Reviewed: June 16, 2010
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: The Walker Papers, Book 5
Rating: 3 Stars
Length: 416 Pages
Formats: Paperback, Kindle, Nook
Demon Hunts is the fifth book in The Walker Papers series, and by now, Joanne Walker (aka Siobhán Walkingstick) and her friends are familiar staples in my reading library. I've enjoyed to varying degrees watching Joanne mostly bumble along with this whole shaman gig she's always been pretty reluctant about, and while there have been times when her character's reluctance to just accept this new world she's been forced into has frustrated me, I have to admit, overall I've enjoyed the slow and sometimes fitful journey her character has taken to become more and more comfortable and aware of her skills and gifts as well as her calling.
Demon Hunts is no different in that regard, and it managed to capture in very poignant detail that growing up and accepting responsibility is very rarely a painless process. In fact, it's often burdened by farewells we have to say and amends we have to make. It's littered with regrets for past mistakes and tinged with the iridescent sheen of broken childish dreams. It's about doing what needs to be done in the face of criticism and rebuke, no matter the struggle, if the doing is the right thing. Above all that, it demands an acceptance of self that is often uncomfortable and a paradigm shift that is as necessary as it so often is terrifying. And at the very core, that is what Demon Hunts is about. Joanne finally...finally...growing up. That aspect of Demon Hunts was well written, exceptionally well paced, and a little heartbreaking, but there was also humor, self deprecating as only Joanne can do, and hope, and friendship, so it wasn't a totally bleak endeavor.
Unfortunately, the other aspect of Demon Hunts, the threat, crime, and rush to a solution, was bleak enough on its own. A series of odd murders that leave no clues of any sort are plaguing the Seattle Police Department - no blood, no DNA, no fibers, no footprints...nothing is left at the scene. So Captain Morrison calls in his paranormal dynamic duo, Joanne and Billy Holiday, because they're who you call when normal doesn't quite cover it. Except, there's nothing either one of them can pick up either - even with their magical connections. And people are still dying. Outdoorsy people. Leaving empty, bloodless husks behind.
As Joanne races to find out what is responsible and more importantly, stop it, long lost friends return to the fold and old friends stand as stalwart support. Old enemies pop back up and persistent thorns remain thorny. And while all that sounds like fantastic building blocks for another kick ass 'Joanne's Magical Mystery Tour,' in this case the Big Bad of Demon Hunts and the narrative surrounding it was ultimately a confusing, unrewarding mess that ended up feeling more repetitive than threatening.
I'll admit, throughout the series, I've had trouble understanding some of the magic related world building and mythos of each of the books. I don't blame the author for that, really. I have trouble wrapping my mind around magical concepts and other dimensions and stuff to start with (linear thinker, unfortunately), and Murphy just doesn't describe them conceptually enough for me to always catch on to the full scope of Joanne's shamanic world. I've gotten used to that. But this book went a bit further, and I struggled to understand a lot of the too-subtly woven interpersonal stuff between Joanne and other characters - in particular a few scenes with Morrison and Coyote. There seemed to be an overabundance of dialogue with inexplicable double meanings and on top of that, I have trouble grasping the full impact of a scene if everyone's just looking at each other and the narrative doesn't really explain what's going on. In that regard, this book's narrative felt far more internal (from Joanne's POV) than others in the series, and that was exceedingly frustrating.
Another problem that's starting to niggle me is the evolving relationship between Morrison and Walker, which, in this book in particular, was far less 'evolve' and far more 'evade.' That whole 'one step forward two steps back' adage could definitely be used here...if the steps back were Jolly Green Giant-sized. I hope that Demon Hunts is a turning point, a stepping stone, or the last of the metaphorical shaman baby steps that Joanne needed to take to really become the warrior shaman Seattle needs and that by the sixth book in the series we'll start to get an idea of where that relationship is headed, as well as some overall arc progression or definition, because there wasn't any of that in Demon Hunts.
For the maturing and the personal growth, both well written and touching, I'd rate Demon Hunts 4 stars, but because of the weakness in the storyline of the killer and the repetitiveness of the battles with it, the conflict of Demon Hunts gets only 2 stars from me today. I averaged it out to 3 overall. I hope the next one has got a little more to offer.
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