Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger. ★★★
In hindsight, an urban fantasy novel where alcoholic beverages give you magical powers probably works better for someone who actually drinks alcohol. However, I don’t think this books is worth coming back to, even after I turn twenty-one.
Bailey Chen is a recent college grad who’s still living with her parents and struggling to find a job. As a stopgap measure, she’s working at the same bar as an old high school friend. One night, a cabinet in the bar gets left unlocked and Bailey makes herself a cocktail… and then defeats a strange monster with super strength powers. Turns out that mixology can give you magic powers and that bartenders protect the human race from monsters.
Going into Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge, I thought the premise was unique. I still think it’s unique, but it ended up feeling silly as well. Books with silly premises can still be good, but it usually requires the proper tone. They’ve got to embrace the ridiculousness of their premise and run with it. While Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge had some humorous moments, it too often took itself seriously. I’d rather it have gone all the way.
Possibly some of my problems with the book are also due to it being New Adult. I’ve never got much of a handle on this subgenre and tend to prefer books that are either Adult or Young Adult. In this respect it reminded me of reading Sarah Khan’s Heroine Complex. The primary characters felt more like they were in high school than their early twenties, which ended up being another problem with this book’s tone.
The romantic subplot didn’t work for me at all. Bailey’s old high school friend and hook up Zane is the one who introduces her to the magical world of barkeeping. I have no idea what she saw in him, but she was clearly obsessed with him. Also he had a girlfriend and she really needed to back off. I ended up sympathizing with Zane’s girlfriend more than anyone else in this whole pseudo love triangle.
I did appreciate how diverse the cast was, although I think our protagonist being an over achieving student type and Chinese falls into the realm of cliche. The supporting cast was more successful. I loved Vincient, the aging gay, blind, and totally badass barkeeper. Bucket, a transgender guy who’s intensely Canadian, was probably my favorite of the younger characters. To be honest, I would have been more down with him being the love interest than Zane. At least Bucket wasn’t a jerk.
But if nothing else, at least Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge was an easy read. It made a good palette cleanser from the dense epic fantasy novel I’ve been wading through, and I don’t regret reading it. I can see someone with different tastes in books than me enjoying it more, but I won’t be recommending this one.