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Urban Shaman

by CE Murphy

(Luna Books, 2005. U.S. $13.95 / Canada $16.95 trade paperback, 344 pages. ISBN: 0-373- 80223-4.)

Review by Elizabeth Barrette

cover scanThe 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 mechanic. Joanne 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.

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.

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