3.9 20
by Alaya Dawn Johnson

Imagining vampires at the heart of the social struggles of 1920s, Moonshine blends a tempestuous romance with dramatic historical fiction, populated by a lively mythology inhabiting the gritty New York City streets

Zephyr Hollis is an underfed, overzealous social activist who teaches night school to the underprivileged of the Lower East Side

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Imagining vampires at the heart of the social struggles of 1920s, Moonshine blends a tempestuous romance with dramatic historical fiction, populated by a lively mythology inhabiting the gritty New York City streets

Zephyr Hollis is an underfed, overzealous social activist who teaches night school to the underprivileged of the Lower East Side. Strapped for cash, Zephyr agrees to help a student, the mysterious Amir, who proposes she use her charity worker cover to bring down a notorious vampire mob boss. What he doesn’t tell her is why. Soon enough she’s tutoring a child criminal with an angelic voice, dodging vampires high on a new blood-based street drug, and trying to determine the real reason behind Amir’s request—not to mention attempting to resist his dark, inhuman charm.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Moonshine is an utterly captivating novel, depicting a richly detailed 1920s alternative New York City inhabited by social activists, feminists…and Others—vampires, fairies, and the occasional, charming genie, as vampire-suffragette Miss Zephyr Hollis discovers. A fabulous entertainment."

—Ellen Datlow, multi award-winning editor

"I love Zephyr Hollis and the magical version of New York she lives in.  Johnson's new series is witty, fun, and stuffed with delicious tidbits of history and mythic lore."

-Terri Windling, award-winning author of THE ARMLESS MAIDEN

"I hope Zephyr Hollis's adventures have only begun. I want more!"

—Emma Bull, author of WAR FOR THE OAKS

“A rip roaring romp through a fascinating period in history and a thoroughly enjoyable read…a winner!” —Karen Chance, author of THE CASSANDRA PALMER SERIES

"A page-turning delight, with bicycles and enchanted blades, drug wars and settlement evening schools, romance and heartbreak. Move over, Buffy and Anita, and make room for Zephyr Hollis!"

—Sarah Smith, author of THE VANISHED CHILD

"In Alaya Johnson's gripping, fast moving story, historical accuracy smoothly blends with outrageous fantasy: Gangs of New York meets True Blood!"

—Rhys Bowen, author of A GILDED CAGE, the Molly Murphy Mystery Series

"Alaya Johnson has broken new ground with a book that combines a fascinating time in history with our favorite mythological creatures - vampires".

—Terri Persons, author of BLIND SPOT and BLIND RAGE

“Vampires and vamps; welcome to a Roaring ’20s New York where the undead go to night school, and speakeasies serve up the occasional bathtub djinn… a first novel to delight fans of Buffy and Harry Dresden." 

—Gregory Frost, author of SHADOWBRIDGE and LORD TOPHET

Publishers Weekly
Fans of Stephenie Meyer and Charlaine Harris will be engaged by this tale, the first in a series set in a parallel 1920s New York City. Zephyr Hollis, a demon-hunter's daughter, has an unusual immunity to the undead that keeps her safe while she teaches vampire night school and marches with the Family Action Committee for Nonhuman Laborers. Hardheaded and softhearted, she soon earns the nickname of “the vampire suffragette.” When an attractive djinn, Amir, asks Zephyr to help him take down Rinaldo, a vampire mob boss, she finds herself in an unlikely romance as she rushes to get information out of the notorious Turn Boys gang before her father kills them. The prose is generally solid, and Johnson's light, tongue-in-cheek approach makes it surprisingly easy to imagine supernatural creatures picketing Gentleman Jimmy Walker's City Hall. (May)
Library Journal
In the cold winter of 1920s New York, Zephyr Hollis struggles to survive, fighting to help the unfortunate as a teacher to new immigrants and a group of supernatural beings. When one of her students, Amir, asks her to find a supercriminal, she agrees, needing the cash and believing in the cause. But Amir has secrets, and as they discover a passion for each other, those secrets may be Zephyr's undoing. General fantasy readers may enjoy this debut, but those looking for a hard-core urban fantasy or paranormal romance will be disappointed. There are too many supernatural beings floating about with little explanation as to why and how they exist. VERDICT Despite these flaws, the character of Zephyr is well drawn and likable, and her relationship with Amir is funny and sexy, although the couple never gets beyond frustrated attempts at lovemaking. [Library marketing campaign.]—Jennifer Draper, Pickering P.L., Ont.
Kirkus Reviews
Good-hearted advocate of vampire rights negotiates the mean streets of 1920s Manhattan. Johnson (Racing The Dark, 2007, etc.) takes a break from speculative fiction for young adults in this first volume of a projected series that populates an alternate world with some colorful characters and clever ideas. The author imagines jazz-age New York as a city in which vampires and other supernatural denizens stalk the same streets as entertainers like Josephine Baker or the corrupt politicians of Tammany Hall. Our narrator is feisty Zephyr Hollis, daughter of a famous monster-hunter, who has reinvented herself in the city as a social organizer and teacher. Zephyr preaches tolerance of nonhumans but carries a silver switchblade to protect herself from the nightlife, despite a natural immunity to vampires. Among her interesting companions are ambitious tabloid reporter Lily Harding, progressive activist Iris Tomkins and, most dangerously, Amir the Djinn, a genie whose interest in Zephyr sums her up nicely. "You are a bit of a contradiction, aren't you?" he says. "A wholesome Montanan girl comes to the city, dabbles in demon hunting and then reinvents herself as a martyr to the poor and disenfranchised?" Before long Zephyr is tracking a newly turned vampire child and reluctantly helping Amir hunt down Rinaldo Sanguinetti, the vampire boss of Little Italy, whose gang of "Turn Boys" terrorizes the streets. Adding to the tension is a new phenomenon dubbed the "Faustian Nightmare," an onslaught of vampires addicted to a vicious new street drug. Johnson's lively narrative has some faults. Anachronistic contemporary language occasionally belies the '20s setting. Laurell K. Hamilton's books (IncubusDreams, 2004, etc.) are far racier, while Charlie Huston's Joe Pitt series (Half the Blood of Brooklyn, 2007, etc.) has more grit. Nevertheless, the inventive, reasonably well-researched setting and obvious historical parallels mostly work to the novel's advantage. A bit jumbled, but entertaining and potentially a good start for a series offering a different take on the undead craze.

