The fate of New Orleans rests in the hands of a wayward grifter in this novel of gods, games, and monsters.
The post–Katrina New Orleans of The City of Lost Fortunes is a place haunted by its history and by the hurricane’s destruction, a place that is hoping to survive the rebuilding of its present long enough to ensure that it has a future. Street magician Jude Dubuisson is likewise burdened by his past and by the consequences of the storm, because he has a secret: the magical ability to find lost things, a gift passed down to him by the father he has never known—a father who just happens to be more than human.
Jude has been lying low since the storm, which caused so many things to be lost that it played havoc with his magic, and he is hiding from his own power, his divine former employer, and a debt owed to the Fortune god of New Orleans. But his six-year retirement ends abruptly when the Fortune god is murdered and Jude is drawn back into the world he tried so desperately to leave behind. A world full of magic, monsters, and miracles. A world where he must find out who is responsible for the Fortune god’s death, uncover the plot that threatens the city’s soul, and discover what his talent for lost things has always been trying to show him: what it means to be his father’s son.
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In the beginning, there was the Word, and the Void, and Ice in the North and Fire in the South, and the Great Waters. A universe created in a day and a night, or billions of years, or seven days, or a cycle of creations and destructions. The waters were made to recede to reveal the land, or the land was formed from the coils of a serpent, or half of a slain ocean goddess, or the flesh and bones and skull of a giant, or a broken egg. Or an island of curdled salt appeared when the sea was churned by a spear. Or the land was carried up to the surface of the waters by a water beetle, or a muskrat, or a turtle, or two water loons. However the world was made, it teemed with life; populated by beings who evolved from a single cell, or who were molded from clay or carved out of wood or found trapped in a clam shell. They wandered up from their underworld of seven caves, or fell through a hole in the sky, or they crawled out of the insect world that lies below. All of these stories, these beginnings, are true, and yet none of them are the absolute truth; they are simultaneous in spite of paradox. The world is a house built from contradictory blueprints, less a story than it is a conversation. But it is not a world without complications. Not without conflicts. Not without seams.
One of those complications was a man named Jude Dubuisson, flesh and blood and divine all at once, who stared out at Jackson Square, at the broad white expanse of St. Louis Cathedral, at the plump, fluttering mass of pigeons, at the tidal ebb and flow of tourists on the cobblestones, and saw none of it. He was likewise deaf to his surroundings: the constant mutter of the crowd, the hooves clopping on pavement, and the hooting echo of the steamboat’s calliope coming from the river. His attention was fixed inward, on thoughts of the old life he’d done his best to forget. All those years of standing between the worlds of gods and men, of the living and the dead.
For his entire adult life, he’d straddled the seam between two worlds and brought trouble to both: a walking, breathing conflict with a fuck-you grin. That had been before the storm, though. Those memories belonged to a different man. In the six years since those fateful days in 2005, he’d tried to put it all behind him. Tried to ignore all the impossible things he knew. But the last few days, the past was like a storm cloud on the horizon, a rumble of thunder that refused to stay silent, a gloom that refused to disperse.
The past just refused to stay dead.
Jude was what the more liberal-minded in the city these days — those for whom the term “mixed race” sounded somehow offensive — would call “Creole,” and what older black folks referred to as “red-boned,” some indeterminate mix of white and African heritages along with whatever else had made it into the gumbo. All Jude knew was that he had light brown skin, a white mother, and a father he’d never met. The rest of the world always seemed more concerned about his ethnicity than he was.
He kept his hair shaved close to his scalp and a scruff of beard that was more stubble than style. He wore jeans and a long-sleeved dress shirt despite the cloying wet shroud that clung to New Orleans in the summer, the heat that made any act an effort, even breathing. The damp shirt pressed tight against his skin, the sweat tickling down the small of his back. Jude reached up, absently, to wipe off his face with the handkerchief his mother had taught him a gentleman always carries, but stopped himself, pulled from his introspection by the self-conscious awareness of the leather gloves he had on. He tucked his hand back into his lap, out of sight.
Not that anyone paid him any attention. He’d been out on the corner right across from Muriel’s since early that morning, had set up folding chairs and his rickety-ass table, laid out a chalkboard sign, a cash box, and a battered paperback atlas the same as he did most days, but in all the hours he’d been in the Square, only a few people had bothered to ask what the sign meant. None sat down. His services, unlike the tarot card readers and the brass bands and the art dealers, weren’t part of the cliché of the Quarter, and thus flew under the average tourist’s radar.
But today the lack of clients suited his mood. He’d have found it hard to feign interest in anyone’s problems with the way his thoughts had been circling nonstop. Pacing back and forth, as tense and feckless as an expectant father. Or a criminal awaiting execution.
A young street performer — Timmy? Tommy? Jude could never remember — stopped in front of Jude’s table, casting a long shadow. Jude frowned at the intrusion into his thoughts, even as he appreciated the shade. The white kid’s face, streaked with the sweaty remnants of clown paint, was split by an unguarded grin. He wore a golf cap and a tweed vest with no shirt on underneath. Less than ten years separated the two men, maybe as little as five, but to Jude’s eyes he was just a boy.
