Urban Shaman was one of my favorite Fantasy reads last year, so I was excited to get my hands on an advance copy of its sequel. These books are written in the first person, and Murphy does a very good job of portraying an edgy, snarky, and eccentric character without going too far over the top and making her into a caricature. However, while I enjoyed Thunderbird Falls, it didn’t flow quite as easily as its predecessor.
This novel takes up Joanne Walker’s story six months after the ending of Urban Shaman. She is still trying to adjust to her newfound calling (in addition to her talent for rapid healing, she is a shaman) and is still somewhat in denial regarding all things magic; this uneasy state of affairs ends as she is forced to connect once more with the magical realm after discovering a dead body in a locker room.
Things aren’t so straightforward for her this time, though. For starters, Joanne’s spiritual guide Coyote is nowhere to be found. While Joanne’s power and potential are formidable, her training is quite minimal and, therefore, she has trouble directing herself. She is able to find guides and helpers, but much of the self-doubt she faced in the first book remains here. In addition, as she finds new guides and helpers, Joanne must decide whether they are to be trusted or whether they have more sinister motives.
On the one hand, Joanne continues to be a very likable character. This book builds heavily on the one before it, so I would definitely suggest reading Urban Shaman before tackling this novel. The reader learns a lot more about Joanne and the people closest to her throughout this story, and that was one factor that made me want to keep reading.
Like its predecessor Thunderbird Falls is filled with action and woven through with mythology. Joanne’s world is fascinating and her story written in such a way that a reader will really want to know what is going to happen next. There is a certain darkness present in the story, but Joanne’s sarcastic exchanges with her boss and even with herself cut through the tension so that it does not become unbearable.
My main problem with this novel involved the world-building. At times the author’s explanations of Joanne’s world can be too cryptic and this can make the plot hard to follow sometimes. I found my progress through the book slowing in the middle as I tried to sort out parts of the story. If the main plot and the philosophy underlying it could be woven together more tightly, it would make for an unforgettable read. As it is, Murphy’s latest is a pleasant diversion.