(Luna Books, 2005. U.S. $13.95 / Canada $16.95 trade paperback, 344
pages. ISBN: 0-373- 80223-4.)
is a good mechanic and enjoys her job. So when she suddenly finds herself
wielding a great deal of magic, she sticks with the familiar and shapes
her magic entirely through mechanical metaphors.
name gives you a clue. Joanne Walker -- also known as Siobhán
Walkingstick -- is half Cherokee and half Irish. She managed to survive
an awkward childhood, and college, and police academy. But she's not
exactly a police officer: she's the precinct
Fortunately, Joanne has some guidance. Her spirit guide, Coyote, tries
to teach her how to handle the power bequeathed to her by two cultures.
Joanne thinks having a spirit guide is hokey, but sometimes she listens
to him anyway. She also has Gary, a cab driver who picked her up at
the airport and somehow never put her down. Arrayed against them are
Cernunnos and Herne, and the Wild Hunt, who are out to slip their bindings
so they can ride forever -- and destroy the world in the process.
Urban Shaman is a fascinating book, as surreal as anything
by Charles de Lint but grittier. The mechanical perspective is the most
original metaphor for magic that I've seen, and yet it works. It fits
both the character and the story. Like Joanne herself, the plot spans
two cultures, Native American and Celtic. The Native American half comes
through better; the Celtic ones are rendered in darker tones, and slightly
askew of the original legends. But as storytelling, again, it works.
C.E. Murphy creates a charming balance between the past and the present,
between Europe and America, between wilderness and civilization.
This is what urban fantasy is really all about, and fans of the genre
will love it. There's a bit less romance in here than typical for a
Luna book, but that's okay; Joanne has had a rough time and it will
take her a while to grow into herself enough to get sufficiently interested
in other people. Happily there's more coming: watch for "Banshee Cries"
in the collection Winter Moon and for the next novel, Thunderbird
Falls. Most highly recommended.