Grown more used to silence than speech, Jude had to search for his voice before he could speak. “You need something?” he asked, the words scratchy.
“About to ask you the same thing,” the boy said, pulling off the cap and swiping sweat from his forehead. “Headed to the grocery ’round the corner.” He gestured with the limp hat in the store’s direction before slipping it back onto his head.
Jude shook his head. “Thanks anyway.”
“Ain’t nothin’,” he said. He turned to go, then looked back. “You coming tomorrow night?” Jude shrugged and raised his eyebrows. The boy threw his hands into the air. “I only told you, like, twelve times already. My band finally got that gig? At the Circle Bar?”
“Oh, right,” Jude said. He imagined being crammed into a tight space with a crowd of strangers and lied to the kid. “Yeah, I’ll try to make it.”
The boy’s grin widened into a smile that took another five years off his age and made Jude feel like an older, more cynical version of himself. Tommy moved on to the next table, the sole of one of his shoes flapping, pitiful, on the street.
Jude sighed, inhaling the rich odor of the Quarter: stale beer and musky humanity and the moist, dark scent of the river. It was hard to live as he did, hidden in the seams between the life he had known and this new life he wore like a mask, but — because of those things he tried not to think about — Jude belonged there.
Or so he believed.
A short while later, Jude got his first and only customers of the day, a couple of out-of-towners. College kids, judging by the Greek letters on their T-shirts and the bright green plastic drink cups in their hands. She was a white girl who had spent hours in the sun darkening her skin, and he was vaguely West Asian, but spoke with a tap-water American accent. Lovers, Jude guessed, from the way the boy rested his hand on her shoulder, and the way the girl introduced the both of them — Mandy and Dave — like the conjunction made them a single unit. The girl seemed by far the more eager of the two. When she asked Jude what his sign meant, Dave looked toward the other side of the Square, as if searching for an escape.
“It means what it says,” Jude said. “If you’ve lost something, I can tell you where it is.”
“Like, anything?” Mandy asked, glancing at Dave to see if he was listening.
“Yeah,” Jude said, “like, anything.” She seemed not to notice the droll mockery in his voice, but Dave turned and frowned at her.
“It’s a scam,” Dave said.
“First try is free if you’re not satisfied,” Jude said. “Ten bucks if you are.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I enjoyed the mixture of the different mythos and their parallels as much as I enjoyed the mystery.
AudioBook Review Stars: Overall: 3 Narration 4 Story 3 A post-Katrina speculative story that takes the story of Jude -born and raised in the city and a street magician, and his stepping into the ‘breach’ when the local magical authority needs his help after the devastation from Katrina. The story starts each chapter with a creation story or mythology that draws parallels from the present-day events to those myths: scenes and connections resonate through the chapters, adding a new perspective to view the old and the new. Writing is descriptive, perhaps too much description that, for me, felt far too much like a screenplay -where every moment and eye-line is directed and guided to evoke a specific image, leaving readers passive and not allowing a full engagement. While Camp’s writing is lovely, the overuse of words that, dare I say, feel purposeful only in directing the listener and reader to stay on a path that the author has set forward, not allowing the personal involvement in the story to bloom. There’s a fine line for me, between giving me description of place and time that allows my own experience to fill in the visual, and then going over the top and presenting a movie – and Camp danced over that line far too often, to the detriment of actually developing Jude’s character beyond his own rather “I was this, now I’m that” characterization that never actually felt different. Narration for this story is provided by Korey Jackson who gave the words, moments and emotions their due, clearly presenting the story and characters in ways that made them easy to recognize and remember. A lovely tone presented the descriptions and gave a sense of moments of tension, introspection and action with equal skill, keeping the clarity and auditory interest in a plot that often was bogged down in set-up of space, place or history. In short, Camp’s writing is intriguing and no one can actually say he can’t use words to their full effect, but there was a lack of focus on developing a character that ‘felt’ as if he was growing – his self-described growth was al tell and no show, in direct and glaring contrast to all of the descriptions that were used to set scenes and place. An editor who can curb Camp’s tendencies to ‘over-describe’ and ‘over-direct’ impressions of the story or place for readers should be the first concern – because the idea here was unique, and the parallels that brought myth and creation stories into the struggles in the present day New Orleans were lovely and often the best part of the story. The editor let him down in not pushing for more character development, a lighter hand with description and balancing the story arc to build to a climax and resolve in ways that felt more natural. I received an AudioBook copy of the title from Recorded Books for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
The city of lost fortunes by Bryan Camp - If you read a lot, like I do, I know you’ve started books that you’ve liked so well you could hardly stand it only to have those books veer off in some bizarre direction and turn into books you didn’t like or didn’t even care to finish. Not so this book. I liked it, was captivated by it, immediately and, in spite of waiting for the other shoe to drop, it continued to be a splendidly written story right to the last page. I love this book! If you like fantasy with more than a touch of reality along with a whopping amount of talent for creating characters you will love to live with for the duration of a novel...this one is for you. In other words, for anyone who truly enjoys a great read! This author is brilliant and I can hardly wait for whatever yarn he spins nex
