Shaman by Scott Rhine
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary, Action/Adventure
Length: Full Length (304 pages)
Heat Level: Sweet
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe
Daniel is training to become a shaman and living on the Dakota reservation with his grandfather. As a member of the thunderbird people, he can visit a shared dream world and meet others like himself. Over summer break, he takes a road trip to New Orleans to rescue a sixteen-year-old girl from the Dark Tree Coven. Daniel knows he’s going to be grounded, but promises his cousins that the adventure will be worth the punishment.
What follows reads like a Native American “Blues Brothers” with a trained raccoon.
“We have the raccoon and the police gear. All we need is a net, an acetylene-propane torch, forty feet of rope, a Bavarian cream doughnut, Karo syrup, and red food coloring.”
Having a talent isn’t the same thing as knowing how to use it.
The character development in this story is phenomenal. Daniel’s earlier adventures acknowledged how all of his painful experience in life have shaped in personality, but this sequel stitched those memories together in ways that I often didn’t see coming. It was especially interesting to see how his interpretation of certain events has changed over time given how much they affected his mood and behavior in the past.
At first I was a little thrown off by the pacing. Given how quickly things moved in the first book in this series, Messenger, I wasn’t expecting to slow down and spend so much time getting to know the secondary characters in the sequel. Once everything began to congeal together I understood why the author made this decision, but it is something I would have liked to know about ahead of time.
Daniel didn’t have much exposure to his Dakota relatives growing up, so it was fascinating to see him explore that side of his family tree. I wasn’t familiar with the legends or traditions of that tribe. While the plot can be easily understood with the details already provided in it, I was so curious about that aspect of Daniel’s life that I ended up hunting down a few outside sources to learn more once I finished the last chapter.
Read Messenger before diving into this one. While the author briefly recaps the most important things that have happened so far, there are so many people, creatures, and otherworldly beings in this universe that certain references are much easier to understand if you know everything that has been revealed about their backstories so far.
Once again it took me a while to figure out the best age recommendation, but this time it isn’t a strict one. The darker themes of Messenger have been intensified in the sequel. Daniel’s anger, sorrow, and guilt are woven into his journey incredibly well, but some of the ways he copes with these things are intense. Exercise causation when passing this story on to 12 and 13 year olds, and I definitely wouldn’t suggest it to anyone younger than that.
Shaman is one of the most entertaining young adult novels I’ve read so far this year. This is a great choice for anyone who likes role-playing games or other similarly imaginative hobbies.