Friday, 25 June 2010

Urban Shaman (Walker Papers #1) by C.E. Murphy

Title: Urban Shaman
Author: C.E. Murphy
Series: Walker Papers #1
Rating: ★★★★★
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Description: (From Goodreads) 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. Nevermind the lack of sleep, the perplexing new talent for healing 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.

Urban Shaman was one of those books I'd been hearing good things about for years before I finally got around to picking up a copy. One of the reasons I'd been putting it off was that at the start of the book, the protagonist Joanne Walker is portrayed as a sarcastic part-Native American mechanic with kick-butt tendencies. This is all well-and-good, but switch out the name and you could be describing Mercy Thompson from Patricia Briggs' books. Thankfully, the similarities between Joanne and Mercy end at that superficial level.

Joanne works as a mechanic for the Seattle police force, and after a prolonged leave of absence returns to find herself reassigned as a beat cop, much to her horror. Not only that, but from the plane she sees a woman in trouble and goes to investigate. This brings her into contact with Gary Muldoon, the taxi driver whose cab she gets in. Together they stumble across the Wild Hunt, a supernatural force that has been unleashed on downtown Seattle, and also onto Joanne's hidden shamanic powers.

The premise of the book lends itself well to the level of action. Joanne has three days to learn to use her shamanic powers and banish the Hunt, and as someone who didn't believe in the paranormal at all, it's a lot for her to get her head round. The book doesn't slow down at any point - it starts off action-packed and manages to sustain this throughout.

I loved the supporting characters as they really helped the story move along, and I especially enjoyed the unfortunately named Billy Holliday - the cross-dressing detective with experience with the paranormal. Not only that, but the book was far more factual than I expected - the information on shamanism and the Wild Hunt tends to be accurate, and this really helps the story stay grounded in urban fantasy rather than shooting off into the pure fantasy genre.

To be blunt, this book blew me away! It managed to cover all my favourite aspects of urban fantasy, and left me wanting more.

Content description

Sex and nudity - None
Violence and gore - Infrequent but quite graphic. A character is stabbed through the lung, and receives multiple other injuries both physically and metaphysically. Four teenagers are killed at their school, and their teacher wounded.
Alcohol and drugs - None
Profanity - Occasional mild swearing.
Frightening/intense scenes - Given the short timescale of the book, the action is quite intense throughout. The attack at the school could be quite frightening to some, and the scenes where the Wild Hunt is featured are all intense.

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