Review: Urban Shaman by C.E. Murphy

Filed in 2 Stars , C.E. Murphy , featured , Review , The Needy Lover Posted on April 16, 2012 @ 11:00 am 10 comments

Format read: ebook from library
Genre: urban fantasy
Series: Walker Papers, #1
Release Date: June 1, 2009 (reprint edition; original edition published June 1, 2005)
Number of pages: 416 pages
Publisher: Luna
Formats available: ebook, paperback, audiobook
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Author’s Website, Amazon, Books-a-Million, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

Book Blurb:

Joanne Walker has three days to learn to use her shamanic powers and save the world from the unleashed Wild Hunt.

No worries. No pressure. Never mind the lack of sleep, the perplexing new talent for healing herself from fatal wounds, or the cryptic, talking coyote who appears in her dreams.

And if all that’s not bad enough, in the three years Joanne’s been a cop, she’s never seen a dead body–but she’s just come across her second in three days.

It’s been a bitch of a week.

And it isn’t over yet.

My Thoughts:

I’d been looking forward to trying this UF series for quite some time. As far as urban fantasy institutions go, this one has got some legs, with the seventh book recently released and more on the horizon. Protagonist Joanne Walker is a wise-cracking automobile aficionado with Native American heritage, possessing special mystical abilities. Sounds familiar, right? Well, technically, since the book was first released in 2005, Joanne came first–take that Mercy Thompson, Jane Yellowrock, and Janet Begay! ^_^

I was quite drawn in by Urban Shaman‘s original combination of Cherokee folklore and Celtic mythology. It was an element that promised great potential for interesting and unique plot lines in subsequent installments. I look forward to finding out how the two seemingly disparate parts of Joanne’s heritage will fit together in the long run. She’s got a lot of self-discovery involving her unique mystical abilities that will certainly be fascinating to explore as the series’ world building is further established.

Now, it was also some of the mystical elements that led to much of the confusion I’d experienced while reading this book (of which there was a considerable amount). There are several dream sequences in the plot that, while presumably intended to be disorienting, were almost overly so. Same with action sequences in general. There were a few that simply confounded me; the choreography of the action was somewhat random and difficult to envision. Not only that, but the logic that’s meant to knit certain events and character actions just didn’t seem to add up to me. Certainly, the book’s events unfold over the course of only a few days, requiring many developments to be presented and resolved very quickly–Joanne’s discovery of her powers, the threat of a Wild Hunt, a murder mystery, and more. But some matters were addressed in an unconvincing manner, or perhaps not truly developed at all. I honestly couldn’t summarize this book in a coherent manner if asked to do so; and I am one of those readers that takes notes and loves complexity.

I’m going to gloss over what’s typically one of my favorite aspects of a UF book: the cast. Why’s this? There was not a whole lot in the way of character development. Joanne was amusing and cute with some of her antics, but I never really felt a lasting connection with her and her narrative voice. The supporting cast, in my opinion, had somewhat limited development. As I mentioned before, the nature of the plot sort meant that character development had to be limited, but that also meant that there were very few opportunities to connect with anyone. One major exception? Joanne’s cabbie sidekick, Gary. He was a hoot and a wonderful treat to read about.

I have to admit, the book started out with a bang (in a pretty awesome opening scene). It was frenetic and fast-paced, and the initial harried narrative nicely complemented Joanne’s own exhausted-bordering-on-manic state of mind. But as the book progressed, the pace slowed down to fits and starts with long periods of drawn out dream sequences and prolonged information gathering. The book’s latter sections were, in my opinion, not as strong or compelling as the first portions were. It kinda pains me to say it, but as I read on, it became harder to read on (if that makes sense). Not a good trend.

However, not all of the experience was an underwhelming one for this reader. What I really liked was Joanne’s dealings within the police department. The interactions were admittedly limited, but they were often entertaining, and provided promise for more of the same amusement in future books. Related to that, I was intrigued by Joanne’s dynamic with Morrison, her boss. Talk about promise! This is one deliciously antagonistic relationship that I cannot wait to see bud into something sweeter. ^_^

Indeed, there some aspects here and there that were quite promising, which led me to believe that this book simply exhibits some traits of “first book syndrome.” I fully intent to read book two, with the hope that some of the rougher edges of the storytelling will be smoothed with some time and comfort with the Walker Papers world (on the part of the author).