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Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Zephyr Hollis Novels Series
Product dimensions:
8.30(w) x 5.56(h) x 0.76(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

I skidded on a patch of ice as I rounded the corner onto Lafayette Street, only years of experience saving me as I tottered in the bare twelve inches between a shuttered horse- drawn hansom and a Model- T. The white- gloved matron behind the wheel had clearly come to regard her motor vehicle the way one might a pet cat that always vanished at the full moon, and the sight of my bicycle sliding gracefully past broke her remaining self- control. I can’t imagine what she found so terrifying about me. Unless it was the grin I couldn’t keep from my face as I dared the January ice. Daddy always did say I was too reckless in winter.

The matron shrieked and discovered the purpose of that curious little button in the middle of her steering wheel. Her car swerved— thankfully away from the horses, which were even now whinnying and snorting in agitation. I made it past the hansom and auto moments before one of the horses reared and whacked the Model- T’s gleaming rear fender. I winced. Two more seconds and that would have been my stomach.

Damn Tammany Hall, I fumed. Like it would kill those bastards to do something useful like fixing roads between winning elections? Tonight, of course, the criminally narrow streets were relatively clear. No one respectable wanted to be out after sundown on a new moon. I checked my watch— quarter ’til eight— and pedaled faster. It wouldn’t do for the teacher to be tardy to her own class. Especially not this class. And especially not on a new moon.

That’s when I saw it, of course. Just a huddled shadow on an unspeakably dirty street that hundreds of people had probably passed by today without comment. I sailed past it, too, before something made me dig my heels into the ground and turn around to ride back. It wasn’t as though the back of my neck prickled, or I felt a telltale shiver crawl up my skin. I can’t do anything like that, no matter what my students might whisper about me. But I do have a knack for noticing. It’s a skill my daddy cultivated, since I can’t shoot fish in a barrel and he needed his eldest to be good at something.

I had to kick the spokes to turn the handlebar hard right, then jigger them back out again so I could straighten the wheel. I crashed over the drainage ditch and slid on the worn soles of my boots over the sidewalk. I was deep in the shadow of a monolithic, grimy tenement— the kind that put me in mind of hollow- eyed immigrant children chained to beds by unscrupulous landlords so they won’t escape. They hired vampire guards in those kinds of hellholes. I shuddered and looked, suddenly, back at the street. Deserted. I think the hair on the back of my neck would have risen then, if it weren’t already smothered by the respectable starch of my shirt collar.

I walked closer to the crawlspace— too small to even be an alley— between the tenement and a former munitions ware house. A rat, startled by my approach, scrambled over a gray heap that was barely distinguishable from the other refuse and shot into the gutter by my bicycle. My eyes adjusted to the gloom. I could finally see the faint outline of the innocuous little hump that had so firmly caught my attention. It was covered in a child- sized peacoat that smelled of damp wool. Shaking— because by God there is no way to get used to this, no matter how long I’ve lived in this city— I pulled back the cloth. I saw a boy, with hair much redder than my own ochre- tinged brown. His skin was so pale beneath a shock of freckles that I knew what had happened even before I spotted the telltale punctures on his neck.

Excerpted from Moonshine: A Novel by Alaya Johnson.

Copyright 2010 by Alaya Johnson.

Published in May 2010 by Griffin/ St. Martin’s Press.

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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