Review: The Shambling Guide to New York City

shamble-589x786By Mur Lafferty

Orbit, out now

Zoe Norris needs a job, preferably that uses her writing skills. And she’s not going to be deflected from what seems like the perfect opportunity…

I’m always a little wary of fantasy/science fiction books which intersperse the narrative with excerpts from guides/histories etc. since it’s very rarely that they live up to the inevitable comparison with Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy. However, Mur Lafferty’s debut novel doesn’t just live up to that standard: it takes the idea and makes it work in a completely different way. There’s a lot of humour in her book, and the Guide entries sometimes compliment, sometimes foreshadow, and sometimes give a different perspective on events. Little details (such as the date this is all set) are hidden within their columns, so don’t be tempted to jump over them, believing – as far too often is the case – that they’re the result of self-indulgence by the author.

Not, it should be noted, that you’ll want to miss out any details when you’re reading this. Lafferty’s created a credible heroine in Zoe, who doesn’t just take everything in her stride. She’s not as strong as she wants to be – leading to one of the few well-written sex scenes in fantasy and SF I’ve read recently (Sarah Pinborough’s fairy tale series has the others if that’s what you’re after!) – and she makes mistakes.

Zoe encounters a New York where the coterie (the politer name for monsters) flourish, which explains an awful lot about some of the people you might meet there! Lafferty has established clear rules for the coterie and what they can and can’t do – which she then promptly pushes to the limits in the final battle sequences, which have a terrific Ghostbusters vibe to them (someone somewhere must have created the Golems in Photoshop by now!). Roll on New Orleans – and London?

Verdict: At times funny, touching, horrific and – most importantly for an urban fantasy – believable, this is the start of a terrific new series. Highly recommended. 9/10

Paul Simpson

Click here to order The Shambling Guide to New York City from


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