Published: September 3rd 2013 by Orbit Books
Format: Paperback, 456 pages
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There is Thorn, a shaman himself. He lives to pass down his wisdom and his stories -- to teach those who would follow in his footsteps.
There is Heather, the healer who, in many ways, holds the clan together.
There is Elga, an outsider and the bringer of change.
And then there is Loon, the next shaman, who is determined to find his own path. But in a world so treacherous, that journey is never simple -- and where it may lead is never certain.
Shaman is a powerful, thrilling and heart-breaking story of one young man's journey into adulthood -- and an awe-inspiring vision of how we lived thirty thousand years ago.
Shaman ponderously chronicles the coming of age of a young man living in prehistoric times, and although there are many who have found it amazing, I think it’s rather dull.
The book started promisingly with Loon’s week-long Wander, where he has to survive for a week alone in the wilderness, and then his meeting, courtship and marriage to Elga, but I was utterly bored half way through the novel and it only got worse. There are moments of brilliance, which engrossed me, but these are meagre offerings in a 450 page doorstop of a novel.
Shaman begins when Loon is twelve, and sets out on his Wander, to prove himself a man. He’s the apprentice Shaman to his tribe, forcibly trained by the current shaman. Loon’s story is one of self discovery. He leads a hard life, but he’s yet to find his place among those around him and prove he’s a useful and productive member of his society. Loon’s not a very likeable protagonist and most of the time I couldn’t care less what he was thinking or experiencing.
The story moves very slowly – at glacial place (hahaha). Although the writing is at times beautiful and engaged me despite the slow plot progression, once we got to Elga’s kidnapping and Loon’s imprisonment, I had to fight to stay interested in the book. There is undue focus placed in the tedium of everyday life. Loon describes in detail the making of weapons, paints, paintings, clothing, fire, traps, river crossings and so on. Which is very interesting the first time around, but utterly boring when repeated incessantly. And the walking. There is walking across grass, along a river, on snow, on ice, under trees, in caves, in all four seasons. Walking, walking, walking. Those who think The Lord of the Rings has too much walking should take a gander at Shaman.
I think Robinson does a wonderful job at imagining what life may have been like in these prehistoric times, and applaud the thought that was gone into the meticulous world-building. This is one aspect of this book I can’t fault. There are very few obvious fantasy elements in Shaman, and although I hadn’t expected overt magic, I’d expected something magical all the same, which I feel I wasn’t provided with.
Shaman is a book for those who like reading historical fiction, but I warn readers that it is long, tedious, and has very little of what is traditionally considered ‘action’.