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
Formats available: ebook, paperback, audiobook
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Author’s Website, Amazon, Books-a-Million, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository
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.
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