Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Review: Shaman Winter

Here's the first of my two reviews in the May 2009 Historical Novels Review.

Shaman Winter, Rudolfo Anaya

In the late 1990s, Albuquerque resident and private investigator Sonny Baca is recovering from his latest run-in with his nemesis, a sadistic nihilist who goes by the name Raven. When Raven returns and begins kidnapping young girls around New Mexico – while at the same time invading Sonny’s dreams and kidnapping his grandmothers throughout history – the very fabric of Sonny’s past and present is threatened.

The third in the series of Sonny Baca’s adventures, Anaya’s story is rich with the culture of New Mexico past and present, but the book overall is marred by substandard writing. From the head-jumping point-of-view shifts, to stilted dialog, to the frankly silly plot points in the late-1990s sections, this is a very promising story with fascinating mystical and spiritual elements undone by its awkward writing. A stronger editing hand would have been very welcome. The quality is surprising, given his many awards for his books, including Albuquerque and Bless Me Ultima.

Originally published in 1999, this paperback reissue has some truly fascinating things to say about New Mexico and its peoples throughout history, but only if you can overlook some eyeroll-inducing plotting and surprisingly bad dialog.

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