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The City of Lost Fortunes: A Crescent City Novel

Review

The City of Lost Fortunes: A Crescent City Novel

Here is a city that is trying to know itself. A city like a young god, flexing its powers, learning who comes to worship and the messy, bloody rites by which they choose to serve. A city with a history of violence, a living palimpsest of culture, a devastation, a celebration. A city that prays in many tongues, a city that preys upon those who don’t learn quick enough their own claims to magic, a city built of many tangled fortunes, intersecting.

Bryan Camp began writing THE CITY OF LOST FORTUNES in the back seat of his parents’ car as they evacuated during Hurricane Katrina. His love for New Orleans imbues every thread of this novel, which is a fierce and beautiful thing. Camp is trained as both a literary writer and a writer of speculative fiction, and he marries them beautifully in this strong debut.

Jude Dubuisson is half. Half white and half some form of brown or black, half human and half unknown, unnamed demi-god. Whoever his father was, he bestowed Jude with a special sort of power. He can find lost things. Any lost things. Which means he can sense lost things that belong to others as well, and not just a glove or set of car keys, but a lover, a sense of purpose. He can discern how fortunes bend to cause a loss, and he can maneuver their findings.

"The innovative plot is full of transformation and surprise. It constantly moves in fresh and unexpected directions, with all the marks of a great mystery embedded."

Or at least he could. Jude has laid low since Katrina. The hurricane caused a sensory overload for him, immeasurable and unthinkable losses that, due to his power, he could not help but measure and think about. For years, he has hidden from his power, from the deity that once employed him, and from his debt to the god of New Orleans’ fortunes. Now, though, he has been called back by an ex-partner who goes by Regal, with her own messy background. Regal delivers an invitation that brings Jude to a poker table played by gods and vampires, a macabre game where the stakes are as high as lives --- and not necessarily your own. All Jude wants to do is make it out of the game alive, but everything changes when the Dodge Renaud, the fortune god himself, is murdered at that very game. With the luck of New Orleans unfettered and up for grabs, Jude must undergo a wild and world-whirling quest to uncover the supernatural murderer, and save his city in the process.

Camp leans into the pastiche of New Orleans in crafting the supernatural elements of his Crescent City novel. He is a clear fan of many mythologies, as well as a number of established literary and genre authors, and homages interplay throughout his plot. Narratives and deities of vodou, Norse mythology, Greek mythology and Christianity intersect, with nods to other faiths. Jude’s journey brings him through dangers, torments and surprises that evoke many familiar stories, but Camp does an excellent job of tying them into a cohesive storyline.

There were moments I got a little muddled as to the motivations of the characters. Camp is doing so much in this novel, and working with so many narratives, that although I felt everything I needed was present, I got a bit lost. I appreciate his efforts in how he wrote his female characters, but I did feel like I lost their motivations a bit at times too. Also, as a reader of mixed race, I thought it was a little unbelievable that Jude wouldn’t be more conscious of his mixed, black or brown passing heritage moving through New Orleans --- a fact that at one point is dismissed as part of his powers, which didn’t quite sit right with me.

Overall, though, this is a striking debut that gives us much to love. The innovative plot is full of transformation and surprise. It constantly moves in fresh and unexpected directions, with all the marks of a great mystery embedded. It’s gritty, immersive, atmospheric and just a ton of fun. Camp can craft quite a good urban fantasy, and any fan of the genre, especially if they have a penchant for myth, will appreciate this well-woven tale. I look forward to reading the next of his Crescent City books.

Reviewed by Maya Gittelman on May 4, 2018

The City of Lost Fortunes: A Crescent City Novel
by Bryan Camp

  • Publication Date: April 17, 2018
  • Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Mystery, Supernatural
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • ISBN-10: 1328810798
  • ISBN-13: 9781328810793