I have been reading this series since the very first one and C.E. Murphy is consistent about putting out a grand tale with Earth-shattering events (sometimes literally) and personal interaction between complex characters. These are the baseline of what I can expect, and I’ve never been disappointed. To keep the series from going stale though, Joanne manages to grow and mature in her understanding of power, and the world around her, in each one. Spirit Dances takes this trend and runs with it, giving Joanne a whole new look at herself and her relationship to her powers.
Now, this isn’t a real spoiler, but I can’t not mention it. I knew from the moment I read the obscure promise in the acknowledgements what it meant, but Murphy made me wait for it. Still, when I got what I’d expected, it was worth the wait.
As far as the story this time, as usual my wish to avoid spoilers ties my hand, but I can promise you a surprise that starts on page 11 and tortures and torments Joanne through the whole book until she finds her grounding. She’ll gain some new, seriously cool abilities, discover things about herself she’s never had to face, and about her friends that she’s lived in blissful ignorance of. There’s no question that this book follows the model of dragging Joanne, and Morrison, Billy, and Melanie, through danger, disaster, and tense moments that have nothing to do with either.
I’m a poor judge of the ability for a novel to stand alone because I have no issue with reading a later book and picking up the earlier ones if I like it, but there’s a lot of subtext to this novel which wouldn’t carry the weight it does without the series backing it. That said, the story itself is not so much dependent on the earlier books as building on them, so there’s still a fun story a new reader would enjoy.
I had one minor quibble, and it’s possible I just missed it because Joanne did, but because she did, the miss didn’t harm my read. The good news, as far as I’m concerned, considering I’ve reached the end of the book, is that despite the growth points in this novel, the framework for further Walker Papers is firmly planted.
I know, I know, even less of the story than I usually mention, but page ELEVEN is the first major event. However, in reading the back I learn I can tell you one amazing event cause if you read the back you’ll know. Joanne is transformed into a coyote. It’s neither by choice nor force, but it opens up a world of complication in an already complicated situation…not the least because it happens on a pseudo date with Morrison.
Seriously, there’s fun to be had between these pages. Murphy manages to carry out yet another book in the series that is both comfortable and new at the same time. I can’t wait for the next one to reach the shelves.