4 out of 4 stars
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Shaman is a supernatural thriller by Sam Polakoff. Climbing Mount Ausangate in the Andes, Senator Dan Alston, 50, finds himself caught at the summit in a storm. Hearing the same strange, seductive voice that has haunted him for some time, seemingly out of nowhere, Dan sees a menacing grey wolf approaching. He slides and tumbles a hundred feet down the mountain, dislocating his shoulder. Losing consciousness, he experiences a fiery vision of the end of the world.
Back in the year 1472, a young Incan girl, Jade, walks a vast distance to visit Yanakilla, a leader and spiritual healer. Together, they travel to a local lagoon. With the aid of a vial of ayahuasca, Jade undergoes an out-of-body experience to learn the power of the mind and reach a pinnacle of self-awareness. Feeding off the energy of others who bathed in the lagoon, she believes she will become a sorcerer of incredible power. The question is: How do Jade’s experiences relate to Dan’s?
Polakoff's opening scene was packed with atmosphere, as protagonist Dan Alston stubbornly remained at the summit of Mount Ausangate against the advice of his guide, Moises, and best friend, Eli, in the face of an approaching storm. The author’s settings and descriptive writing were of high quality, with some vivid and disturbing scenes featured in Dan’s visions of the apocalypse. Polakoff had a great vocabulary, too; however, while his writing was intelligent, he didn’t use unnecessarily complicated words just for the sake of it.
Shaman's editing was exceptionally good; I found less than ten typographical errors in the entire book. Polakoff had clearly done his research, too, with plenty of factual and mythological advice about shamanism from knowledgeable sources in the field; he acknowledged their contributions at the end of the book. The characters developed nicely, with some complicated relationships convoluted still further by their links to people and events from centuries earlier. The ending was solid, too, with some unexpected elements thrown into the mix, which I found entertaining. It’s always good to have a few surprises at the end of a thriller.
Overall, I found Shaman a really enjoyable read which was easy to finish in a relatively short time. It had that indefinable addictive element that sets some books apart from the crowd, mainly carried by the threads of shamanism, reincarnation, and apocalypse woven through the story. Given its few errors, great characters, solid research, and genuine entertainment value, I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. Anyone with an interest in the supernatural should find plenty to intrigue them in Polakoff’s well-spun tale. It contained minimal sexuality and only mild profanity.
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