, following her first impulse and fleeing the scene while simultaneously struggling to repress any and all images or memories of the entire event. It was brilliant and just one example of how Krueger keeps the story grounded in the details of daily life, while still including monsters and magic as if it's all business as usual.
While I began this book with a healthy dose of skepticism, I soon found myself wanting to leap right into the fray with the rest of the team. I developed feelings for these characters, and my distant twenty-something-year-old self yearned to become a member of this valiant group of bartenders. And secretly, some small part of me wants to perfect the Long Island Iced Tea. To me, that's the mark of a darned good read!
The book’s quirky premise, that there is a magic to craft cocktails, along with its Chicago setting, intrigued me.
Some of the plotting choices, though, just seemed like the dumbest writing ever. Putting a distillery on the top two floors of the Sears Tower? (That, at least, he did get right. Nobody from Chitown would call that building anything else.)
I enjoyed the book, certainly; the plot is well propelled, and I found the digressions into magical cocktails and hidden knowledge a refreshing take on the old trope of books filled with knowledge dangerous to any person who might encounter it (Necrominicon, anyone?)
Ultimately, though, the book failed to gain my real liking. The plot was a little too predictable, and there were too many times that I found myself frustrated with the aforementioned plot choices.
Read it in a shady summer spot, with a Long Island Ice Tea. But pick it up at the library, instead of iBooks.