Bottom line: Seven books (and counting) don’t lie. Urban Shaman, while somewhat uneven and difficult to engage consistently, provides more than enough potential in its premise and initial world building to make the series worth a go.

I give Urban Shaman 2 stars

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

About Alisha

Alisha, the bespectacled and ever nerdy California girl, simply won't leave home without a book in hand. She loves language learnin' and is working toward becoming a bonafide grammar ninja. On any given day you'll find her haunting local libraries or baking scores of cupcakes and sweet treats.

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  • aurian April 16, 2012 at 11:50 am

    I totally agree with you. This book has been on my wishlist for years now, and still I keep overlooking it in favor of other books. But I really do want to read it. And I also love the Stormwalker series by Jennifer Ashley / Allison.

    • Alisha April 16, 2012 at 11:26 pm

      Very cool! I hope you do read it, and enjoy it to boot. Would be interested in your thoughts on the story.

      I think the book (and series) does deserve a bit of credit for predating many of the popular current UF powerhouses (including Mercy Thompson, I noticed).

  • Susan April 16, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    I’ve been following this series since the 2nd book came out and I have to admit that it’s been up and down for me. There were some books that I felt were total detours both in the plotline and character development–which have been slow enough to start with.

    Joanne’s fumbling has been a constant source of irritation to me. I understand that we’re meant to follow along with as she learns about her abilities, but she does so many rash and stupid things that I’m always amazed she’s still alive at the end of each book. (Well, not that amazed, but you know what I mean.)

    Also, what you refer to as the drawn out dream sequences and information-gathering? That doesn’t get any better. I often wanted to tell Ms. Murphy and Joanne, “TMI already. Just get on with it.”

    BUT, I’ve enjoyed the series enough to stick with it and am not sorry for it. The last two books have been more focused and rewarding, and I Iike the direction both Joanne and the story arc seem to be heading. I’ll be interested to hear what your take on them is if you ever get around to reading/reviewing them.

    • Alisha April 16, 2012 at 11:44 pm

      Thank you so so so much for your take on this, Susan. I’ve been very curious as to whether subsequent books are “more of the same” (for better or worse). From your comments, it sounds like there are many things that don’t change (like Joanne’s oft exasperating behavior–gahhh!). So I’ll have to mentally prepare before reading book two. ^_^

      But the Celtic/Cherokee fusion and the police department crew….hopefully that gets proper treatment in future books?

      • Susan April 17, 2012 at 11:45 pm

        Well, there’s definitely more of the Celtic/Cherokee fusion. As of the last book, I like the current mix and where it has led, but sometimes the descriptions and the path to the destination have seemed endless (if that makes sense). I’m often tempted to skip the scenes that have those loooong narratives about the nature of Joanne’s magic/abilities. Joanne’s growth, both magically and as a character, has been slow.

        There’s more to come about the police crew, in some books more than others.

        Also, more Gary and Morrison–again, this varies by book. Personally, I like Billy, Morrison, and Gary (!) so the more of them in the story, the better.

        On the “heat” scale, these are definitely more fantasy than romance books. Any sexy stuff is very understated (so far). That doesn’t bother me if the story’s good, but may be an issue for some more traditional romance readers.

  • Stephanie K. April 16, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    This is a series where I love the characters and their relationships, but the plotlines and the mystical aspect never work for me. But, I do think that Joanne grows throughout the books.

    • Alisha April 16, 2012 at 11:32 pm

      I like that you say “the series” has characters and relationships that you love. ^_^ That’s what I’m hoping for, since the character interactions had quite a bit of promise.

      Please tell me there’s more Gary, more Morrison. ^_^

  • draconismoi April 16, 2012 at 9:51 pm

    Yes. That is a good description of Joanne. Cute – but hardly compelling. She’s okay to read about, but not on any must-buy lists. Vanilla Urban Fantasy.

    • Alisha April 16, 2012 at 11:30 pm

      I left out another word that had come to mind: ditzy. Not necessarily in a horrible way… but there were moments where I had to scratch the head at her behavior. ^_^

      Vanilla urban fantasy is a great way to put it. It’s just there. Have you read any installments beyond this one? If so, what’re your thoughts on the series’ progression?

  • draconismoi April 17, 2012 at 1:49 am

    It stays vanilla. I only read up through #3 (plus a few of the short stories)…..she doesn’t develop into a real character for me at any time. Nor does any of her supporting cast – and you can usually rely on the supporting cast to add some flavor.

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