Verdict: SHAMAN is an entertaining and thought-provoking start to a new series, a fine beginning which hopefully will be built on and developed in later books.
Ray, Tess, Cosmo, Asa, and Ronnie are kids who have grown up suffering from OCD. Ray needs to ask inanimate objects for permission to use them, Tess collects and arranges ordinary items into intricate piles, Cosmo has rituals that he must repeat until he gets them right, Asa needs to examine people and is fascinated by anatomy, and Ronnie is plagued by thoughts of violence and killing. Each of them is taken from their families, and offered a possible cure for their obsessions – and each eagerly accepts. But while the cure seems to work, it leaves them with odd, related talents. Unfortunately for the kids, there are adults around them who have uses for those talents – and absolutely no regard for their lives and well-being…
SHAMAN is an intriguing beginning to what promises to be an entertaining science fiction series aimed at older elementary or middle-school students. The book is written in a simple but not condescending style, accessible and engaging for preteen kids. The protagonists are interesting characters in their own right, each with different family conflicts, different personalities, and different roles on the team that they form. The author does a fine job of portraying sympathethically the anxiety, distress, and emotional exhaustion experienced by sufferers of OCD, and also the tragic potential for its victims to be further abused by adults and peers who don’t understand the condition and lack compassion for those struggling with it.
Giving the kids superpowers that not only stem from, but mirror their particular OCD patterns, is a thoughtful touch, too, turning a stigma into an asset, even if only in the imagination. This book is mainly focused on the protagonists’ origin stories and their (first?) escape from the people who want to exploit and use them – but there’s potential here that hopefully will contribute to later books. The first conflict is generally relatively simple in an ongoing series like this one. However, in the course of this book, the author has prepared substantial ground for more complex exploration, not only of the villains’ motives, goals, and organization, but also the heroes’ internal conflicts, family conflicts, and team relationships. If Mansfield takes full advantage of these as the story grows and develops, this series could become something really powerful and interesting.
SHAMAN is an entertaining and thought-provoking start to a new series, a fine beginning which hopefully will be built on and developed in later books.
~Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader