Read during March for the Dragons & Tea Book Club!
A sharp and funny urban fantasy for “new adults” about a secret society of bartenders who fight monsters with alcohol fueled magic.
College grad Bailey Chen has a few demons: no job, no parental support, and a rocky relationship with Zane, the only friend who’s around when she moves back home. But when Zane introduces Bailey to his cadre of monster-fighting bartenders, her demons get a lot more literal. Like, soul-sucking hell-beast literal. Soon, it’s up to Bailey and the ragtag band of magical mixologists to take on whatever—or whoever—is behind the mysterious rash of gruesome deaths in Chicago, and complete the lost recipes of an ancient tome of cocktail lore.
I LOVED the idea of demon-fighting bartenders, and I actually still enjoyed the premise very much! This book follows Bailey, a Chinese-American college graduate who just moved back home to live with her parents. She’s still searching for a job; her parents keep nudging her toward a career path, but Bailey ends up reconnecting with an old friend (and crush), Zane, who presents her an opportunity to work in his bar.
But Bailey soon learns tending a bar is more than just mixing the perfect cocktail. In fact, when you do mix the perfect cocktail, it turns into a magical drink that gives the consumer special powers. These powers depend on the drink, and there are fun recipes with the history of the ingredients all throughout the book. Some of the special powers include super-human strength, invisibility, and telekinesis.
We find out Zane is part of an underground network of monster-fighting bartenders. There is an entire hierarchy and court system; rules to play by. It’s all very political, and Bailey gets thrown into their world when she inadvertently makes a cocktail that gives her powers to fight off a monster. You see, monsters called tremens lurk in the night among Chicago’s streets. They usually hunt alone, in the shadows. But something is provoking them to start hunting in packs.
So, the thing is… a lot of points in this book missed the mark for me, but I still really appreciate all the things Paul Krueger included, so I’m going to list all the things I liked and disliked.
What I liked:
- The fact that this book is ownvoices, written by a Filipino-American author.
- It’s new adult, which is a genre I rarely see boosted. As a 30-something-year-old, I like to see books that feature characters who are in their mid-late 20’s (or older) because I instantly connect with them so much better.
- The Asian rep. Bailey is Chinese-American and her parents are Chinese. I was able to relate to the “Asian family expectations” story line so much.
- Diversity rep for a trans character, gay relationship, black side character, and rep for blind/visually impairment.
- The pub settings were always my favorite parts!
- The idea that it’s ok to not know what you want to do after you graduate from college. That it’s ok you’re still trying to figure things out.
- The history behind the magical cocktails and ingredients. Those parts were so humorous and I’d love to read an entire book on just the drinks alone!
- I am a sucker for any book that takes place in Chicago.
What I Didn’t Like:
- I didn’t feel connected to the world building, and wasn’t a fan of how the monsters were utilized in the story.
- Zane. Ugh. Zane! He was the worst and I don’t like how Bailey was totally fine with forgiving him.
- The death of a certain animal. Like… I can’t.
- As the story progressed I felt like it derailed from being monster-fighting-centric. I wasn’t sure why Jess was even introduced, and I found that story line really irrelevant.
- I just became really bored by the 50% mark and just… wanted it to be over.
I’m so sorry I didn’t end up enjoying this book as much as I had hoped, but I am so glad I picked it up! I would’ve never read this if it wasn’t for the book club Melanie and I started, and I’m so thankful we got to read it with so many people!