Let me paint you a picture. It's August 23rd, 2005 in Louisiana. The levees just broke, water begins a fast and furious pace to your homes, and everything surrounding you. Your government has failed you. Rescue attempts, and basic amenities are hard to come by. Whether you want to or not, it's best to leave your house, and all the comforts of home to find safety. As help comes, it is necessary to mark the houses that have been checked to see if anyone has been left behind. Even when the waters recede, it is evident that a disaster has ransacked not only your house, your neighbors house, but the entire city you have grown to love. How can you forgive what has happened? How could the government do better? Would this kind of devastation cause you to leave, or dig your heals in to help your city find what was lost in the storm: it's Magic, it's Voice, and it's Luck? Fast forward six years, and our main character Jude Dubuisson is ready to stop straddling the worlds of god and men, causing trouble on both sides, and face the real world again. You see, Jude Dubuisson was born with a gift; a gift from his father who he had never met. He had always been good a finding lost things. Following the devastation of Katrina, it was better "being nowhere and nothing, than feeling all the loss." The breadth of his unique gift grew with him. From simply finding lost toys, to finding finding lost people. And when the levees broke open, his magic responded in the same way, only it was uncontrollable. Enough that he bought himself a pair of gloves so that he wouldn't accidentally touch someone to feel their loss. Since Jude was able to somewhat control his magic, he also needed to make a living. And what better way than a street magician. His shtick? Finding lost things of course! Mostly for young people so they wouldn't get in trouble with their folks. After a customer leaves behind their cell phone, Jude receives a call from his former partner, Regal Sloan, trying to throw him back into work. A favor is being called in by the fortune god, Dodge Renaud, to attend a poker game. The entrance was masked in a magical ward that actively pushed any passerby away (physically making them cross the street). Going into a house Jude goes through a red door and can't believe his eyes. This was not an ordinary poker game- this game included a vampire, an angel, Papa Legba- king of voodoo, Thoth- keeper of scribes, a fortune god, and Jude. Instead of poker cards, tarot cards were used. Each player playing to effect the fate of someone in New Orleans- people Jude knew. Jude new he didn't have a clue how to play, and the god players are hoping he fails. Each god wants something different from Jude- the vampire wants his blood, Papa Legba wants his voice, and the angel wants his faith. When it's time to turn the cards over, he notices that all of his cards are blank. Seeming like he lost, the most acceptable thing to do is try to back out of the game before the gods can collect on their bets- Jude falls back into darkness and wakes up in his apartment fast asleep. Regal calls Jude in the morning explaining that the fortune god of New Orleans has been murdered. Regal chauffeurs him off to his former employer Mourning to hash out the details of the killer. The murderer has to be one of the five card players from the game the past night, not excluding Jude who is having trouble remember things after he blacked out in his apartment.
The City of Lost Fortunes by Bryan Camp is a fantasy/urban fantasy standalone novel. I had mixed feelings about this book, which I will go into more in my review. The City of Lost Fortunes takes place in post Katrina New Orleans, and revolves around our hero, Jude Dubuisson, who is a street magician with the ability to find lost things. Jude has laid low since Katrina, which was 6 years ago, but now the Fortune god, whom he owes a debt, is calling him back to meet. Jude ends up in a card game with other gods, besides the fortune god. He knows this is not a normal game, and as he faces all the gods, Jude must try to figure out what they are up to and why; because he knows his life is on the line. This fateful game, with these trickster gods trying to win something, will put Jude into a dangerous fight to win against each god. When the fortune god is murdered, Jude knows he cannot trust anyone and must find a way to beat them at their own game, which is the game of life. What follows is an extremely complicated plot with each god trying to gain control of the Luck/Fortune of New Orleans. Jude who is a demigod, must step up and learn to use his own powers to win or die. I thought the first third of the book was slow, mainly do the all the details Camp gave us in this world of magic, gods, demigods and afterlife. I also found myself becoming confused quiet often, but once you get past the half way point, the story became more exciting and better. The best part of the book was Camp’s knowledge of New Orleans, and giving us a glimpse of one of the best and unique cities in the world. He eloquently shows us the culture, the mythologies, the wonderful attractions, restaurants, streets and overall atmosphere of this wonderful city. This to me was the fun part that I did enjoy. The last third of the book was very exciting, with some twists and turns along the way. Jude must face each of the gods individually to try to find the murderer of the fortune god, and a few times his life hangs by a thread. I did like Jude, who made a great hero, and some of other characters were very good: Regal, Renai, Sal, Papa Legba, Mourning, just to name a few. The City of Lost Fortunes was a story of magic, gods, demigods, greed within a city that was literally destroyed, and the fight to rebuild it against the threats that would destroy any future. Despite my mixed feelings, this was well written by Bryan Camp.
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