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review 2018-01-06 18:43
"Urban Shaman - Walker Papers #1" by C E Murphy
Urban Shaman - C.E. Murphy

When I saw the pitch for "Urban Shaman", I was sceptical: an Urban Fantasy book that blends Celtic and Cherokee myth in the form of a modern-day Seatle PD cop. How likely was that to work?

 

But one of my New Year's resolutions was to try and be positive and I still had two days before Epiphany brought the Yule ride to end, so I gave it try.

 

About five chapters in, my response was, "WOW. Why haven't I heard of this series before?" A day later, having finished the book in a self-indulgent binge read, I had a grin on my face because I'd found my new Urban Fantasy series for 2018.

 

What C. E. Murphy has done by merging Celtic and Cherokee myth is bold, original and more than a little risky but she pulls it off. The action is more a "Dr Strange"fight-the-forces-of-evil-while-travelling-outside-your-body-on-another-plane kind of thing than it is an "Avengers" hit-your-enemy-with-your-hammer /shield/large green fist type of thing. That's hard to do and may not appeal to everyone but Murphy does it well and I loved every minute of it.

 

Joanne Walker is a half Irish, half Cherokee woman who, although she works in Seatle PD and went to the Police Academy, spends her time in the motor pool. The book starts with her returning from her mother's funeral in Ireland. On the descent into SEA, drowsy, airsick and with her contacts glued to her retinas, she sees a woman running away from a pack of dogs and towards a man wielding a butterfly knife. That unlikely optical feat and her dire compulsion to rescue the woman should have clued her into the fact that something in her life had shifted but it takes a while for her to catch up with this.

 

What follows is a story in which Joanne is introduced rather traumatically to her own, previously unsuspected, shamanic powers by being pitched into a conflict with the Wild Hunt.

 

Why does this work? Well, Joanne is likeable and has a character that is deeper and more complex than the usual kickass heroine with a sharp line of chat and a flair for martial arts. Most of the time Joanne has no idea what she's doing and words frequently fail her. I found this quite refreshing. The secondary characters, from the voluable cab driver to the perfectionist Police Captain, swiftly move from archetype to someone credible and interesting. The astral conflicts are described in surprisingly down to earth ways and conflict resolution is never about who has the biggest sword.

 

As a standalone book, it's fun, fast and fresh. As the first book in a series, it fills me with anticipation.

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review 2017-04-05 00:00
Penric and the Shaman
Penric and the Shaman - Grover Gardner,Lois McMaster Bujold Just as enjoyable as the first one. I liked watching Pen having grown into his skills and his role and his more settled relationship with Des. He's filled out a bit, but is still the character we first met. I liked the mystery and the road trip plot, for which the alternating PoV worked really well. It's been long enough since I read Hallowed Hunt that I don't remember how all that went, but the story stood well without too many background details. Looking forward to the next one.
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review 2017-02-20 22:09
Penric and the Shaman
Penric and the Shaman - Lois McMaster Bujold

In the midst of all the chaos of recent events, Penric and the Shaman was a gloriously gentle read. We jump back into Penric's life about four years after the events of Penric's Demon, after he has become comfortable with his place in the world. But when Senior Locator Oswyl asks for the support of a sorcerer in chasing down a dangerous shaman, Penric finds himself setting off on a quest led by the rather disapproving Oswyl into the rural mountains in search of a stolen ghost.

I thought Penric and the Shaman did a nice job unifying the world of The Hallowed Hunt with the rest of the Five Gods stories: we get to see the uneasy interactions between the church of the Five Gods and the nature-worshipping shaman, and the interplay between their two magics. The story itself is told from three perspectives: that of Penric, Oswyl, and also Inglis, the shaman himself. It's a bit slow-paced, and I had a hard time seeing how things could be brought to a conclusion that would fit the mood of the rest of the book, but I found myself satisfied throughout, always able to enjoy the gentle banter and measured pace. I especially loved how it explored the humanity of all the players in the story-- there are no true villains in the book, which makes it a wonderful read if you're feeling stressed and depressed. Last, I love the way this whole series respectfully explores religion. For instance, take one of my favourite quotes:

"For all that we trust the gods, I think we can trust them to know the difference between humor and blasphemy."



