Book Review: Shamanka by Jeanne Willis

I was gifted the book Shamanka shortly after it came out, and initially I didn’t know what to make of it. It doesn’t necessarily fall into the genre of YA fiction but it’s a book that adults can easily enjoy as the premise and its execution are both rather uniquely done. The protagonist of the tale is indeed a minor, but the crafting of the story is very beautiful, blurring the lines between truth and fiction, as well as how we approach reality in our lives.

The beginning of the blurb reads as such :

What is magic? What is illusion? What is real? Step into the extraordinary world of Sam Khaan, who has just discovered a witch doctor’s notebook in her attic. Convinced that it belongs to her long-lost father – the son of a witch doctor – she sets out on a journey to discover the answers to these questions.

Jeanne Willis could easily make this a much simpler tale of spirits and magic but in this books she uses the full scope of the mystical world to turn the story into a thrilling mystery which runs without catching a breath. There are several plot threads and storylines which are all well weaved between one another. This is taken one step further as not just Sam’s voice, but the voice of the magician speaks to you in the story as well. The characters themselves are as real as might be guessed when we wonder what lies beneath the surface of passers by.

In the modern day and age every story is documented, investigated, meticulously researched so we can find out what is truth. Willis plays on the older ideas of the purpose of the past and what we take from it by play on the idea of embellishment and purpose. She involves the reader actively in the story, and I would strongly recommend this book for someone looking to read a novel that is both exciting and very different from the majority of popular paperback fiction. This book has long stayed with me after I first read it, leaving me very much in awe of both the journey I was taken on as well as the author who crafted such a trip. Even the book jacket is not all it seems, a real indulgence for the eyes. Thank goodness for the person who gave it to me.

3 thoughts on “Book Review: Shamanka by Jeanne Willis

  1. Interesting. I just put this on my “To-Read” list on Goodreads. It looks like the way it is written is interesting, but perhaps could be confusing? Was there anything you didn’t like about this book?

    Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi there! Thanks for reading – I think for people who like more direct narration there’s a chance they might find it confusing, but I think that would come down more to writing style preference. Anyone used to multicharacter stories, fantasy or dense writing, you shouldn’t have trouble for sure and if you’re more of a classics reader I wouldn’t be put off by it either.

      I found her way of writing suited the setting and tone of the book so I didn’t mind it too much. It wasn’t the kind of book I’d rush to read again afterwards because it can potentially cover heavy ground depending to a certain extent on personal values, personality, etc. but that by no means is a bad thing. I really don’t think I’ve come across many books like it (and I read a fair bit), but if you’ve read anything by Catherynne Valente I think she’s come the closest just in terms of style and tone, perhaps.

      It does cater to the YA genre in that there’s nothing by way for very extreme violence or sex, but my it’s preference not to have things like that simple for the sake of it in writing anyhow, so that wasn’t a gripe for me per se. I thought the psychological and ‘strange’ (for want of a better word) topic matter was enough as there are obviously many ways to make a story maturely harrowing. There’s nothing I glaringly disliked about the book, however and I really hope that helped (sorry it was a little long!).

      Liked by 1 person

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