Quite a while back I shouted out to the Twitterverse that I needed a new podcast novel to listen to. Shaman, Healer, Heretic by M. Terry Green came highly recommended. Did I like it? Read on.
Synopsis: Even for a techno-shaman, a kachina in the bedroom isn’t exactly part of the drill. When Olivia Lawson wakes to find one towering over her, she panics. A Hopi god visiting the real world isn’t just wrong–it’s impossible.
Or is it?
Soon Olivia learns that the kachina is the least of her worries. As she struggles to save her clients, clashes with other shamans, and fends off the attacks of real-world vigilantes, Olivia finds herself in the destructive path of a malevolent ancient force intent on leaving the spiritual realm to conquer this one.
Left with few options, Olivia is forced to defy centuries of shaman prohibitions. As she and her allies risk everything in their bid for survival, Olivia ultimately learns that the rules are there for a reason and that breaking them has a terrible cost.
Production: Solid audio all the way through. With Podiobooks that’s not surprising. This is a straight read with minimal production values.
Cast: This is read by Terrry. She does an excellent job, though I must say that this is read, rather than performed. That’s okay as it’s well read. The story also helps on the rare occasion that the reading is a little on the low key side.
Story: When I first started listening to this I went in blind. I don’t think I even read the above synopsis. As a result I thought that this would be a cyber-punk/Shadowrun type of story. In a way it is. The shamans in this story are able to use technology that makes working in the “multiverse” similar to the way the ‘net is portrayed in those genres of story. Whether they use technology or not, the other side and how they experience it varies from shaman to shaman.
I really enjoyed the story itself, but the characters were very well done and were perhaps stronger than the story. Not a bad thing at all. I particularly liked SK who acts as a Fixer/manager for the Shamans in his world. I’d enjoy seeing more from his perspective and perhaps even a story written completely about him. Olivia, the story’s protagonist, is likable, believable, and grows during this story. This is the first of a trilogy and I’ll be interested to see if she continues to gain depth.
There was one big thing and a couple of little things about this story that bothered me. A late reveal, where the side villains make themselves known, didn’t really work for me. Throughout the story the Big Bad, in the form of Tiamat, takes center stage. Other than a couple of scenes where we see someone working with Tiamat in the shadows, the bad guys are working entirely off stage. As a result they aren’t really very well developed. I realize that the author wanted them to be mysterious and she threw a few red herrings into the plot, but what could have been a great reveal fell flat. Part of that had to do with the brief span of time between the reveal and the conclusion of the story.
The minor problems involved two important themes that I think needed to be used more (and perhaps may in latter books). The first is the notion that shamans are treated by society at large with mistrust and in some cases hatred. I liked that and there could have been more conflict with that as its cause worked into the story. The other was the notion of old gods and old ways declining in power. This played out both with some shamans who were traditional needing to adapt and with some of the “gods” that the shamans run into in the multiverse. None of these issues detracted much from the story.
Verdict: This story is a slow burn. There’s some action and no small amount of conflict, but much of the latter is interpersonal. The ‘cast runs at about eleven hours and there are times when it dragged a little. Don’t expect a rockem sockem experience and I think you’ll enjoy it.