Bottoms Up: Paul Krueger’s Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge

Have you gotten over your New Year’s hangover yet? Great! Who’s ready for a martini that causes invisibility? How about a screwdriver that will give you superhuman strength? Perhaps the perfect Long Island Iced Tea that will bring on phenomenal cosmic powers?

These delightful cocktails and more are only a few of the magical drinks that await you within the pages of Paul Krueger’s Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge, a fun urban fantasy with a twist. Both literal and figurative.

Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge (2016)
Written by: Paul Krueger
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 288 (Trade Paperback)
Publisher: Quirk Books

Why I Chose It: I picked it up because the cover and title looked interesting. After reading the description, I was fascinated by the premise.

The Premise:

Bailey Chen is fresh out of college with all the usual new-adult demons: no cash, no job offers, and an awkward relationship with Zane, the old friend she kinda-sorta hooked up with during high school.

But when Zane introduces Bailey to his monster-fighting bartender friends, her demons become a lot more literal. It turns out that evil creatures stalk the city streets after hours, and they can be hunted only with the help of magically mixed cocktails: vodka grants super-strength, whiskey offers the power of telekinesis, and rum lets its drinker fire blasts of elemental energy. But will all these powers be enough for Bailey to halt a mysterious rash of gruesome deaths? And what will she do when the safety of a “real world” job beckons?

This sharp and funny urban fantasy is perfect for fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, and grown-up readers of Harry Potter. Includes 14 recipes from a book of ancient cocktail lore.

No spoilers


Discussion: The perfect cocktail can be magical. Whether it’s an amazing margarita or a cozy Irish coffee, the right drink at the right time can cast a spell like nothing else. In Krueger’s world, the spells are real and the bartenders who sling them use those spells to keep humanity safe from monsters that most people never see. These monsters, known as tremens, are creatures that lurk in the night and wait to devour the unwary.

The cast of characters is delightfully diverse in all ways. Bailey herself, a woman of Chinese descent, is smart, spunky, quick thinking, and not at all shy. Her mentor, Vincent, is a blind gay man who can still hold his own behind the bar. Neither Bailey’s race nor Vincent’s sexuality are the most interesting things about them. Krueger handles his characters in the best way possible: they are people, and they are never stereotypes.

The book itself, in dead tree format, is charming in and of itself. Each chapter finishes with pages from the bartender’s codex, the Devil’s Water Dictionary. It’s a combination spell and recipe book that teaches the bartenders how to concoct perfect versions of classic cocktails. It also gives background information about the ingredients and their magical properties. I don’t really drink, but this book made me want to try my hand at mixing. And if it gives me the ability to fly in the process? All the better!

My one small complaint is that the book is a bit on the shallow side. It almost felt like a novel geared towards young readers. The dialogue isn’t the most meaningful, and the villain is almost comically stereotypical.

In Conclusion: While not the deepest, most philosophical novel in the world, Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge is a lot of fun. If you’re looking for a fun, different take on urban fantasy, give this book a try. Just make sure to have a designated driver on hand in case you start craving a tasty beverage.

9 Comments

  • Shara White January 2, 2018 at 12:58 pm

    I’d be tempted to get this for the recipes alone!

    Reply
    • Casey Price January 2, 2018 at 10:53 pm

      It’s a very pretty book! The recipes aren’t hard to find elsewhere, but the fun is in the sections that discuss the history and properties of the ingredients.

      Reply
  • Lane Robins January 2, 2018 at 1:05 pm

    I started this one but got tangled up in the idea of an ancient magic that relied upon modern drink recipes. How did that work out?

    Reply
    • Casey Price January 2, 2018 at 3:30 pm

      The book states that the cocktails were invented earlier than the “modern” era by powerful bartenders of the past.

      Reply
      • Lane Robins January 2, 2018 at 4:33 pm

        But some of the liqueurs weren’t even in existence? I mean, that’s where I locked up. It would be one thing if they were saying the modern drinks were refinements on old things like mulled wine or fermented mare’s milk, or… It just bugged me. That’s all right. I’m glad you enjoyed it! I had another friend who liked it a lot as well.

        Reply
        • Casey Price January 2, 2018 at 10:51 pm

          The book says that a great deal of their lore was lost. The writer referred to it as The Great Hangover, but doesn’t go into what that was. So…maybe they existed before but they faded from common memory? This is part of what made me feel like the book was for a younger audience; not a lot of depth. I wonder if there’s a sequel planned.

          Reply
          • Shara White January 3, 2018 at 3:41 pm

            The Great Hangover? That’s fantastic.

  • Ron Edison January 2, 2018 at 1:28 pm

    I read this last year and enjoyed it–my wife brought home a copy from a library expo event. I’m not much of a drinker but found the recipes intriguing. You’re right about the Buffy appeal. It’s urban fantasy but definitely on the lite side–not as hardboiled as Jim Butcher or even Buffy, but enjoyable. If not for the drinking I’d classify it as YA.

    Reply
    • Casey Price January 2, 2018 at 10:52 pm

      I felt the same way re: being more like a YA than not.

      Reply

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