~~I received an advanced reader copy of this ebook through Netgalley from the publisher, Subterranean Press, in exchange for my honest review. Thank you!~~

Cross-posted on Goodreads.

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review 2017-01-16 00:00
Urban Shaman
Urban Shaman - C.E. Murphy This is a fairly light read somewhere just above the middle of the pack for Urban Fantasy but it is a fairly entertaining read nevertheless. Enough entertaining for me to want to have a go at the second book in the series although I cannot really say that I am in a rush to do so.

I like the general story but then I always like stories were the main character suddenly becomes aware that there are things that go bump in the night and they are one of these things.

The main character is likable. A bit obnoxious and somewhat stupid at times but quick with her mouth, on the home team and do not hesitate to fight when it is needed. Her taxi driver friend is very likable to the extent that he almost steels the spotlight at times. Even her police station boss becomes, almost, likable towards the end of the book.

The story is quite okay as well as the world building even though it sometimes goes into la la land and becomes a bit difficult to follow. I have to agree with some of the other reviewers that the car analogy used felt somewhat silly. On the other hand the author takes a decent enough amount of time to gradually introduce Joanne’s new powers and the book has quite a few “surprise” moments. That is surprise for the other characters when Joanne’s powers allows her to perform unbelievable feats. I quite like that.

Naturally the book leads up to a big showdown with the bad guy(s) and I have to say that here certain things went a tad too fast. Joanne got a grip on her powers and performed the most remarkable feats after only having acquired her powers a few days ago. Felt a bit too much to me.

Anyway, on the whole I was entertained by this book and, as I wrote above, I will probably have a go at the second one in the series as well.
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review 2016-07-02 02:15
Good guy with his demon
Penric and the Shaman - Lois McMaster Bujold

This novella is a curious blend of a murder mystery and a theological tractate. The three main characters – the murderer, the temple policeman chasing after him, and the sorcerer Penric, dispatched by his superiors to help apprehend the murderer – are all good guys. Yes, the murderer too. The entire murder seemed so steeped in mystical shamanic mumbo jumbo that the only clear fact I extracted from the story was that someone was murdered, and the murderer might have had some vague arcane motives for fleeing the scene: hence the chase.

The plot isn’t really that important. What is important is the characters and the theology of the world they live in.

Strangely, Penric, the titular character, has the least time on the page as the POV character. Mostly, the reader is either in the head of the policeman or that of our hapless murderer. Both are nice guys, really, but Penric is the most fascinating of the lot, and Bujold managed to portray him not through his POV but through his conversations with the policeman and the murderer (when he is finally caught).  

Penric is a sorcerer. He carries inside his body (or soul or mind, I’m still unclear) a demon. In Bujold’s world, demons are forces of destruction, not inherently good or bad. They grant their human carriers the ability to work magic in exchange for existing in our world.

Unlike most sorcerers, Penric treats his demon like a person. He even named her Desdemona, which is unheard of among sorcerers. He knows that demons need destruction to exist, so wherever he goes, he makes Desdemona destroy pests. No cockroach or lice can survive Penric’s visits. As there is an inexhaustible supply of those, Penric is able to balance the destruction Desdemona wrecks on the blood-sucking parasites to do good stuff with his magic. His goal is to help people, and he helps the poor murderer too: with his advice, with his courage, with his trust.

I loved Penric. His presence and his interactions with Desdemona make this story worth reading. He treats his demon like a friend (actually, he treats everyone like a friend), and she reciprocates, even curbs her destructive tendencies for him. Penric’s humor and his compassion counteract the convoluted theology of the story, which otherwise threatens to suck the plot into the morass of philosophizing.  

And unlike most modern literature with its faulty or tragic heroes, Penric is an all-around simple upstanding guy, kind, honorable, and tolerant of others’ flaws. Desdemona got lucky when she found him. He has no visible weaknesses (if you disregard his demon, of course), and I liked it most of all.

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