C. E. Murphy, Thunderbird Falls (Luna Books, 2006)

Jo Walker is back, and I, for one, am glad she is. Not only is she back, she has stopped worrying so much about her shamanic powers (settling instead for cautious engagement), and she's not getting knocked on the head so often.

Thunderbird Falls is the second installment in C. E. Murphy's ongoing tale of Joanne Walker (Siobhan Walkingstick), the six-foot Irish-Cherokee mechanic with the Seattle Police Department who had been busted back to walking a beat just as her adventures in Urban Shaman began. This time around, she's being set up to facilitate the re-entry of a malevolent spirit into our world -- and I mean set up. I don't blame her for not seeing it coming: I didn't either.

Walker has consequences. That's about the best way I can think of to say it. Some of these consequences are holdovers from her encounter with Cernunnos and the Wild Hunt: Seattle is suffering through an unheard-of heat wave, ascribed to Walker's "tinkering" with things she didn't understand. Coyote, her spirit guide, insists that she needs a teacher, and suddenly, one appears in her garden, her personal space in the spirit realm, shortly after a confrontation with the Ur-Serpent, with whom Walker makes a bargain she's likely to regret. The complications start with a dead woman in the showers at the university gym where Walker has her fencing lessons. The dead woman happens to have been a member of the coven of witches who are going to change the world for the better, and who manage to con Walker into working with them. And there is an actual thunderbird. (The consequences in this adventure involve an earthquake and a new waterfall, and not only is everything not what it seems, almost nothing is what it seems.)

Although I didn't feel that Urban Shaman had quite jelled, Thunderbird Falls did come together for me: it's a sassy, engaging and absorbing contemporary fantasy. Walker herself is more believable as a character, and the interactions between Walker and Morrison, her commander, are richer and a bit edgier. I even enjoyed her sojourns in the spirit realm, which is something I usually find chancy at best. Murphy is building a coherent and believable universe peopled by engaging characters, both real and imaginary, and manages to come up with some plot twists and hidden motivations that keep the surprises coming.

This is an enjoyable adventure story. Murphy is a capable storyteller and a fluent wordsmith. I am looking forward to further adventures of Joanne Walker.

[Robert M. Tilendis]

C. E. Murphy, also known as Cate Dermody, can be found at A Multitude of Me.